Defining Moments: Ship Watching at Beacon Pointe

By Brett
Ship watchers rejoiced as the 2024 shipping season kicked off in style with the arrival of the Barbro G, a “saltie” or ocean-bound vessel, on the rough waves Lake Superior on the 1st of April. With its arrival, guests of Beacon Pointe got to delight in the spectacle from the safety of their rooms. Those on the upper levels enjoy their perch with an unobstructed front-row seat view of the shipping channel leading from Lake Superior into the canal.

At Beacon Pointe, our guests often share their exhilaration about being able to see the ships passing in and out of the Twin Ports. Watching the ships gracefully glide in and out of the Duluth Ship Canal, passing beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park makes it feel as if they’re out on lake themselves.

Quotation mark
“It felt like we were on a small ship in a stateroom with a big picture window facing the ocean—and no one got seasick!”
Linda S, Guest Survey 2023
The sense of wonder of these massive vessels creates spur the imagination and deepen the appreciation for the maritime industry of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior. Since no two vessels are the same, we’ve put together some helpful vocabulary terms that might help you the next time you cast your eyes towards Canal Park.

Dig in below and gain a greater appreciation for the significance and scale of the waterways these vessels traverse.
  • The Barbro G waits to enter the Duluth Ship Canal. 


    These ocean going vessels, like the Barbro G, access the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway. The vessels will not have self-unloading cranes, and the bows are much more prominent and bulbous making them a target when trying to identify if a vessel is a saltie.

    Watch the Barbro G pass through the canal. 

  • Famous laker, SS William A Irvin has a permanent residence next to the Aerial Lift Bridge and Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.


    These bulk carrier vessels are confined to operate within the Great Lakes themselves. One of the most famous vessels of this kind is the revered and tragic SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

    Many of these vessels will have self-loading cranes, which are able to lift the hatch covers and move them into position when loading. Typically, these will have a flat bottom hull making them a little easier to spot.

Seawaymax vessels represent the maximum size bulk ship class that can fit through the canal locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The seaway itself is the 189-mile corridor of canals, locks, and channels that allow vessels to chart a course from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes Ports.

Beyond the seaway, the Great Lakes Waterway, with its own network of canals, locks, and natural channels, facilitates navigation between the Great Lakes. The Soo Locks or the Sault Locks are a unique feature. Located in Sault St. Marie, Michigan, they function as a series of water elevators and the only connection to assist ships in moving between the other Great Lakes, specifically Lake Huron, and Lake Superior.

Duluth aerial lift bridge
Track incoming and outgoing vessels by checking out MarineTraffic's Global Ship Tracker.
Ultimately, these waterways bring shipping vessels to the familiar Duluth Ship Canal, providing direct access to the bustling Duluth-Superior Harbor, where ships smoothly pass underneath the Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park.
Stay at Beacon Pointe and enjoy unrivaled ship watching that marries the awe-inspiring beauty of Lake Superior and the mesmerizing dance of ships on its waters.  Pop by the Front Desk at Beacon Pointe or bring your own binoculars to help get a better view.
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