Michigan’s unique location, plopped right in the middle of the world’s largest reservoir of fresh water, influenced its history long before people settled here, carving out its distinctive shape and providing its rich resources.
Once man arrived in this area of North America, the Great Lakes system opened up both peninsulas with a vast water freeway system still not duplicated by man on land.
Reasons for traveling these ‘freeways’ haven’t changed since then: exploration, commerce, adventure, visiting, recreation, etc.
However, as technology brought about changes in transportation, the vehicles used also changed: from simple log rafts, canoes, sails, to engine-powered vessels. Each new type of vehicle became larger, held more cargo, traveled faster and improved its function.
John Fleet, Boatmaster
This display exhibits the most prevalent type of the current vessels traversing the Great Lakes for commerce: the lake freighters powered by steam or diesel engines. Since 1855 this type of transportation has dominated commercial traffic on the lakes, enriching our lives, our nation and our world. Through the Great Lakes and the Soo Locks they carry materials used in industry to make everything we consider essential as well as the grains we transform into life-sustaining food, and these resources are supplied all over the world.
Every single freighter has its own story to tell. Here are models of several boats that have interesting histories to share.
To get an especially good view of the real thing, plan to visit Sault Ste. Marie on the last Friday each June when the Soo Locks are opened up for visitors to cross over and get closer to these vessels and experience their true size.