Museum Ship Valley Camp

Location: Sault St Marie, Michigan

Webpage: Museum

General Description: The Museum Ship Valley Camp was a Great Lakes Freighter from 1917 to 1966 where she hauled iron ore, coal, grains, and stone for a number of owners.  These owners included National Steel Corporation from 1917 to 1955, Wilson Marine Transit Company from 1955-1959, and the Republic Steel Company from 1959 until she was sold to Le Sault de Sainte Marie Historical Sites to serve as a museum.  Today she is docked on the Lake Huron side of the Soo Locks in Sault St Marie.  She is a moderate size freighter with a 525 foot keel with a gross tonnage of 12,000.  She is the most intact example of the classic Great Lakes ore carriers that once numbered in the hundreds and few of which survive to this day. All of the cabins have been outfitted with beds and artifacts from her days on the lakes.  Below decks the coal fired engine is intact except for a walkway through the coal bin for tourists access.  Today the holds house over 100 exhibits about the freighters history and life aboard ship.

FreighterExterior

Impressions:

1) This is a must see museum for anyone interested in the Great Lakes Freighting history.  For more than 200 years it was a major industry in the area with hundreds of freighters hauling iron ore, coal, grains, wood, and stone from the production areas around the Great Lakes to the industrial centers and ports.  This is also a great location to get a good look at Soo Locks, which are still used some today by freighters.

2) The ship would be worthwhile to visit for just the views of the coal fired steam engines, crew quarters, and wheel house.  Each room has been laid out in typical fashion for the times to contrast the spartan living quarters of the oilers and coal passers with the more spacious quarters of the officers and captain.

3) The cargo holds have many exhibits detailing the specific history of the Valley Camp, as well as, the evolving history of freighters as they continued to grow larger and larger over time.  There are artifacts from many ships giving examples of the different types of instrumentation used over the years.

Exhibits1

4)  A number of exhibits are devoted to the many shipwrecks with artifacts and stories about their history.  The most noteworthy is the Edmund Fitzgerald which sank on November 10, 1975, the latest major shipwreck on the Great Lakes.  Part of the exhibit is one of the two lifeboats that washed up to shore not from from the wreck.

Lifeboat1

5) Another notable exhibit is the history of the Soo Locks which bypasses the rapids of St Marys River as it drops 10 feet from Lake Superior to Lake Huron.  The first iteration was completed in 1855 to accommodate transport of iron ore and copper ore from Lake Superior.  This set of two locks were part of a canal dug to the side of the river.  The current configuration consists of 4 parallel locks redefining most of St Marys River.  The MacArthur Lock built in 1943 is 800 feet long and 80 feet wide.  The Poe lock was originally completed in 1896 with a length of 800 feet and 100 feet wide. At the time it was largest lock in the world.  However, in 1968 it was rebuilt to 1200 feet in length.  The Davis Lock was built in 1914 to a length of 1350 feet, but is used rarely today.  Finally, the Sabin Lock built in 1919 also to a length of 1350 feet has been placed in caretaker mode and not used today.  You can get great views of the locks from the deck of the Valley Camp.

SooLocks