While driving through downtown Sault Ste. Marie, many visitors are surprised to see a freighter nosed right up to the street. The SS Valley Camp plied the cold, dark waters of the Great Lakes from 1917 until 1966, hauling iron ore and coal. In 1968 it was docked in its own berth where it has remained ever since. While it is amazing to see such a large ship docked headlong inland, what is it that brings in thousands of visitors each summer?
The 550 foot long ship now enjoys a second life as a nautical museum. Inside visitors will find numerous displays and models detailing shipping on the Great Lakes. Guests can also walk through the massive engine room, stroll around on the top deck to take in views of modern day ship traffic, and descend all the way to the bottom of the cargo hold to get a sense of the sheer size of these ore freighters. However, the real draw for many lies in another area of the ship.
The Edmund Fitzgerald is undoubtedly the most famous wreck on the Great Lakes. Since its tragic sinking in 1975, it has filled the imaginations of many a Michigander. Within the belly of the Valley Camp are two battered lifeboats recovered from the Fitzgerald. One can only imagine the horror the sailors must have gone through in that immortalized Fall gale. You have to wonder if these artifacts anchor any apparitions to this world?
The SS Valley Camp Museum is open to visitors daily mid-May through mid-October and is a must see attraction for any visit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Boat tours of the Soo Locks leave from the dock across the parking lot and a gift shop is located next to the ship. Visit their website for the latest ticket pricing and hours.