Infrastructure Projects

Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

Due to unforeseen complexities of the Powerhouse Structural Stabilization infrastructure project, the Sault Ste. Marie Canal recreational lock will remain closed until approximately August 2024. The Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site Visitor Centre, Exhibit, and grounds will be open to the public as of May 20, 2024.


Why is the lock closed?

The Powerhouse building is undergoing significant structural stabilization work. Remediation and excavation work is underway to redirect the infiltration of groundwater that is negatively affecting the structural stability of the Powerhouse building.

The Powerhouse, historic penstock reservoir, and recreational lock are all in very close proximity to each other. When water levels are high in the lock, it has a direct impact on groundwater levels in the penstock reservoir area. By halting lock operations and keeping the water levels in the recreation lock at low pool, Parks Canada and the project contractor will be able to maintain the dry conditions needed in the penstock reservoir to complete the in-ground concrete work. 


How long will the recreational lock be closed?

The recreational lock is expected to remain closed until August 2024. Parks Canada is working as quickly as possible to complete this important work, and appreciates the understanding from visitors while we complete this important stabilization project for the historic Powerhouse building.

Parks Canada and the project contractor have established checkpoints to test the effectiveness of the work completed, and will continue to communicate expected timelines and updates as the project progresses. Once the in-ground work in the penstock reservoir area is complete, we will be able to resume regular lock operation without impact to the Powerhouse Structural Stabilization Project.


What else is affected at the site?

The only new closure at the site is the on-water activity of passing through the lock system. The Powerhouse itself remains closed for structure stabilization. The Visitor Centre, Exhibit, grounds, trails, fat bike rentals, and programming are not affected by the Powerhouse Structure Stabilization Project and will all be available for visitor enjoyment. This project will not impact or restrict access to Whitefish Island or South St. Mary’s Island. Access across the canal via the walkway atop the lock gates will remain open and unobstructed for the duration of the construction work taking place on the Powerhouse.


What does this mean for tour boats and recreational boaters? 

A8. Parks Canada and the Sault Ste. Marie Canal recognize that the temporary closure of the recreational lock is an unfavorable change to operations for the 2024 season, and will continue to communicate expected timelines and updates as the project progresses in order to have the lock operating as soon as possible. In the interim, the Soo Locks on the Michigan side of the St. Mary’s River will be open and can continue to be used by recreational boaters. There are no fees to pass through the Soo Locks, nor need to report with Customs for transient boaters who are not planning to moor or disembark their vessel. Parks Canada appreciates the support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that operates Soo Locks and the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.


Why is the Powerhouse worth investing in?

What makes it important? The Powerhouse, a sandstone building constructed in 1894, is a historic landmark of Sault Ste. Marie and home to the first electrically powered lock in the world. It is a cultural resource of national historic significance and is federally recognized by the Federal Heritage Building Review Office. The Powerhouse building showcased major technological advances, that were noticed on a national stage, and was instrumental in the development of the Canadian marine transportation network and the connection of the Great Lakes during the late 19th century. It is valued for its surviving building form, fabric, and function, as well as for its equipment and engineering works that are associated with hydro-electric generation and the operation/maintenance of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal. As one of the justifications for historic designation at the site, the Powerhouse is an integral piece of engineering and Canadian history. 

By investing in the restoration of this historic landmark, Parks Canada is protecting and conserving national treasures while supporting local economies and contributing to growth in the tourism sector. Once rehabilitated, the Powerhouse will provide a unique, interpreter-led visitor experience showcasing the historical machinery, new interpretive materials, and interactive exhibits. These investments give our past a future, with modern improvements to historic structures that honour the rich history and utility of the site with the potential to generate green energy and reduce emissions.


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