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View Full Version : Ambassador Bridge (Detroit/Windsor)



_Sian_
09-09-2010, 08:51 AM
Sooooo, I'm from Aus, and am not going to get anywhere near this bridge in the next couple of years, but I'd like to use it briefly in my story. I can get general information/stats from the internet, but I was wondering on some more specific details:

Is their much difference between the sides? Anything noticeable? Is it a fast river that runs under it? What sort of wildlife? Does the river have a particular smell, or is that hidden under the smell/smog from industry on either side. Anyone ever lived there and had to cross daily? Any unusual photos? Does the river ever have an algae problem? Does anything else cause problems (pollution, construction, whatever). Many birds? Is there a lot of space on either side of the river, or are the two cities built right up to the edge? How polluted is the water - would you ever swim in it? Does the bridge sway much? Make sounds? Groan?

So yes. Any help would be appreciated.

Sian~

Author or Princess
09-09-2010, 11:31 PM
I cross that bridge every year to get to and from a cottage in Canada from the US. What is most notable (to me): the endless road construction on the US side, with poorly placed signs that are very hard to follow, the difference between the more built-up US side vs. the Canadian side that has a few single-family homes on the main road (mixed in with grocery stores, fast food places, etc), the beautiful appearance of the river below, which is always a lovely blue green color (not sure of the source of that color). Also fairly new (since 9/11), the increased security. I've been crossing since the 1960's. It used to be a few "any firearms, liquor, etc" type questions, and now it's passports, a lot of questions about the purpose of your trip, where are you going, what did you buy, what are your jobs, are these children really yours (seriously), how long were you/are you going to be in Canada. There are also now agents that talk to you as you wait your turn to get the "official" questioning. There is a lot of overlap between the two sets of questions. We've only experienced this from the US agents as we wait to cross back into the US from Canada.

Both sides look to be built up right to the edge, no wildlife that I've seen. There are usually beautiful boats jetting around when we look down to the water. Our windows are always up - with all the exhaust, no one would want to have the windows down. The bridge feels very solid, although it's a little rundown-looking, but no groaning-type sounds of any kind. The main experience for me is the amount of traffic (always heavy), the confusing orange cones and general construction chaos (US side only), the grilling from the agents, and the annoying fact that they don't post the amount of the toll until you are at the booth. We're always having to scramble because there's no notice of how much to have ready. I also always see a few people pulled over for searches, which just adds to the overall congested feeling.

Others may have different experiences, but this sums up our yearly Ambassador Bridge crossings. Hope that helps!

DeleyanLee
09-09-2010, 11:47 PM
I'm a native Detroit (though I've transplanted 4 years ago). My dad worked on the Detroit side for many years and we passed it a lot. It was our preferred means over to Windsor. I'll give it a shot and hope it helps.


Is their much difference between the sides? Anything noticeable?

Different, how?

The Detroit side is very urbanized and, when I was there 5 years ago, directly beneath and around the bridge is a slum that you do not stop at stop signs or anything else if you drive through it. The immigration booths are safe, but you don't wander far off that track if you're smart.

The Windsor side is a lovely park and far less crowded and urbanized than the Detroit side. It's very nice. Seems like you cross into a much lower stress level when you get off the bridge (or out of the tunnel). The roads are nicer also. The duty free store (for the trip back) was a little on the dingy side last time I was there, but not as bad as some of the party stores close to my MI home.


Is it a fast river that runs under it?

The Detroit River often goes at a decent clip, but I wouldn't call it fast. Historically, it has been known to freeze over (first part of the 20th Century) solid enough that you could drive a car over it. In fact, the local mob in the 1920's (The Purple Gang--Jewish mobsters, great research fun there) would drive cars over the river into Canada to get booze for the gin joints. It hasn't frozen over in my lifetime, though.


What sort of wildlife?

Squirrels and seagulls primarily. No pigeons in Detroit or Windsor, but tons of gulls. (Hate them ratbirds.) There's probably rats in the slum area, but I never stayed around long enough to see any. Normal assortment of city household pets turned out on the Detroit side. There are fish in the river, but they're not the leaping out and splashing about kind.


Does the river have a particular smell, or is that hidden under the smell/smog from industry on either side.

It smells like a river, which I know isn't helpful. It's not necessarily clean water, but it doesn't smell of industry waste, as the Detroit River did a few miles downriver where the factories were. The water stays about the same bluish-grey year-round, but other than smelling seriously of fresh water (opposed to salt-water), it doesn't have a particular smell that I remember.


Does the river ever have an algae problem? Does anything else cause problems (pollution, construction, whatever).

Nope, not in that area. Algae doesn't like to grow in running water. Most of the big pollutants are downriver from the bridge.


Many birds?

Gulls. Too many blasted gulls. Did I mention the ratbirds earlier? They're really cheeky devils that will fly up and harrass you if you have food until they get you to drop it. Nasty ratbirds.


Is there a lot of space on either side of the river, or are the two cities built right up to the edge?

Right up to the shoreline, both sides. There's more park and nice area on the Windsor side than the Detroit side, though Detroit has the grander skyline.

BTW, did you know that Detroit is the only place in the continental US where you have to drive SOUTH (via either the bridge or the Windsor Tunnel) to get into Canada? :D


How polluted is the water - would you ever swim in it?

There's no beaches near the bridge and I believe it's illegal. There are coves further to the north where swimming is permitted but there's too much boat traffic for it to be safe to swim.


Does the bridge sway much? Make sounds? Groan?

Nope, doesn't sway. I don't remember it making any sound except the pattern noise that tires going over the grading make.


Hope that helps!

Captcha
09-10-2010, 05:51 AM
One thing I could add is that if you're crossing at the wrong time, the line-up to cross the border can be horrendous, and you can be stuck on the bridge for quite a while. I'm a bit phobic - not terrible, but not really a fan of high bridges - and I HATE crossing the border because in addition to all the stress about having to go through customs and enter a foreign country (I know, it's just the States, but still - it's not home), etc., I also have to worry about being caught in a customs backlog and being stuck up on the damn bridge.

You do get quite a nice view from up there, but I've really never been able to enjoy it - I'm either concentrating on driving and staying in the appropriate lanes (they don't seem to go by the traditional markings on the road, a lot of the time), or I'm concentrating on not panicking. Not my favourite activity, by a long shot. I'd almost rather fly...

_Sian_
09-10-2010, 09:48 AM
You are all brilliant. Thanks for the detailed information :)

DeleyanLee
09-10-2010, 04:29 PM
One thing I could add is that if you're crossing at the wrong time, the line-up to cross the border can be horrendous, and you can be stuck on the bridge for quite a while. I'm a bit phobic - not terrible, but not really a fan of high bridges - and I HATE crossing the border because in addition to all the stress about having to go through customs and enter a foreign country (I know, it's just the States, but still - it's not home), etc., I also have to worry about being caught in a customs backlog and being stuck up on the damn bridge.

I totally grok this--I have the same fear of bridges (and now I live in the city with the most bridges in the world, so I've heard). This is why I take the Windsor Tunnel when crossing. Even if it's not moving, there's only ONE lane through, no questions, and I'm not on the bridge.

EmpoweredOKC
09-10-2010, 08:43 PM
http://www.weirdkidcomic.com/images/bridge1.jpg

Ariella
09-11-2010, 01:17 AM
You can actually see photos of the whole trip in Street View on Google Maps. Check out the creepy burned-out factory on the right-hand horizon and the mess of construction detours as you're entering Detroit.

Tepelus
09-11-2010, 06:21 AM
It's been a while since I've crossed that bridge, and it was to ship some cargo into Canada, so I always had to deal with customs. I hated it. Sometimes I was stuck on the Detroit side for hours, sometimes the Windsor side. But I remember Windsor being much more clean and easier to maneuver than Detroit. Once you got into Detroit, off of the bridge and past the tolls, it was confusing as to which way to go especially with the forever construction. And more scary. Lock the doors and close your windows, and Welcome to Detroit, and America! lol! And getting to the bridge from the Detroit side was no picnic either. When I could, I always chose the Blue Water Bridge up in Port Huron/Sarnia. The customs people were more friendly on the Canadian side too, the American side were jackasses. They were more apt to search your vehicle and were jerks about it, and ask if you had fruit or meat, since you're not allowed to bring it through into the US. Crossing the Blue Water was quicker than the Ambassador for a commercial vehicle, seemed the customs were quicker about things. Also, back then (five years ago?) I didn't need a passport, but now I would if I were still in the expedite business. In fact, I don't think it was required for any American then, as long as you had your birth certificate and drivers license to prove you were American. But the Detroit River always seemed dirty to me, at the Blue Water, the water was a beautiful blue-green, especially as you look to the north toward Lake Huron. This is about all I can remember right now.

DeleyanLee
09-11-2010, 06:30 AM
Well, there is the only saying that there's only 3 seasons in Michigan: Fall, Winter and Construction.

In fact, some places print up fake "Orange Barrel Hunting Licenses". I had one for many years and seriously wished it was real. The orange barrel herds were always out of control.

ChimeraCreative
09-11-2010, 12:30 PM
I live about 45 minutes out of Windsor and my brother lived close to the bridge for a number of years. I rarely take the Ambassador Bridge because the border guards at both ends of the bridge are tougher than the ones at the tunnel. Not that the tunnel guards on either side are push-overs, but even my Immigration Consultant has recommended we use the tunnel instead of the bridge. I reckon the strictness at the bridge has something to do with all the trucks that cross over there.

The water does not move too swiftly under the bridge and the Canadian side ends up close to the University of Windsor campus and a lot of residential homes. Along the riverfront on this side there's a park and a bike path that extends quite far in one direction. Lots of folks fish in the river, I've never seen anyone catch anything though. ^_^

The American side of the bridge is quite a tangle. Unclear signs, construction, odd angles of roads... as soon as we get over there it feels like we're in a rush to peel out in any direction then get our bearings elsewhere. ^_^

There are lots of small boats and sometimes much bigger barges that come down the river. I certainly wouldn't recommend swimming in the water (we joke about being over to walk over the damn thing).

I was thinking about heading into Windsor Sunday for a bookstore & coffee excursion. I can make it a Saturday comic book excursion instead and snap some photos of the bridge. ^_^

Tepelus
09-11-2010, 09:32 PM
I thought it was two seasons, winter and construction. ;)

Kenn
09-12-2010, 10:42 PM
One useless statistic is that it was once the longest bridge in the world.

beemer2k
01-22-2011, 10:35 PM
I know this post is late, but I had to put my 2 cents in. I lived in Detroit my whole life until I moved to Windsor about 7 years ago. I cross the bridge 4-5 times a week and have for several years. I pretty much echo everything deleyanlee said with a few corrections. There are pigeons on both sides. Lots of them. Both near the river and farther inland. I don't know how del has never seen a pigeon. Also, the Detroit river is not actually a river, it is a strait. It has several currents (3 I believe) that run in different directions depending on where you are in the river. the top current goes down 4-5 feet. This is why every year people who try to swim in the river get sucked down by the undertoe and get their bodies fished out in Trenton 3 days later. People have complained about the pollution for years saying they would never fish in the river. I have been fishing that river since I was a kid (late 70s) and I have never had a problem... except where to store all the fish.