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Sault Ste. Marie ( ) is a city in and the county seat of Chippewa Countymarker in the U.S. state of Michiganmarker. It is in the eastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsulamarker, on the Canadianmarker border, separated from its twin city of Sault Ste.marker Mariemarker, Ontariomarker, by the St. Marys Rivermarker. The population was 16,542 at the 2000 census, making it the second most populous city in the Upper Peninsula.

Founded as a mission in 1668 by Father Jacques Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest European settlement in the Midwest.. A fur trading settlement soon grew up at this crossroads on both banks of the river, making the area the center of the 3,000-mile fur trade route extending west from Montrealmarker to the Sault, then to the country north of Lake Superiormarker.

The town was split into two in 1797, when the Upper Peninsula was transferred from the province of Upper Canada to the United States.

Sault Sainte Marie is Old French for "falls of St. Mary" (Sault de Sainte Marie), a reference to the rapids in the St. Marys River, which joins Lake Superior to Lake Huronmarker. The spelling Sault-Sainte-Marie is more usual in French, but the name is written without hyphens in English. Both cities and the vicinity as a whole are often referred to as the Sault or the Soo.

The two cities are joined by the International Bridge, which connects Interstate Highway 75 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Huron Street in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Shipping traffic in the Great Lakesmarker system bypasses the rapids via the American Soo Locksmarker, the world's busiest canal in terms of tonnage passing through it, while smaller recreational and tour boats use the Canadian Sault Ste.marker Marie Canalmarker. The city's downtown sits on an island, with the locks to the north, and the Sault Ste. Marie Power Canal to the south.

People come from around the world to view up close the ships passing through the locks. The largest ships are long by wide. These are domestic carriers (called lakers) that are too large to transit the Welland Canalmarker around Niagara Fallsmarker and thus are land-locked. Foreign ships (termed salties) are smaller.

Sault Ste. Marie is also the home of the International 500 Snowmobile Race (commonly called the I-500), which takes place annually and draws participants and spectators from all over the U.S. and Canada. The race, which was inspired by the Indianapolis 500marker, originated in 1969 and has been growing ever since.


For centuries Ojibwa (Chippewa) Native Americans had lived in the area, which they referred to as Baawitigong ("At the cascading rapids") after the rapids of St. Marys River. The Saulteaux branch of the Ojibwa was named after this region.

In 1668, French missionaries Claude Dablon and Jacques Marquette founded a mission in the area, making the Sault the third oldest city west of the Appalachian Mountainsmarker in what is now the United States, and the oldest city in present-day Michigan

In the 18th century, it became an important center of the fur trade, when it was a post for the North West Company. The fur trader John Johnston, a Scots-Irish immigrant from Belfast, Irelandmarker, was considered the first European settler in 1790. He married a high-ranking Ojibwa woman named Ozhaguscodaywayquay, also called Susan Johnston, who was the daughter of a prominent chief. Their marriage created an alliance with the Ojibwa. They had eight children whom they raised them to speak French, English, and Ojibwe. The Johnsons were leaders in both the Ojibwe and Euro-American communities, and entertained a variety of trappers, explorers, traders, and government officials, especially during the years before the War of 1812. As a result of the fur trade, the settlement became a settlement for Ojibwa and Ottawa, Europeans of various ethnicities, and Métis. It was a two-tier society, with fur traders and their families and upper class Ojibwa at the top.

In the aftermath of the War of 1812, society changed markedly over a generation or so. The U.S. built Fort Brady near the settlement, which introduced new troops and settlers, generally Anglo-American. After completion of the Erie Canal in 1832, the number of settlers migrating to Ohio and Michigan increased dramatically.

The falls proved a choke point for shipping. Early Lake Superior ships portaged around the rapids in a lengthy process (much like moving a house) that could take weeks. Later, only the cargoes were unloaded, hauled around the rapids, and then loaded onto other ships waiting below the rapids. The first American lock, the State Lock, was built in 1855 and was instrumental in improving shipping. Over the years, the lock was expanded and improved.

Meaning of the name

The city draws its name from the nearby rapids, originally named Les Saults de Sainte-Marie. Sault is an archaic French word for "waterfall" or "rapids".

In modern French, the words chutes and rapides are now used to convey those two meanings. The word sault survives almost exclusively in geographic names dating from the 17th century. (See also Long Saultmarker, Ontario, and Grand Falls/Grand-Saultmarker, New Brunswickmarker, two other place names where sault carries this meaning.)

Another theory is that Sault is derived from an archaic French word for "jump" (current verb sauter). It could have referred to the area where ships would have to "jump" the St. Marys rapids by being brought ashore and portaged around the rapids before being put back in the water.


The city is the northern terminus of Interstate 75, which connects with the Mackinac Bridgemarker at St. Ignacemarker to the south, and continues south to Miamimarker, Floridamarker. M-129 also has its northern terminus in the city. M-129 was at one time a part of the Dixie Highway system which was intended to connect the northern industrial states with the southern agricultural states. Until 1984 the city was the eastern terminus of the western segment of US 2. County Highway H-63 (or Mackinac Trail) also has its northern terminus in the city and extends south to St. Ignace and follows a route very similar to Interstate 75. The city is served by the Chippewa County International Airportmarker in Kinrossmarker, about south, and by the Soo Municipal Airport.

Sault Ste. Marie was the namesake of the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway, now the Soo Line Railroad, the U.S. arm of the Canadian Pacific Railway. This railroad had a bridge parallel to the International Bridge crossing the St. Marys River. The Soo Line has since, through a series of acquisitions and mergers of portions of the system, been split between Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railway (CN), with CN operating the rail lines and the bridge in the Sault Ste. Marie area formerly part of the Soo Line.

The Sugar Island Ferry provides automobile and passenger access between Sault Ste. Marie and Sugar Island. The short route that the ferry travels crosses the shipping channel. Despite the high volume of freighter traffic through the locks, freighters typically do not dock in the Sault. However, the city hosts a mail boat, tugs, a tourist passenger ferry service, and a Coast Guard station along the shoreline on the lower (east) side of the Soo Locks.

Geography and climate

The city is located at Latitude: 46.49 N, Longitude: 84.35 W.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of (52.3 km²)—14.8 square miles (38.4 km²) of it is land and 5.4 square miles (13.9 km²) of it (26.63%) is water.

Sault Ste. Marie is among the snowiest places in Michigan, receiving an average of 128 inches of snow a year, with a record year when fell. Sixty-two inches of snow fell in one five-day snowstorm, including in 24 hours, in December 1995. Sault Ste. Marie receives an average annual of precipitation measured as equivalent rainfall. Its immediate region is also the cloudiest in the UP, having over 200 cloudy days a year.

Temperatures in Sault Ste. Marie have varied between a record low of and a record high of . Monthly average temperatures range from a low of in January to a high of in July.[18033] In an average year, only one or two days reach while 180 days fall below .

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 45 49 75 85 89 93 97 98 95 81 67 62
Norm High °F 21.5 24.5 33.6 48 63.2 70.7 75.7 74.1 64.8 52.8 38.9 27.2
Norm Low °F 4.9 6.6 16.1 28.8 39.3 46.5 52 52.4 44.8 36 25.9 13.1
Rec Low °F -36 -35 -24 -2 18 26 36 29 25 16 -10 -31
Precip (in) 2.64 1.6 2.41 2.57 2.5 3 3.14 3.47 3.71 3.32 3.4 2.91
Source: [18034]


As of the census of 2000, there were 16,542 people, 5,742 households, and 3,301 families living in the city. The population density was 1,116.3 people per square mile (431.0/km²). There were 6,237 housing units at an average density of 420.9 per square mile (162.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 73.99% White, 6.51% African American, 13.72% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.47% from other races, and 4.61% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.86% of the population.

There were 5,742 households out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.9% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.5% were non-families. 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.4% under the age of 18, 18.1% from 18 to 24, 31.9% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 122.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 128.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,652, and for a family was $40,333. Males had a median income of $29,656 versus $21,889 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,460. About 12.7% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.6% of those under age 18 and 12.5% of those age 65 or over.


Tourism is a major industry in the area. The Soo Locks and nearby Kewadin Casino, owned by the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, are the major draws, as well as the forests, inland lakes, and Lake Superior shoreline. Sault Ste. Marie is also a gateway to Lake Superior's scenic north shore through its twin city Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The two cities are connected by the large Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, a steel truss arch bridge with suspended deck passing over the St. Marys River.


LSSU's campus was originally Fort Brady.


Sault Ste. Marie is home to Lake Superior State University (LSSU), founded in 1946 as an extension campus of Michigan Mining and Technological College (now Michigan Technological Universitymarker); the campus was originally Fort Brady.

High School

The Sault's primary public high school is Sault Area High School. "Sault High" is one of the few high schools in the state with attached career center.

Middle School

Elementary School

There are several elementary schools in Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding area, including Lincoln Elementary, Washington Elementary, Soo Township Elementary. In the last decade Jefferson Elementary, McKinley Elementary and Bruce Township Elementary have closed because of declining enrollment.

Private School

The Sault also has a number of private schools, including Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe Academy and St. Mary School.



Chippewa County Courthouse
For stations licensed to Sault Ste.marker Marie, Ontariomarker, see Media in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario#Television.

All stations listed here are rebroadcasters of television stations based in Traverse Citymarker and Cadillacmarker.

  • Channel 8: WGTQmarker, ABC (rebroadcasts WGTU)
  • Channel 10: WWUPmarker, CBS (rebroadcasts WWTV); Fox on digital subchannel 10.2 (rebroadcasts WFQX-TVmarker)
  • Channel 67: W67CS, 3ABN (all programming via satellite)

NBC is served by WTOMmarker channel 4 from Cheboyganmarker, which repeats WPBNmarker.

The area has no local PBS service over-the-air; on Charter's cable system, WNMU-TVmarker from Marquettemarker offers PBS programming.

None of these stations are seen on cable in the Canadian Soo, as Shaw cable opted for Detroitmarker and Rochestermarker channels, instead.


For stations licensed to Sault Ste.marker Marie, Ontariomarker, see Media in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario#Radio.

Other stations serving the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, market:


The city's main daily newspaper is the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News, more commonly referred to as the Evening News.

Notable residents

  • John Johnston (1762-1828), married to Ozhaguscodaywayquay (also known as Susan), the daughter of an Ojibwa chief; together they built a prosperous fur trading business. They were among the upper class in both the Euro-American and Ojibwa communities of the region during the late-18th and early-19th centuries.
  • Bruce Martyn, radio and TV play-by-play announcer of the Detroit Red Wings from 1964 to 1995. Martyn graduated from Lake Superior State University and began his radio career at WSOO.
  • Chase S. Osborn, Michigan's only Governor from the Upper Peninsula.
  • Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, daughter of John and Susan Johnston, recognized as the first Native American literary writer and poet, and inducted into Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2008.
  • Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, ethnographer and U.S. Indian agent who named many counties and places in Michigan in his official capacity; husband of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft.
  • Cliff Barton, former NHL player.
  • Terry O'Quinn, actor. Most notable for his role as John Locke in Lost.


  1. Charter Revision Handbook. Michigan Municipal League.
  2. "Sault Ste. Marie - history", The North View, accessed 20 Dec 2008
  3. The Story of the I-500
  4. Robert E. Bieder, "Sault Ste. Marie and the War of 1812:A World Turned Upside Down in the Old Northwest", Indiana Magazine of History, XCV (Mar 1999), accessed 13 Dec 2008
  5. Margaret Noori, "Bicultural Before There Was a Word For It", Women's Review of Books, 2008, Wellesley Centers for Women, accessed 12 Dec 2008

External links

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