Viewing from Veterans Memorial Bridge along the east bank of the Saginaw River during the 2013 Bay City (Michigan) Tall Ship Celebration
Continuing a recap of viewing areas for the Parade of Sail – the official start of the 2016 Bay City (Michigan) Tall Ship Celebration – let’s consider locations at or near downtown.
Obviously, since this area is where the ships will be docking, the crowds will tend to be larger than other locations. However, since ship tours aren’t available on Thursday (July 14 – when the Parade of Sail takes place), there may not be an extreme number of people.
In general, there are plenty of restroom facilities, shops and convenience stores scattered nearby. There really aren’t many play areas close (I think Veterans Memorial Park has some playground equipment, but I’m not positive).There really is no shelter in case of inclement weather – rather, no shelter from which you can still view the arrival of the ships. I’m going to avoid discussing locations where the only view would be after ships have passed by.
Eastern approach of railroad bridge just down the Saginaw River from Liberty Bridge (where I took this photograph from).
Roald Amundsen departing Bay City on Monday following the 2010 Tall Ship Festival. To the extreme right can be seen the end of the eastern approach to the railroad bridge. Note how the ships would be obscured as they passed on the opposite side of the center swing span.
Starting on the east bank near Liberty Bridge, there are a few viewing locations choices. One is the eastern approach to a railroad bridge right next to Liberty Bridge. However, I wouldn’t recommend this – at least from this side of the river. For one, I’m not sure how stringent the property owners and/or the railroad company would be about trespassers – mostly from a safety aspect. For another, the railroad bridge is a swing bridge, and the ships pass on the west side of the center span, so you would not have a clear view of the ships directly in front of you. You would have a nice view of them as they approach, and the background would be decent. Also, the sun would be toward your back-left. Bottom line – regardless of the legality, I feel there are many other sites with better views.
Now, a short distance away is Liberty Bridge. First, there is a public sidewalk which actually leads underneath the eastern approach, and brings you closer to the water level. This might sound appealing, however the main argument I’d make would again be how the ships pass on the opposite side of the railroad’s center span. The view is further obstructed by that same eastern approach I’d mentioned above. So – this would be worst of the worse.
Viewing from underneath the eastern approach of Liberty Bridge. Note, the railroad bridge is closed (for the winter). When open, the view of ships passing would be obscured by the center span itself.
Next, there is Liberty Bridge itself. Since we’re sticking with the east bank of the river, I’ll just discuss viewing from the eastern approach of the bridge. Also, only from the down river side, since the opposite side would only give views after the ships have passed through the bridge.
Bounty II departing Bay City on Monday following the 2010 Tall Ship Festival. In the foreground can be seen the eastern approach to a nearby railroad bridge.
I’m not sure about access during the actual Parade of Sail. In 2013 I believe security personnel and/or local law enforcement were restricting access. Still I’ll mention it. There are advantages over the railroad bridge approach, but not too many. Liberty Bridge is higher than the railroad bridge, but the view of ships passing the railroad bridge center span is still blocked. You could probably get some nice views as the ships approach the bridges, though. This would mostly be a head-on view, so getting full shots of the ships would not be possible. I would not recommend this location (again, mostly because there are better views available).
Third Street Waterfall Park – east bank of the Saginaw River. Liberty Bridge is down River – to the right. Veterans Memorial Bridge is up river – to the left.
Appledore IV heading down the Saginaw River, passing through Liberty Bridge – viewed from the sidewalk along the east bank
Moving along the riverfront there is a short sidewalk area, then the rest is mostly private property until you reach Third Street Waterfall Park. It may appear to be private property, since there is a tall wrought iron fence at it’s entrance. However, there’s public access through an entrance close to the nearby St. Laurent Brothers Nut House – a local iconic confectionery shop. Liberty Bridge can be viewed quite well from this spot.
Sørlandet, the largest ship in the 2013 Tall Ship fleet, departing Bay City the Monday following the 2013 Festival – viewed from Third Street Waterfall Park
There are a couple of disadvantages though. First, there is not a lot of room – I’d guess the side facing the river is about 30 feet, the side facing down river toward Liberty Bridge is about 50 feet. The other point is that the ships will be quite a distance away, moving closer to the far, western bank. Bottom line: a camera with a decent zoom capacity would be desired. And, if you want to try this area, stake out your spot early.
The next location would be Wenonah Park, but I’m going to pass by that part. The large ships will be docking along it’s bank, and I’m not sure how much access will be available to the public during that docking. I believe there is a V.I.P. viewing tent and/or area, but you’d need to consult their website for that information. Plus, I don’t think you could get many good photographs from that location – due to the activity as the ships dock, and the view slowly being obscured as more ships arrive.
Viewing from the eastern approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, down the Saginaw River during the 2013 Tall Ship Celebration. In the background is Liberty Bridge. To the right is the east bank and Wenonah Park. To the left is Veterans Memorial Park.
The next spot would be the eastern approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, where an actual viewing area is located. This could be an interesting spot. I don’t think there would be as much concern, security-wise, since the ships would not be passing through it – instead they’d be docking on the opposite banks between this and Liberty Bridge. Also, there is a large hillside, where an able bodied photographer could possibly get a few good shots from. But, again, a decent zoom capability would be desirable.
Viewing from the western approach of Veterans Memorial Bridge, down the Saginaw River during the 2013 Tall Ship Celebration. To the right is the east bank and Wenonah Park. In the distance is Liberty Bridge.
Staying on Veterans Memorial Bridge, we’ll cross to the other side, the western approach. There is a large hillside – however it is quite a distance from the river, so don’t plan on that location. However, the viewing area on the bridge itself might offer a very nice opportunity for photographs. And, this side of the river would give a slightly better view of the larger ships, which tend to be docked along the east bank near Wenonah Park. For getting views of the ships as they dock, I think this might be the best choice. However, I’d really recommend having a decent zoom capability.
Liberty Bridge (eastern approach), viewed from Liberty Harbor Marina.
Moving back down the Saginaw River, along the west bank, we’ll pass by Veterans Memorial Park – again, the area will probably be restricted due to the ships docking, and the viewing would tend to be obstructed. The next location would be Liberty Harbor Marina, located just up river from the Hooters restaurant. This might not be a bad location. Almost opposite from Third Street Waterfall Park, the ships would be much closer. Plus, you can probably get some nice views as they pass through Liberty Bridge. I imagine this area will have a decent number of people, but there is a lot of river footage available. I might actually consider this spot for a future Tall Ship festival. But as I’ve said, my heart is set on taking my chances with Essexville Smith Park for the 2016 Parade of Sail.
On a side note – Hooters may offer a decent view of the Parade of Sail, but I’m not sure whether they’d have some admission/cover charge. Plus, I’m sure they’ll have a decent number of customers. So, unless you’re planning to grab a meal, I wouldn’t count on that location.
Viewing down the Saginaw River from the western approach area on Liberty Bridge. Note the railroad bridge and it’s approach.
Next would be Liberty Bridge – the western approach viewing area. I really don’t know whether people will be allowed up there for the Parade of Sail. I believe last year some were being moved away by security personnel. Still, I mention it as a possibility. If you can get access to it, the view should be very nice, as the ships will be passing through the railroad bridge on this side of the center span.
The next spot was my secret fishin’ hole during the 2013 Parade of Sail. If you look at the above photograph, you can see the western approach of the railroad bridge. Well, myself and about twenty or thirty other people were on that bridge, and the view was spectacular. I was a little paranoid about possibly being chased off at the last moment, but there did not seem to be any problem. Of course, if the spectators had been acting up, or causing some ruckus, I’m sure we would have been told to leave immediately. But everyone was well behaved – to the point where a sheriff’s boat, a DNR craft, and even a coast guard vessel passed by, giving polite waves. Still, things may change with the times. But, if you can get to that spot, I believe you will not be disappointed (FYI: there’s a party store about 3 blocks away).
US Brig Niagara, during the 2013 Parade of Sail, having just passed through a railroad bridge, now passing through Liberty Bridge. This is viewing from the western approach of the railroad bridge.
Well, I’m wrapping up this part of my Parade of Sail suggestion blog. Hopefully this can give you an idea of where you may want to view the ships from. In part three I hope to cover the rest of the west/north bank of the Saginaw River, from the railroad bridge above, out toward the actual river mouth.