We love big boats and we cannot lie! It’s hard to say which freighter is your favorite when comparing the countless vessels that traverse the waters of the Great Lakes. Although, there are a few that stand out from the crowd for their sheer goliath-like size. Their sizes range from 1,000 feet in length to 1,013 feet. These amazing “1,000-footers” seem to always make it to the top of everyone’s must-see list and attract visitors from across the globe.

Do you know how many 1,000 foot freighters are on the Great Lakes? If not, it’s okay, we will tell you! While there are thousands of small freighters in the Great Lakes there are only 13 1,000 footers! Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place to see these beasts in action. There has never been a better time to visit the Soo than this summer. Be sure to book your vacation and come see these ships in action.

While there may be 1,000 interesting tidbits about this baker’s dozen of colossal haulers, we have gathered some information to help you learn more about them and see what sets them apart from the crowd. Read all about them in this guide down below!

1. Edwin H. Gott

Length: 1,004′
Launched: July 19, 1978
American Steamship Company

With an engine capable of producing 19,500 horsepower, the Gott is the most powerful freighter on the Great Lakes. 

2. American Integrity – In July 2019, the Integrity and Walter J. McCarthy Jr both broke the Soo Locks Tonnage Record. Hours after the McCarthy set it, the Integrity hauled 76,000 tons of iron ore through the Soo Locks to set the current record. The American Integrity was named the Lewis Wilson Foy and Oglebay Norton prior to 2006.

3. American Spirit – Originally the George A. Stinson, she was renamed in 2004 to honor the spirit of the American Steamship Company’s workers as well as the spirit of America.

4. American Century – Once known as the Columbia Star, in honor of the brig Columbia which was the first vessel to haul iron ore through the Soo Locks in 1855, the American Century was renamed in 2006 once she was purchased by American Steamship Company.

5. Paul R. Tregurtha

Length: 1,013.5′
Launched: February 4, 1981
Interlake Steamship Company

Paul R. Tregurtha – Sporting the title “the Queen of the Lakes” for being the largest freighter to sail on the Great Lakes, “Big Paul” is a staggering 1,013 feet in length. The Paul R. Tregurtha is one of the most popular vessels on the Great Lakes. 

6. Edgar B. Speer – There are only two Great Lakes ports that can service her unique self-unloading system. Those ports are located in Gary, Indiana and Conneaut, Ohio.

7. James R. Barker – This beauty was the third vessel built to this impressive scale. She was the first 1,000-footer built entirely on the Great Lakes for the Interlake Steamship fleet.

8. Mesabi Miner – Named after the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota, the Mesabi Miner is the sister ship of the James R. Barker. Her 265-foot self-unloading boom is able to offload cargo at up to 10,000 tons per hour.

9. Indiana Harbor

Length: 1,000′
Launched: March 19, 1979
American Steamship Company

This beauty looks like a gentle giant as she peacefully makes her way past a gaggle of paddleboarders, but she is one of the most capable 1,000-footers on the Great Lakes. The Indiana Harbor was the first U.S. flagged vessel on the Great Lakes to be equipped with satellite communication equipment in 1983.

10. Stewart J. Cort – Perhaps the most well-known of the 1,000-footers, the Cort was the first freighter to reach this milestone length when she launched in 1972. The Cort is the only 1,000-footer with a forward-facing pilothouse.

11. Walter McCarthy Jr – The McCarthy Jr boasts four V-20 3,600 horsepower GM diesel engines. She briefly held the Soo Locks Tonnage Record in 2019 for a few hours before the American Integrity carried an even larger load through the system. The McCarthy’s design was also used for the Burns Harbor, Indiana Harbor, American Spirit, and American Integrity. 

12. Burns Harbor – She can haul either iron ore or coal, and has a deadweight tonnage capacity of 80,900. The Burns Harbor was the last vessel of the 2019 shipping season to pass through the Soo Locks on Jan. 15, 2020.

13. Presque Isle

Length: 1,000′
Launched: December 16, 1973
Great Lakes Fleet

The Presque Isle is the only 1,000-foot tugboat/barge combination on the Great Lakes and is the largest of its kind in the world. She was constructed in separate sections at different shipyards in 1972. Construction cost a reported $35 million, which equates to over $244 million in 2022.

The 1,000 footers of the Great Lakes truly are a sight to be seen. Be sure to stop by the Soo Locks this summer to get a feel for how big they really are! You can walk an imaginary “footer” from bow to stern in the Soo Locks Park, where there are 13 informational posters spaced out to the length of 1,000 feet! It may be longer than you realize!

All of the boats on this distinguished list are worthy of greatness. Which boat is your favorite? Be sure to tag all of your amazing freighter photos with the hashtag #ilovethesoo on social media. And don’t forget to tag us on your post on Facebook, TwitterPinterest, and Instagram.

If you liked this blog and could read at least a thousand more, here a couple to get you started!

What is it about freighters?

Finding freighters in Sault Ste. Marie