Safety on water - how to lock through

Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

One of Canada's heritage canals, Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada is maintained and operated by Parks Canada to protect and present the site's cultural and natural features, as well as to provide a safe navigable channel between Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

  • Notice to boaters

    There is continuous monitoring of VDX 23, Canadian Canal on Channel 14. To enjoy a safe visit please:

    • Stay well back from canal walls;
    • Stay clear of lock operating devices;
    • Accompany your children;
    • Ask lock staff for further advice.

    In 1998, a new recreational lock, constructed within the historic lock, was opened at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal. Boaters can enjoy the scenic view and historic setting while passing through the canal. The Sault Ste. Marie Canal is located on the St. Marys River (recently designated a National Heritage River), in the downtown core of the city. The lock is operated between May 15 and October 15, in partnership with the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

  • Recreational lock

    The lock operating season is daily, from mid-May to mid-October, up to 12 hours per day. See Hours of Operation for a complete schedule.

    • Length 77 meters 254 feet
    • Width 15.4 meters 51 feet
    • Depth 13.5 meters 44 feet
    • Draft 3 meters 9.8 feet
  • Locking through safely

    Locks are designed to raise and lower boats from one water level to another. They were built, along with a series of dams, to bypass rapids and waterfalls. In some locations, two or more locks are joined together to overcome greater changes in water levels. Locking through safely on heritage canals involves four basic steps approaching the lock, entering the lock, what to do once inside the chamber and exiting the lock.

  • Approaching the lock

    Please obey any posted speed limits between locks or out on the open water. Excessive wake can erode the shoreline, damage docked boats and injure employees operating the lock. Keep the channel near the lock gates to allow boats departing or entering a safe and easy passage.

    Contact the lockmaster for Dispatch for Lockage. The radio call sign for Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada recreational lock is: VDX 23, Canadian Canal on Channel 14.

    Vessels not equipped with marine radios should be brought to the Blue Zone, located above and below the lock (this is a temporary holding area for boats waiting to lock through). Instructions are often given over a P.A. system.

  • Entering the lock and safe mooring

    It is very important to remember that during the entire locking through process, you are under the direction of lock operations staff, so please observe their hand signals or verbal commands.

    Enter the lock on green light only. Tour boats and commercial vessels enter first, pleasure crafts second.

    After the lock gates are fully open and departing vessels are clear, the lockmaster will direct you to enter the lock. Approach the lock chamber cautiously and follow the instructions of staff. Be aware of wind speed, wind direction and possible cross currents. Concentrate on coming in straight and under control, using reverse gear to slow the boat down. Should your vessel get too close to the lock wall, use a boat hook to push yourself off. Never use your hands or feet to fend a moving boat off a lock wall. Your crew (adults if possible) should be posted at the bow and stern of your boat, with mooring lines free of knots and ready to use.

    As you approach the north lock wall, have your crew members ready to loop their vessel lines around the black drop cables. Do not tie mooring lines to the cables, loop lines around the cables.

  • Inside the lock chamber

    Once you have safely positioned your vessel inside the lock chamber, and looped the bow and stern lines around the black drop cables, follow these steps:

    • Turn off all ignition switches (engine, generators, etc.). Don't restart or idle your engine during lockage.
    • Turn off all open-flame appliances, including pilot lights, gas-powered generators and barbecues.
    • Do not smoke above or below vessel deck.
    • Leave the bilge blower on throughout the lockage procedures.

    Tend your lines carefully during the lockage. Never leave your bow or stern lines unattended. If you experience turbulence, looping a line around a deck cleat may give you extra leverage.

  • Exiting the lock

    When the lock operation is completed and the lock gates are fully open, the lockmaster will direct you to start your engine. Check to make sure bow and stern lines are back on your boat and please exit slowly. Remember to watch out for winds, currents and other boats. Exit on green light only. Pleasure crafts exit first, tour boats and commercial vessels second.

  • Special procedures

    At the railway swing bridge, wait until it is fully open before proceeding. Travel slowly, in single file, giving way to vessels travelling downstream. Wait at the Blue Zone until directed to proceed; then follow the lockmaster's instructions. American vessels that lock through and return to U.S. waters without landing in Canada are not obliged to clear Canadian Customs or Immigration.

  • Fees and mooring

    There are no fees to lock through; day and overnight mooring are prohibited.

  • Contact

    Lockmaster: (705) 941-2003

    Other information contacts

    NORTH CHANNEL MARINE TOURISM COUNCIL P.O. Box 70 Spanish ON P0P 2A0 Phone: (705) 844-2522 Fax: (705) 844-2622

    TOURISM SAULT STE. MARIE 1-800-461-6020 ext. 700

    CANADA CUSTOMS AND REVENUE AGENCY Sault Ste. Marie (705) 941-3063


  • Weather radio

    Weather Radio Canada is operated by Environment Canada and provides the most up-to-date warning and forecast information available. Weather details are presented in continually repeated program cycles which average 5 to 7 minutes. The information is transmitted over three dedicated VHF-FM bands: 162.400, 162.475 and 162.550 (WX button on most marine radios).

  • Marine radio

    Canadian coast guard radio stations broadcast marine forecasts, nearshore forecasts, current wind conditions and weather bulletins in continuous cycle on VHF frequencies 161.65 MHz and 161.775 MHz (ch. 21B, ch. 83B). They also broadcast information on aids to navigation.

  • Police

    Sault Ste. Marie Police Service (705) 949-6300. Emergency 911.

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