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Sault Ste. Marie

[sOO sAnt mu rE'] The seat of Chippewa County, as well as the most populous city on the Upper Peninsula, with a population of approximately 16,500. It is linked with its counterpart, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, across the Saint Mary's River by the International Bridge.

location of Sault Ste. Marie

The site of Sault Ste. Marie has been a natural stopping place for travelers for centuries because of the St. Mary's Rapids, which form a natural barrier to navigation between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes. The Chippewa established their capital here because of the excellent fishing the pools below the rapids provided, and French explorer Étienne Brulé reported that some 2,000 Chippewa lived in the capital when he visited the area about 1620.

Father Jacques Marquette established a mission here in 1668, and it was he who named the site Sault Ste. Marie ("Falls of St. Mary"), in honor of the Virgin Mary. The current city grew up around that mission, making it the oldest city in Michigan. Ensign Louis de Gardeur, Sieur De Repentigney completed a fort here in 1751. Sault Ste. Marie remained a French outpost until 1763, when the Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War, awarded it to Great Britain. It came under United States control as a result of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War. Sault Ste. Marie was incorporated as a village in 1879, and as a city in 1887.

Today, Sault Ste. Marie is best known for the Soo Locks, which allow ships and boats to bypass the 21-foot drop between Lakes Superior and Huron. The locks make up the vast majority of the city's economic base, as tens of thousands of tourists visit Sault Ste. Marie every year just to watch ships passing through them.

bird's-eye view of Sault Ste. Marie showing Soo Locks

visitors' overlook at Soo Locks

Other notable tourist attractions include the River of History Museum, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, and the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Sault Ste. Marie has also been host to the annual International 500 Snowmobile Race since 1969.

Sault Ste. Marie is home to Lake Superior State University (LSSU), founded in 1946 as an extension campus of Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now Michigan Technological University).

Sault Area Chamber of Commerce
Sault Ste. Marie Convention & Visitors Bureau

Jacques Marquette
Soo Locks

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The Robinson Library >> Michigan

This page was last updated on July 11, 2018.