You can't miss the 550-foot-long, 11,500-ton Museum Ship Valley Camp docked next to Kemp Marina on the St. Mary's River. Literally. You can't, and shouldn't, miss it.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Museum Ship Valley Camp, one of five sites owned and operated by the nonprofit Sault Historic Sites, anchors the corner of Water Street and Johnston at the edge of downtown. Loaded with artifacts and exhibits, this historical maritime museum offers a veritable wealth of Great Lakes history, as well as an opportunity to explore the ship and imagine dailly life for the crew that called her home.
The Valley Camp, a classic cargo freighter, plied the Great Lakes for more than 40 years, carrying loads of ore, coal, grain and stone. Decommissioned in 1968 (due to outdated coal burning boilers), she offers visitors the rare opportunity to see an intact example of a Great Lakes cargo freighter. Adults and kids enjoy exploring the cargo hold's more than 100 exhibits (some hands-on), including wreckage from two of the lifeboats from the Edmund Fitzgerald, several sizes and types of Fresnel lenses, ship models, maritime and local history displays, as well as four huge aquariums containing a variety of Great Lakes fish species, such as trout, walleye and perch. For a snapshot of daily life on the ship, follow the signs and view the comfortable, well-appointed officers' sleeping and dining quarters, a distinct contrast to the crew's simple and sparse ones. Manuever your way through the engine room (you can almost feel the heat), then head topside for great views, including the river and town. Climb a short flight of steps to the pilot house, and imagine yourself at the helm of this historic vessel.
Tours of the ship are self-guided: All exhibit areas, except the pilot house, are handicapped accessible. Open daily, mid-May to mid-October. Check website for hours and ticket prices.