One of the Northland's most-visible and iconic images are those tied to the shipping industry. From the large vessels that pass through the Duluth-Superior Harbor to the Aerial Lift Bridge - even the harbor itself, shipping plays a large role in the daily lives and the economy of the Northland.

So it's become a rite of passage when the shipping season takes its brief pause in the winter. That pause is tied to the closing of the Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie, Michigan but it definitely affects the Northland.

The close of the 2022 shipping season became official as the clock struck midnight at the close of January 15, according to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall].

The closure happens for a variety of reasons. Weather is the primary reason.  LeighAnn Ryckeghem - the Operations Manager for the Soo Locks - explains:

"Winter weather poses challenges and adds intensity to maintenance, the team is highly skilled and equipped to safely execute critical projects that allow for continued operational reliability."

The closure is regulated at the federal level, with a determination of "the feasibility of vessels operating during typical Great Lakes ice conditions".

The shutdown for the weather allows for the sort of general maintenance that can't be accomplished when the locks are in use. Local shipyards in turn perform similar work tasks - leaning on the "off-season" to accomplish them.

According to details shared by the U.S. Army of Engineers, the Soo Locks "aren't expected to open again through March 25". The opening of the locks will usher in the 2023 shipping season.

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