Man and nature merge under the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, with steel beams overhead, water all around, and, yikes, a Great Lakes freighter looming!
“What’s cool is when a freighter is heading northbound, and just before the bridge there’s a turn, and just for a minute, the freighter looks like it’s headed right toward you,” says Katie Stepp, of the Blue Water Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She says the illusion can actually make people jump out of the way.
Water is Port Huron’s reason for being, and the Blue Water Bridge to Canada is its claim to fame.
Perched at the point where mighty Lake Huron funnels into the St. Clair River, Port Huron is one of the best places in the state to watch Great Lakes freighters and other big ships make hundreds of passes under the bridge every season. The city has a split vibe: part low-key and rustic, like Michigan’s Thumb; and part busy city, which also happens to be a vital international gateway to Sarnia, Ontario.
In a normal year, more than 4.5 million vehicles cross the majestic sweep of the twin-span cantilevered bridge, whose sections were opened in 1938 and 1997. But stop awhile in Port Huron, and that bridge becomes a backdrop for sightseeing.
The best part? Standing directly underneath the bridge itself. There, the river rushes past, while the traffic noise above rumbles. Canada is so close, it seems you could swim there. Next to the bridge is the city’s former train depot, which today is a museum devoted to Port Huron’s most famous citizen, inventor Thomas Edison.
Walk under the bridge to the north side. There, the Blue Water Maiden statue faces out toward Lake Huron, and legend has it she protects passing sailors.
The walkway near the bridge has a charming mystery. Only locals know about it, Stepp says, but early each morning in spring and summer, someone leaves small bouquets of flowers on every park bench, free for the taking. “To this day, nobody knows who this person is, but it’s adorable,” she says.
Tourists, walkers, boat-lovers, families, runners, and cyclists regularly use the popular paved walkway along the riverfront, which starts at the bridge and links Thomas Edison Park with miles of walkways to the south.
Stand under the Blue Water Bridge and “you definitely feel connected,” says Veronica Campbell, executive director of the Port Huron Museums. “There’s the water, and another country nearby. The whole symbolism behind bridges is they connect you.”
Here’s how to view the Blue Water Bridge up close:
- Walk. The Thomas Edison Park paved walkway goes right under the bridge.
- Tour. In season, the Huron Lady takes visitors on a 90-minute cruise that passes under the bridge’s twin spans. On land, trolleys operated by the Port Huron Museum and Blue Water Transit stop near the bridge.
- Climb. Just north of the bridge, the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse (established in 1825, and the oldest operating lighthouse in the state) has been beautifully restored. Tours let you go up into the tower for a panoramic view of the bridge and Lake Huron.
- Wave. On July 24, find a spot under the Blue Water Bridge to watch sailboats headed to the Lake Huron starting line for the annual Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac race.
- Stay. Premium balcony rooms at the DoubleTree Hotel, which is right next to the bridge, have fantastic north-facing views of the bridge, river, and lake. Many regular rooms also face the water.
- Dine. Freighters Eatery and Taproom at the DoubleTree also offer exceptional views of the bridge and river.
Blue Water Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, bluewater.org