Great Lakes freighters are a mysterious thing to many of us. The Museum Ship VALLEY CAMP in Sault Ste. Marie gives visitors a glimpse into the world of Great Lakes freighters and Great Lakes maritime history.
The Valley Camp transported raw materials across the Great Lakes for nearly 50 years, before its retirement in the late 1960s. The Sault Ste. Marie Historical Society purchased the ship in 1968, dry docked the ship, and turned it into a maritime museum. The ship was listed as an historic vessel on both the national and state historical lists in the late 1970s
The interior of the Valley Camp was completely renovated to accommodate nearly 20,000 square feet of exhibit space. While visitors walk through the museum, they revist the cargo holds where, years ago, mountains of coal or iron ore were stored.
(The bottom floor of the museum area is warped from years of dumping cargo into the bay, so make sure to walk carefully!)
The Valley Camp explores the vast maritime history of the Great Lakes region. From Native American canoes, to artifacts from modern vessels, the museum highlights the evolution of technology, and how cargo is shipped across the Great Lakes. The engine room exhibit, for instance, further reiterates the amazing power and force it takes to move such a large vessel. Additionally, the museum has a collection of fish tanks allowing visitors to see many of the fish living in the lakes.
The highlight showcase in the Valley Camp discusses the wreck of the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald. The museum has two buoys and two lifeboats found after the storm that sank the Fitz. The buoys, made of 1.5 inches of steel, and lifeboats, made of 1-inch steel, appear literally shredded from the force of the storm.
Above deck, visitors to the Valley Camp can walk through the various housing quarters of the ship and the bridge of the ship. Living quarters were considered small, to most of the crew, so sailors shared rooms with another person. At the front of the ship, the bridge where the captain commands the massive freighter can also be viewed.
Admission to the Valley Camp Museum is a seasonal $12, but can be purchased as part of a package to other Sault Ste. Marie historical sites for a cheaper price. The Valley Camp is an amazing museum and truly allows visitors to immerse themselves in the life of a Great Lakes freighter. ~Krissy Schwab, Feature Writer