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Sault Ste. Marie: International Twin Cities in Ontario and Michigan

Updated on August 4, 2017



International bridge

 Author: Adam Kahtava from Calgary Canada
Author: Adam Kahtava from Calgary Canada | Source

River of History Museum in Old Federal Building Michigan

Attribution: cc-By-SA-3.0
Attribution: cc-By-SA-3.0 | Source

First Soo Locks


Two Cities

There are two cities named Sault Ste. Marie:: one in Ontario, Canada and one in the United States state of Michigan. The two cities are connected together by the International bridge. The city in Michigan is in the eastern end of Michigan’s upper peninsula in Chippewa County. They are divided by the St. Mary’s river. They were founded as a mission in 1668 by Father Jacques Marquette and represent the oldest European settlement in the U.S. Midwest and the oldest European settlement in Canada The literal meaning of the name is”Cataract of St..Mary” in French.

Many years ago a friend and I on impulse decided to drive from Minneapolis, MN and go around Lake Superior. We borrowed some camping equipment and set out to follow the new road that was being cut through there at the time. It was interesting because some of the small towns had never really had much in the way of outsiders come through at that time. We left Canada through Sault Ste. Marie. There was no bridge at that time and we, along with my car, had to cross on a ferry boat to the United States.

Originally it was a fur trading settlement on both sides of the river and the center of a 3,000 mile fur trade route from Montreal to the Sault and to the country north of Lake Superior. It was one community until 1817. At that time a US/UK Joint Boundary Commission finalized a border between the US Michigan territory and the British Province of Upper Canada. At the end of the nineteenth Century the communities were incorporated. Together the communities are referred to as The Sault or The Soo.

Shipping traffic in the Great Lakes system bypasses through the Soo Locks on the American side which is the worlds busiest canal in terms of tonnage passing through it. Smaller recreational and tour boats the Canadian Canal.

Visitors come from around the world to see the ships go through the locks. The largest ships are 1,000 ft. and 105ft wide. They are too large to pass through the locks around Niagra Falls making them landlocked.

The International 500 Snowmobile Race(the I-500) takes place here yearly and brings participants and spectators from all over the U.S. and Canada.

The area was originally populated by the Ojibwa or Chippewa Indians. A Scots-Irish immigrant and fur trader John Johnson, from Ireland has been considered the first European settler in the area. He married the daughter of an Ojibwa chief. They became the leaders of both the Euro-American and Indian communities.

In 1855 the first American lock was built which improved shipping as prior to that it was necessary to either portage around the rapids or later to unload cargos and reload on other ships beyond the rapids.

view of Sault Ste. Marie Michigan from Canada

public domain
public domain

On the Canadian side Sault Ste. Marie is the third largest city in Northern Ontario. Residents are called “Saultites.”. On its eastern border is the Rankin and Garden River First Nation ( according to Wikipedia the term “First Nations’ reserves. To Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit or Metis)To the west by Prince Albert Township, the unincorporated portion of the Algoma District. Across the river to the North is the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in the United States.

Among tourist attractions are the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, the Sault Ste. Marie Canal Historic Site, boat tours of the Sault locks the Art Gallery of Algoma and Algoma Central Railways popular Agawa Canyon Tour Train. There are also Provincial Parks, Bon Soo Winter carnival ski resorts, cross country ski trails. Station Mall is one of the largest shopping Malls in Northern Ontario.


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