Sault Ste. Marie is in the eastern Upper Peninsula on the St.Mary's River that forms the Canadian border.  It's population is  14,144 making it the second largest city in the Upper Peninsula.

Sault St. Marie Campus of Lake Superior State UniversitySault St. Marie Campus of Lake Superior State University

Its "twin" is the much bigger city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada with a population of 73,368.  

The location of these cities on both sides of the St. Mary's River is of extreme strategic importance. The river connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron. 


The French explored this area as the first Europeans to visit the region. Father Jacques Marquette visited here in 1668 to establish a Catholic mission.   

They encountered the rapids in the St. Mary's River that required them to portage their canoes and other small craft around the shallow turbulent rapids.

A fur trading settlement developed over time on both sides of the rapids, and it became the center of a fur and commodity trading route along the Great Lakes.

They named the place Sault St. Marie.  In French Sault Sainte Marie means "the rapids of Saint Mary."  English speaking people came along later and pronounced it "the Soo."

For the first 140 years of their existence, the settlements on both sides of the river were a single city under first French rule, and later under British rule.

A few years after the War of 1812, the border between the United States and Canada was set at the St. Mary's River.  Both the American and Canadian cities were established toward the end of the 19th century.

The rapids were a choke point that slowed maritime traffic between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  The portaging technique used for centuries was slow, labor intensive, and limited in the amount of materials it could transport.

Soo Lock the Early DaysSoo Lock the Early Days

The first lock on the river was built in 1855 and the development around the Great Lakes began to quickly expand.

Copper mining, lumber harvesting, and iron ore mining in the Upper Peninsula made the lock a very busy place.

It has been continually upgraded, expanded and improved over the 165 years since it was first constructed. 

The Soo Locks today are considered an engineering marvel.  They serve not only the transportation needs of the Great Lakes, but have also become a tourist attraction.


Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is connected to its neighboring city in Canada by the International Bridge. The American side of the bridge is  one end of Interstate Highway 75.

This major route runs south 1,786 miles across the Mackinac Bridge through the lower peninsula of Michigan all the way to south Florida.    

Soo Locks with view toward International BridgeSoo Locks with view toward International Bridge

The major landmark of this city is the Soo Locks.  It is claimed by some to be the world's busiest canal based on the tonnage that passes through it.

Many of the ships that pass through are 1,000 feet long with a beam of 105 feet.  In the Great Lakes these ships are called "Lakers."

Sault Ste. Marie is a busy place with businesses that cater to the users of the Soo Locks.

In addition to the locks there is the Saint Mary's Falls Hydropower Plant generating station that produces 18 MW using water from the St. Mary's River and disributes it to the city and the rural areas surrounding it in the Upper Peninsula.

The power plant and generators were first put into operation in the early 1900s.  The plant has been designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

Original Fort Brady BarracksOriginal Fort Brady Barracks at Lake Superior State University
By Bobak Ha'Eri-Own work, CC BY 3.0

Sault Ste. Marie has the smallest public university in Michigan.  Lake Superior State University has a student enrollment of about 2,000.

The campus was built on what was originally Fort Brady, and army fort that existed from 1894 to 1944.  Several buildings on campus are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Its students come from both the USA and Canada and the campus displays both the American flag and the Canadian flag.


Sault Ste. Marie loves winter and snowmobiles like its other neighbors in the Upper Peninsula.

It is the home of the International 500 Snowmobile Race that takes place each.  The race was started in 1969, and locals refer to it as the "Soo 500" or the "I-500" so as to avoid confusion with with the Indianapolis 500.



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