Sunday, July 1, 2012

Harbor Tour in Sault Ste. Marie

One thing about traveling, it sure has improved my geography!   Until this past week I did not know that Sault Ste.Marie had a sister city by the same name across the St.Marys River in Ontario, Canada.  They each have different locks but are connected to each other with the International Friendship Bridge and a railway system which also goes across the river.  On our boat ride we crossed the river on one of the U.S. locks, and on our return trip home we passed through a Canadian lock. On the United States side there are a total of four locks. Currently larger boats (which are generally 1000 feet long and carry more than 72,000 tons of freight in a single load) can only get through one of the locks. Plans are in the works for two of the smaller locks to be reconstructed to meet the same size specifications as the larger lock.  Pictured below is the International Friendship Bridge, on our river cruise we passed under it.  During the course of the day,  whenever we glanced at the bridge, we usually noticed long lines of cars queuing to go through customs. We were informed by locals that on an average day it takes 2.5 hours to go across the bridge and through United States customs from Canada.
The Canadian National Railway is located just west of the highway bridge. Crossing the canal and connecting to the railway is a lift bridge, which is the darker portions of the International Bridge in the picture above.  There are three sections to the railroad,  in addition to the two parts of the lift bridge there is also a jacknife bridge.  The railroad is usually up, as it is in the picture above, allowing larger ships to pass through. It is only several times a day that a freight train has to pass over the canal and across the border. Our cruise was quite informative as we had a narrator on the boat.  Besides explaining the locks and bridges she also discussed other sights of the harbor as we passed them.  On the Canadian side she pointed out the Algoma Steel Mill.  Along the shoreline there were large piles of limestone, iron ore and coal waiting to be used in the steel making process. And at the shipping docks were large steel coils, the finished product of the steel mill.  It was quite interesting to see a steel mill that close and also to learn the details of its production.
The sister cities have fun together each year around the time of their national celebrations ( Fourth of July and Canadian Day).  And we were fortunate to be in town at this time. It started out as a small holiday gathering of local work boats out for a toot on the harbor about 30 years ago and has evolved into a tugboat parade and race.  The race this year was to occur on Saturday, and on Friday evening there was to be a parade of the various boats in the harbor. While on our cruise we noticed the tugs on the Canadian side gathering before the parade, pictured below.  We arrived back from our river tour in time to see the full parade.

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