by Charles Gulick
Say It Isn't Soo
Chart: Lake Huron
Title: SAY IT ISN'T SO
En Route Coordinates:
Aircraft: N19171, E17738
Tower: N19231.280, E17567.284
You are over the North Channel segment of Lake Huron, proceeding along the shoreline of south central Ontario, with St. Joseph Island directly to your left. The Bay Mills Indian Reservation is just beyond the sharp turn of the highway ahead to your right, and around that same corner is Lake George. As you round that corner, you'll be on the border between Ontario, Canada, and northern Michigan.
Proceed with the flight, staying over the channel and turning right where it turns. As you approach the second right turn you'll see two towers well to the right on your wind-shield. Turn right to a heading of about 330 degrees, with the towers to the left of your course. You'll be pointed toward a small canal, which you'll distinguish more clearly after a few minutes of flying.
Following the canal, where you see Interstate 75 crossing the water you'll be directly over the Soo Locks, between the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The Sault is pronounced Soo in both cases, which ex-plains why the locks are popularly known as the Soo Locks.
The locks, and an artificial waterway system--the Sault Ste. Marie Canals, or Soo Canals--were created to enable ships to bypass the rapids of the St. Marys River and to link the vital water routes of the Great Lakes. The locks lift boats more than 20 feet, from the level of Lake Huron to that of Lake Superior. The whole system freezes over in winter, but still transports enough ships in warmer months to rank as one of the world's busiest.
The airport off to your left is that of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; but continue beyond the locks, favoring the left shoreline, and the canal will lead you straight to Runway 29 at the other Soo Ste. Marie. (The Ste., or course, is an abbreviation for the French Sainte, meaning Saint.) Airport elevation is a healthy 1689 feet. If you have tower capability, an observer is standing just at the runway threshold.
As you complete your landing roll, you may want to apply your brakes momentarily and change the time to dawn, dusk, or night. Then over to your right you'll see there's an operating lighthouse out on Lake Superior.