Palmer Park Freighter Tour
Launching Spring 2021!
Welcome to the Palmer Park Walking Freighter Tour!
Have you ever wondered how big some freighters truly are?
What about which ships were built in St. Clair or other local communities?
What ever happened to the some of these massive ships?
Explore our new Walking Freighter Tour and learn about some of the most incredible ships to
grace the St. Clair River and the Great Lakes.
Picture above is from the bow of the Paul R. Tregurtha.
Start at the Waving Statue in Palmer Park and walk South on the boardwalk.
Current & Historical Ships have their lengths marked on the boards you're walking on!
40’ x 15’
The Griffin was the first ship built above the falls on the Niagara River. It was a seven-cannon, 45-ton barque. La Salle and Father Louis Hennepin set out on Le Griffon’s maiden voyage on August 7, 1679, with a crew of 32, sailing across Lake Erie, up the St. Clair River, Lake Huron & Lake Michigan through uncharted waters that only canoes had previously explored.
63’ x 15’ x 11’
Built on the St. Clair River in St. Clair. The Pilot was in commission for about twenty years when it grounded and filled off in heavy weather off of Beaver Island in Lake Michigan on December 14, 1845. She was loaded with 100 stoves and merchandise from Mackinaw to Milwaukee, Racine, and Chicago. All of the passengers were rescued immediately, but the Captain and crew were forced to spend eight days trapped aboard, exposed to the elements before they were rescued.
Huron Lady II
73’ x 20’ x 29’
Capable of holding 100 passengers, her home port is the Black
River in Port Huron. Passengers can enjoy the northern St. Clair River & the southern part of Lake Huron. With the highlight being the two Blue Water Bridges & the Fort Gratiot Light House.
80’ x 21’ x 9’
The Propeller was built at the Langell Shipyard for Baby & Dale (pronounced Bau-bee). She was a ferry from St. Clair to Courtright, and also carried salt from the Diamond Crystal Salt Company to Canada.
Duc D’Orleans II
84’ x 29’
‘The Duc’ was built in 1987 in Warren, Rhode Island. Shewas brought to Sarnia by current owners in 2005 to replace the original Duc
112’ x 18’
The Original Duc D’Orleans was initially christened the Q105 for the Canadian Navy. She was built in Sarnia, one of seven built to serve in WWII for use as minesweepers & submarine chasers. The hull was unique, as it was made of mahogany long after ships were made of steel. In 1978, she returned to spend 27 years touring as many as 194
passengers at a time in the Blue Water Area.
131’ x 25’ x 9’
The Goliath was a steam barge with a propeller. She was built as a cargo carrier only, no passengers. Later that year after being launched she wrecked off of Black River & was raised. In September of 1848 a boiler explosion ignited 200 kegs of gunpowder causing a devastating explosion on the Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron. There
were 18 deaths. 1000 barrels of flour & maize, meant for mining towns in the UP, littered the shoreline around Goderich. It had been loaded in Buffalo and Detroit.
Margaret R. Goffe
135.8’ x 25’ x 10’
This is the first vessel that Simon Langell worked on in St. Clair. She entered into service for E. Smith of St. Clair. She had a grain capacity of 18,000 bushels. In May of 1885 she was loaded with cedar ties headed south on the St. Clair River for Cleveland. She had a collision with the schooner Iron Cliff that night, just below Stag Island causing causing severe bow damage.
138.5’ x 26’ 10.9’
The Hemisphere was the first ship built in the Langell Shipyard. Also built for E. Smith. Years later she departed the Lakes to escape creditors, (who had provided vessel work) & to avoid the sheriff. She was loaded with products from Chicago, headed for Europe, and her last recorded departure was Quebec in May of 1877.
175’ x 32’ x 13’
The Oscoda was a steam barge that was used as a ‘lumber hooker’ for many years. She was built by Langell, but in the Truesdail shipyard. On Feb. 6, 1878, the SC Republican Newspaper reported that “Mr. Langell is now in the woods getting out timber for the vessel”.
By May it reported that “Langell & his fifty men were hard at work on the barge”. In November of 1914 the Oscoda was loaded with lumber & also towing two lumber laden barges & was bound for Chicago. It was decided to make course along west side of Lake Michigan. She was driven ashore by a November winter gale & heavy snow squall. There were no causalities, but a harrowing experience getting the crew to one barge before she smashed into pieces on Pelkie Reef 12 Miles east of Naubinway on the north shore of Straits of Mackinac & sank near St. Helena Island.
177’ x 30’ x 11’
Another Lumber hooker, also built for Wood, Sperry & Company. Her first captain was Captain H. Fish, of St. Clair. Ten years on the lakes, she sank on Lake Michigan near Big Bay de Noc on Dec. 3, 1891 in 66 feet of water. She was raised. Exactly 31 years later, she burned at Grand Point, Harsens Island, across from Algonac.
185’ x 32’ x 21’
The Chauncy was a propeller driven ship built by Langell. In Sept. of 1906, while loaded with copper & towing the schooner DK Clint, she sprung a leak in a gale on Lake Superior. She was beached, stranded & lost ten miles west of Whitefish Point.
195’ x 34’ x 14'
Built for Simon himself, at his own shipyard, it was also a “Lumber Hooker”. It burned in November of 1926 at Portsmouth, Ontario.
231’ x 39’ x 17’
Launched for the St. Clair Steam Ship Company in 1888. On August 2, 1900 she was down bound on Lake Huron, being towed by steamer Kaliyuga (also built by Langell), loaded with 2593 ton of iron ore from Presque for Cleveland. She collided with schooner Santiago in the mouth of the St. Clair River, near Port Huron. Scuba divers must be
very strong & experienced to manage the currents if they wish to
dive the wreck.
MCRR tunnel sections
262.5’ x 56’
GLEW built 11 railroad double tube tunnels sections. They were temporarily sealed with wood to create buoyancy, towed down to Detroit where the wood was removed & tunnels were sunk. Divers guided and bolted sections together. Portland cement was poured around the sections to seal. The top of the tunnel was flush with the river bottom. The 1.6 mile Michigan Central Railroad tunnel opened in 1910, connecting Detroit to Windsor, it was the first immersed
tube tunnel in the world to carry traffic. The tunnel was used as designed until 1992 when the north bore was closed and expanded to accommodate double container rail traffic.
270’ x 40’ x 25’
By Oct 1917 the Alfred Mitchel was sold to J.M. Scott of Mobile, AL & taken to the Atlantic coast for the war effort. She was shortened by cutting her fantail back to the rudder post for the canal passages. In July 1919 she was sold to Belgian owners & renamed Ile de La Reunion.
North Lake & North Star
373’ x 46’ x 25’
The North Lake & the North Star were sister ships. Both were built by GLEW & launched in 1909, the North Lake in March & the North Star in October. Built for Mutual Transit to carry package freight. The North Lake was conscripted by the U.S. Army during WWII & served in Pacific Theater. The North Lake was scrapped in Tokyo, Japan in 1954. the North Star was sold in 1954 to Belgian shipbreakers for scrap.
440’ x 52’ x 28’
On a dark, foggy morning of July 10, 1911, the up bound Mitchell, loaded with 7,000 tons of coal from Buffalo, ws struck by the down bound light-running steamer William H. Mack off Vermillion Point 15 miles west of Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. The Mitchell sank, taking three lives. She was discovered in 1972 lying upside down in 140’ of water.
George H. Russell
Built 1905, 484’ x 50’ x 28’
Started by Columbia IronWorks, she was launched by GLEW. In 1913 she was renamed Canaopus. In 1946 she was converted to an auto carrier. Scrapped in Astabula, OH in 1962. Her pilothouse remains at
the Inland Seas Museum at Vermillion, Ohio.
729’ x 75’ x 39’
During her years on the lakes, Captain Peter Pulcer was known for piping music day or night over the ship’s intercom while passing through the St. Clair River, the Detroit River, & in the Soo Locks. She sank in 1975 during the cruelest month on the lakes, November. Many have learned about her demise with Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 hit song, “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.” Everyone aboard, a crew of 29, lost their lives. As stated in the song, “Superior never gives up her dead”. The water in Lake Superior never warms up enough to have cadavers float to the surface. As with many tragedies, changes were made in shipping regulations. Note the Congregational Church in the picture above. The church clock still serves as
a navigational point, ship crews record what time they pass it. Titanic 1912 883’ x 92.5’ x 104’ The Titanic was never in the
Great Lakes, but since Elementary children talk about this ship when they visit the St. Clair Museum, it was added to this list.
Stewart J. Cort
1000’ x 105’ x 45’
The Cort was the first 1000-footer on the great Lakes. Built in Mississippi, it would have been too long to go through the locks at the St. Lawrence Seaway, so only the bow & the stern were built. The launch length was 182’ x 75’ wide, she was nicknamed “Stubby”. In
Erie, PA it was lengthen by adding a 818’ long midbody. It’s maiden voyage was May of 1972. Many may remember gathering along the St. Clair River to watch her go by the very first time. She is easy to spot from a distance, as she is the only 1000 footer to have her pilot house at the bow (front).
Other 1,000 footers - American Integrity, American Century, American Spirit, Burns Harbor, Indiana Harbor, Walter J. McCarthy, Edgar B. Speer, Edwin H. Gott, James Barker, & Mesabi Miner.
Paul R. Tregurtha
1013’ x 105’ x 56’
She is called the Queen of the Lakes, because she is the longest vessel on the Great Lakes. She is one of very few freighters that was built with passenger accommodations, once used to host Interlakes most important business customers. Originally Christened the William J. DeLancey, she quickly received the nickname “The Fancy DeLancey.” Today, one can win a trip on the Tregurtha through the United Way, the St. Clair Rotary, or other non profits
Bow who fundraise by selling raffle tickets.
More About Freighters
Two ways people can get on a freighter, by a ramp, or a ladder.
Loading groceries onto the freighter & the galley.
Entering & leaving the Soo Locks, lifted about 19 feet.
The St. Clair Historical Museum & Research Center
308 S. 4th Street, St. Clair, Michigan
Open May-Oct. Sat. & Sun. 1:30-4:30
Tuesdays 9:30 to noon all year