Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: Wikis


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Coordinates: 46°29′49″N 84°20′44″W / 46.496974°N 84.345474°W / 46.496974; -84.345474

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
View of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan from the Canadian side of the river.


Nickname(s): The Soo
Country United States
State Michigan
County Chippewa
Founded 1668
Incorporated 1879 (village)
Incorporated 1887 (city)
 - Type Commission-Manager
 - Mayor Anthony Bosbous
 - City Manager Spencer R. Nebel
 - Total 20.2 sq mi (52.3 km2)
 - Land 14.8 sq mi (38.4 km2)
 - Water 5.4 sq mi (13.9 km2)  26.63%
Population (2000)
 - Total 16,542
 Density 1,116.3/sq mi (431.0/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)

Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced /ˌsuː seɪnt məˈriː/) is a city in and the county seat of Chippewa County in the U.S. state of Michigan.[1] It is in the eastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, on the Canadian border, separated from its twin city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, by the St. Marys River. 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 US Midwest[2], including the state of Michigan. 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 Montreal to the Sault, then to the country north of Lake Superior.[3]

The settlement was one community until 1817, when a US/UK Joint Boundary Commission finalized the border between Michigan Territory, USA and the British Province of Upper Canada. The American and Canadian communities were each formally incorporated as municipalities at the end of the nineteenth century.

Sault Sainte-Marie literally means "the Cataract of Saint Mary" in French. The Saint Mary's River separates Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan from Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, as it joins Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

No hyphens are used in the English spelling, which is otherwise identical to the French - but the pronunciations differ, with Anglophones saying "Soo Saint Marie" while Francophones say "Soh Sent-Marie". In both languages, the name is frequently if not usually written "Sault Ste. Marie", hence the joke pronunciation - "Salt Stee Marie". On both sides of the border, the towns and the overall vicinity are called The Sault (usually pronounced "soo") 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 Lakes system bypasses the rapids via the American Soo Locks, the world's busiest canal in terms of tonnage passing through it, while smaller recreational and tour boats use the Canadian Sault Ste. Marie Canal. 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 1,000 feet (300 m) long by 105 feet (32 m) wide. These are domestic carriers (called lakers) that are too large to transit the Welland Canal around Niagara Falls 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 500[4], 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 Mountains in what is now the United States, and the oldest permanent settlement in contemporary Michigan.

Formerly the home of the River of History Museum, the Old Federal Building is now being renovated in preparation for use as the City Hall. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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, Ireland, 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 who they raised 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.[5]

In the aftermath of the War of 1812, society changed markedly over a generation or so.[5] 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, which were called Les Saults de Sainte Marie - "Sainte Marie" (Saint Mary) being the name of the river, and "Saults" referring to that section of the cataract or rapids in the river.

The archaic spelling Sault is relic of the Middle French Period (c. 1340 - c. 1611), as is the spelling "Montréal" (otherwise "Mont Royal", in Modern French, and written as two words instead of one). Latin salta became Old French salte (c. 800 - c. 1340), then Middle French sault, and finally Modern French saut. The French is rarely (and incorrectly) written with two hyphens.

The term Sault (modernly, Saut) was also applied to cataracts, waterfalls and rapids during the colonial period and in pre-Revolutionary France. Hence, the placenames Grand Falls/Grand-Sault, New/Nouveau Brunswick and Sault-au-Récollet on the Island of Montreal in Canada; and Sault-Saint-Remy and Sault-Brénaz, in France.

In contemporary French, 'sault' has become 'saut' and simply means "a jump". The word chute is used for "waterfalls" and rapides is used for "rapids".


The city is the northern terminus of Interstate 75, which connects with the Mackinac Bridge at St. Ignace 52 miles (84 km) to the south, and continues south to Miami, Florida. 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 Airport in Kinross, about 20 miles (32 km) 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

Satellite image from June 2007
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan hydroelectric power generation station.

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 20.2 square miles (52 km2) (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 one of the snowiest places in Michigan, receiving an average of 128 inches of snow a year, with a record year when 209 inches (5,300 mm) fell. Sixty-two inches of snow fell in one five-day snowstorm, including 28 inches (710 mm) in 24 hours, in December 1995. Sault Ste. Marie receives an average annual 34 inches (860 mm) 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 −36 °F (−37.8 °C) and a record high of 98 °F (37 °C). Monthly average temperatures range from a low of 13 °F (−11 °C) in January to a high of 64 °F (18 °C) in July.[1] In an average year, only one or two days reach 90 °F (32 °C) while 180 days fall below 32 °F (0 °C).

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: [2]


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 University); 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

Sault Ste. Marie has one middle school, known as Sault Area Middle School. Before the 6th grade annex was added in the late 1980s, the school was referred to as Sault Area Junior High 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. Marie, Ontario, see Media in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario#Television.

All stations listed here are rebroadcasters of television stations based in Traverse City and Cadillac.

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

NBC is served by WTOM channel 4 from Cheboygan, which repeats WPBN.

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

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


For stations licensed to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, 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.[6]
  • 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.


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ Charter Revision Handbook. Michigan Municipal League.
  3. ^ "Sault Ste. Marie - history", The North View, accessed 20 Dec 2008
  4. ^ The Story of the I-500
  5. ^ a b 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
  6. ^ 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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