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Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is at the northern tip of the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula (UP) and is the seat of Chippewa County.

The city is situated on the south bank of the St. Marys River, across from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. The two cities are connected via the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, which extends I-75 to the border. Prior to the War of 1812, which established the international border in the St. Marys River, the two communities were once one city.

Sometimes written as St. Mary's River, the river drains Lake Superior, beginning at the end of Whitefish Bay, flowing just under seventy-five miles southeast into Lake Huron. For its entire length, the river is an international border separating Michigan from Ontario.

Settled by French missionaries in 1668, Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest European settlement in Michigan, and one of the earliest continuously settled communities in the nation.

Long before the French came, the region was inhabited by various indigenous people, most recently the Ojibwa.

The first European to document the area was the French explorer, Étienne Brûlé, who came through the region in 1618, and Jesuit priests, Isaac Jogues and Charles Raymbault, came through in 1641. Still, the first European settlement was organized by Father Jacques Marquette and Claude Dabion, French Jesuit missionaries, in 1668. The mission was named Sault Ste. Marie in honor of the Virgin Mary and the 21-foot difference drop in elevation between Lake Superior and the lower lakes.

Sault Ste. Marie developed as the fourth-oldest European city in the United States west of the Appalachian Mountains, and the oldest in Michigan.

In 1750, King Louis XIV of France granted 214,000 acres at the Sault, including all of Sault Ste. Marie, to Louis le Gardeur, Sieur de Repentigny, who, in 1783, became Michigan's only Revolutionary War soldier when he refused allegiance to King George III.

John Johnston, the father-in-law of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, became the first British settler in 1793, as the area was then still claimed by the British. In 1797, the Northwest Fur Company constructed a 38-foot-long navigation lock for small boats on the Canadian side of the river. This was in use until it was destroyed during the War of 1812.

Governor Lewis Cass first raised the US flag over Sault Ste. Marie in 1820, first called Le Sault de Sainte Marie, it was shortened when a post office was established on September 11, 1823, with Henry B. Griswold as postmaster. The community was incorporated as the village of St. Mary in 1849, but the act creating the village was annulled in 1851, and the village was reincorporated under its current name in 1879, becoming a city in 1887.

In 1852, the US Congress granted 750,000 acres of public land to the State of Michigan for the purpose of building a lock permitting ship traffic between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. The task was undertaken by the Fairbanks Scale Company, which had large mining interests in the UP, and the first two locks were completed by 1855, and initially known as the State Lock.

As shipping through the canal grew, it soon became apparent that additional locks would be needed. Since the cost of this project exceeded the financial capabilities of the state, ownership of the locks was transferred to the US government, under the management of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Known as the Soo Locks, the locks bypass the rapids of the St. Marys River, where the water drops twenty-one feet. Despite being closed in the winter, approximately 10,000 ships pass through the locks each year.

The northern terminus of I-75 is at the US-Canadian boundary on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. I-75 connects with the Mackinac Bridge at St. Ignace, about fifty miles to the south, then continues south to Miami, Florida. The northern terminus of M-129 is also in Sault Ste. Marie.

Other than Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, across the bridge, the next closest cities or villages are St. Ignace and Detour, 50 and 55 miles away.

Today, tourism is a major industry in Sault Ste. Marie. Prominent attractions are the Soo Locks and the nearby Kewadin Casino, owned and operated by the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, although the forests, the Lake Superior shoreline, and inland lakes are also a draw, as is the international bridge.

Sault Ste. Marie's peak population was 18,722 in 1960. Although its population. has declined each decade since, with the exception of 1990, the losses have not been drastic. Its population in 2020 was 13,337.

This portion of our guide is focused on the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Online resources for the city or county, as well as local businesses, industries, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, and events, are appropriate for this category.


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