Clay and I were looking out the studio window yesterday morning and out there in Lake Erie in this second week in January was a Great Lakes freighter coming into port.  We got to thinking that’s pretty unusual for this time of year, but this has been one pretty unusual winter.  But as long as the lakes are free of ice shipping continues as long as the weather permits. 

Officially, the Great Lakes shipping season ends when the locks at Sault St. Marie, Michigan close for the winter.  Those locks allow ships to pass from Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes.  Typically they close on January 15th each year.  But the Army Corps of Engineers says those locks will remain open for an additional three days until January 18th

After that as long as the weather holds out ships can continue their travels within any one of the individual lakes and for many shipping companies that means more money and more time to finish delivery of goods that may have been delayed.

80 million tons of cargo move thru those locks each year.  Most of what freighters carry are iron ore, coal and limestone.

Closer to Buffalo, the Welland Canal allows passage between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  It’s26 miles long with 8 locks that raise or lower ships the 236 feet between the two lakes.