Sault Ste Marie (Soo Saint Marie) is a port city in Ontario (southeast-central Canada), with population around 80,000. It is located on St Marys River, and close to the border with the USA. The settlement was established in the late-17th century by French Jesuit missionaries. Later, it was developed as a fur trading post. With the same name is the small town in Michigan (USA), located to the south (across the river). Before 1812, these communities were one town.
Cargo shipping traffic in the Great Lakes (world's busiest by tonnage inland waterway) bypasses the river's rapids via Sault Locks (Soo Locks). Smaller ships and pleasure boats use the Sault Ste Marie Canal (National Historic Site managed by Parks Canada). This canal has one lock bypassing the river's rapids. St Marys River rapids and cascades descend over 6 m (20 ft) from Lake Superior to the lower lakes. In 1962 was inaugurated Sault Ste Marie International Bridge (toll bridge) connecting both towns. The bridge connects I-75 Highway (Michigan) with Huron Street Highway (Ontario).
The city's economy is largely based on the steel-making industry, with largest single employer Essar Steel Algoma Inc (1902-founded, since 2007 part of Essar Group India). Other major industries are outsourcing (two call centers - Sutherland Global Services, and Agero), gambling (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's OLG Casino Sault Ste Marie), alternative energy (68 MW solar park, wind farms), forestry, melamine production, furniture manufacturing, tourism.
The city's main tourist attractions are the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, boat tours (via Sault Locks / Soo Locks) to Lake Superior and lower Great Lakes, Whitefish Island, Ermatinger-Clergue historic site, OLG Casino, Algoma Art Gallery, Agawa Canyon Tour Train, MS Norgoma (museum ship), nature parks (Pancake Bay, Batchawana Bay, Lake Superior), Bon Soo Winter Carnival (annual event), Searchmont Resort (ski-snowboard destination), Stokely Creek Lodge (ski resort), Hiawatha (ski trails). A new HUB trail (length 20 km / 12 mi) allows walkers and cyclists (cross skiers in the winter) to enjoy circle touring around the city. Station Mall is one of Northern Ontario's largest shopping malls.
The city is served by Highway 17 (part of Trans-Canada Highway) connecting to Thunder Bay (northwest) and Sudbury (east). In the USA, highway I75 continues south to Detroit MI then crosses into Ohio and terminates in Florida (near Miami). River shipping transportation is a major link to the USA via the locks in Michigan into St Lawrence Seaway. The international Sault Ste Marie Airport is approx 15 km (9 mi) southwest of the town. Algoma Central Railway runs north from the town.
The post-COVID 2022 was the most successful year ever for cruises on the Great Lakes. The season featured ~150,000 cruise ship tourists (+25% over 2019) served by 9x boats. Currently, the largest by capacity Great Lakes cruise companies are Viking Cruises USA, AQV-American Queen Voyages, Pearl Seas Cruises (ship Pearl Mist), and the Canadian company St Lawrence Cruise Lines (ship Canadian Empress). Other travel brands that offer Great Lakes voyages are PONANT and Tauck (fleet).
Due to the increased Great Lakes cruise passenger traffic, in 2022 were opened two new US Customs and Border Protection facilities - in Duluth MI and Cleveland OH, in addition to the existing in Detroit MI and Sault Ste Marie MI.
Soo Locks (Lake Superior to lower Great Lakes)
Soo Locks are parallel locks built in 1855 and currently operated and maintained by the USA's Army Corps of Engineers (Detroit District). The waterway connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron and is located on St Mary's River (between Michigan USA and Ontario Canada).
Soo Locks allow safe navigation to large ships by bypassing the river's rapids and waterfalls (with heights up to 21 ft/6,5 m). The locks' average annual traffic is ~10,000 vessels. The waterway is effectively closed in January-March each year due to ice that shuts down the Great Lakes' shipping operations.
The Sault Ste Marie Bridge (ver St. Marys River) connects two same-named cities (Sault Ste. Marie) in Michigan and Ontario. The bridge was opened in 1962 and serves vehicles passing over the Soo Locks. A separate railroad bridge crosses the river just upstream. Sault Ste Marie Bridge has length 2,8 mi (4,5 km), width 28 ft (8,5 m), clearance/air-draft 124 ft (38 m) and is ranked the 10th-busiest road for USA-Canada border crossing.
The bridge's average daily traffic is 7000 vehicles. Toll rates are USD 4 and CAD 5,3 per vehicle.
Sault Ste Marie cruise terminal
Cruise ships in Sault Ste Marie (Canada) dock near Roberta Bondar Marina. The facility is part of Roberta Bondar Park and offers 38 slips (for tour boats and yachts), shoreside power supply, water hook-ups. Additional services for boaters include showers, laundry, fueling, wastewater pump-out, charting (books), cruisetour guides, various marine products.
Roberta Bondar Marina also serves as Canadian Customs check-in. It is located near downtown (65 Foster Drive) and close to city's main shopping, dining and entertainment venues.
Port Sault Ste Marie cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Sault Ste Marie, Soo Locks, Michigan-Ontario Canada. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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