Sault Ste. Marie is a city in and the county seat of Chippewa County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It lies on the northeastern 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 city is relatively isolated from other communities in Michigan. The population was 14,144 at the 2010 census, making it the second most populous city in the Upper Peninsula.
Sault Ste. Marie was already a place of Native American settlement 500 years ago. It became the first European settlement in the region that became the Midwestern United States, when, in 1668, Father Jacques Marquette, having heard of the Native American village, traveled there to found a Catholic mission. A fur-trading settlement quickly grew at the crossroads that straddled the banks of the river, the center of a trading route of that extended from Montreal to the Sault, and from the Sault to the country north of Lake Superior.
The settlement formed a single community until 1817, when a US–UK Joint Boundary Commission fixed the border between the Michigan Territory of the USA and the British Province of Upper Canada to follow the river in this area. The American and Canadian communities were each incorporated as municipalities toward the end of the nineteenth century.
No hyphens are used in the English spelling, which is otherwise identical to the French, but the pronunciations differ; Anglophones say and Francophones say . In both languages, the name is often written Sault Ste. Marie. On both sides of the border, the towns and the general vicinity are called The Sault (usually pronounced ) 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 shipping traffic pass through the locks. The largest ships are long by wide. These are domestic carriers (called lakers) too large to transit the Welland Canal that bypasses Niagara Falls and, consequently, 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, originated in 1969 and has been growing ever since.