I'll admit, recently I've developed a weird and fascinating obsession and I'm not sure how it all started. Lately one of my favorite pastimes seems to be tuning into livestreams across Michigan and watching freighters roll in to various ports stationed across the Great Lakes.

Michigan is home to nearly 40 active commercial ports with the State of Michigan estimating, "Michigan’s ports handle 51.7 million tons of cargo valued at $4.1 billion annually." That's quite a bit of action we're seeing here in the Mitten!

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Port Huron

The busiest port and my go-to livestream is that of Port Huron, MI. The self-proclaimed "Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes" is in a prime location giving freighters access to Detroit, Canada, Cleveland, and access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

When Is Shipping Season?

During the shipping season, which runs from mid-March to through early January, you'll see dozens of freighters roll through a day as they head to destinations like Chicago, Milwaukee, and even Duluth, MN! As the colder weather sets in you'll often see the small ice-breaker vessels in action which is truly an impressive feat of mankind.

What Are They Hauling?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and MDOT Statistics state that most of Michigan's maritime transportation traffic is dominated by the steel and construction industries. "Nonmetallic ores and minerals" make up the majority of all cargo, followed by:

  • Metallic ores
  • Coal
  • Clay, cement, glass, and other stone products
  • Primary metal products

How Big Are the Freighters?

Ship owners seek to maximize cargo space but must also fit within the constraints of the locks systems. Therefore, owners try to make their freighters as big as they can get while still being able to fit within the locks. Many vessels have been constructed to fit "Seawaymax" dimensions meaning at 740 feet long, 78 feet wide, and with a draft of 26.5 feet, they are ever so slightly smaller than the lock itself. Talk about calling it close!

Where to Watch

Someday I hope to make it over the viewing area at Port Huron to watch the freighters come rolling in! The park along the St. Clair River is a popular viewing spot. You can also check out the Great Lakes Maritime Center which features a museum with videos and event speakers who give programs the historic port. There is no admission fee to the Great Lakes Maritime Center and it is open 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Have you ever visited the Soo Locks or any of Michigan's famous ports?

Interesting Things Found At The Bottom Of The Soo Locks

Each year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District drains the Soo Locks and cleans out the debris. Check out some of the things they've found at the bottom, including some jewelry and silverware.

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