People have been coming to Sault Sainte Marie since the 1850s to watch boats passing through the locks. By the 1880s a public park ran alongside the canal and lock with strolling paths, a fountain and places to sit and watch the boats passing.
In 1966, as the second Poe Lock neared completion a Visitor Center was constructed in the Upper Canal Park to serve visitors coming to watch the construction and the boats passing through. This center expanded in 1995 with the addition of a theater and more exhibit space.
Open from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. from Mothers Day until mid October every year, exhibits in the center help visitors learn more about how the locks work, the boats that pass through and the role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Great Lakes. Front desk staff post estimated boat schedules in the Visitor Center and maintain a ‘boat schedule hotline’ at 906-253-9290.
Although the Visitor Center is open seasonally, the park is open year round, from 6 a.m. until midnight in the summer months, and from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. during the winter.
Within the park an observation platform stands alongside the MacArthur Lock providing great views of boats in the locks. This platform features glassed in areas to protect visitors from inclement weather and a ramp allows access for wheelchairs and strollers.