The Upper St. Clair River is one of the most difficult stretches of waterway to navigate within the Great Lakes system. Captain Morgan Howell, who had a license to pilot vessels anywhere in the world, considered it one of the most treacherous waterways in the world. What makes this waterway so challenging is the swiftness of the current as it leaves Lake Huron combined with the serpentine course of the river.
As a result, this stretch of waterway has a long history of shipwrecks and accidents. Not only did ships collide with each other but they hit the sea walls on the banks of the river. In the days of "whistles" and visual navigation, accidents were quite common. But even with modern navigation aids that include radar and electronics, shipwrecks still occur. The map on the (right/left) shows 9 of the most notable shipwrecks on the Upper St. Clair River.
The shipwrecks that occurred in the shipping channel itself were the most dangerous because passing vessels had to navigate around the wreckage, or worse, the wreckage blocked the shipping channel for days at a time.
The most notable of the listed shipwrecks was the collision of the Parker Evans and the Sidney E. Smith in 1972. The Parker Evans sustained extensive bow damage but remained afloat. The Sidney Smith, on the other hand, capsized and blocked the shipping channel for __ days.
As a result of this accident, several navigation measures and restrictions were implemented. The first of these was the creation of the Sarnia Traffic Centre. Administered by the Canadian Coast Guard, the center is a vessel traffic service (VTS), Using AIS (Automated Identification System), radar, and radio communication, the center facilitates the exchange of information between ships and the land-based office. At the same time, one way traffic was instituted on the Upper St. Clair River from the Black River up to the mouth of Lake Huron with down bound traffic having the right-of-way. Finally, it was mandated that only North American licensed pilots were allowed to navigate ships through this part of the river. This service is provided by the Lakes Pilots Association. All foreign vessels are now piloted by Lakes Pilots Association members through this stretch of the waterway.
Great Lakes Shipwreck File
Shipwrecks on Facebook