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View from the top of the Tower of History

Michigan

St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: Your Link to Adventure

By: Joel Welin

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  • States:
    Michigan

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, offers you an unparalleled jumping-off point for adventures in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.

Stroll through forests, hike trails along the shoreline and paddle in the waters of Lake Superior. Lighthouses built before the U.S. Civil War line the southern edge of Lake Superior – as do great beaches – while various pathways lead to breathtaking vistas and natural landmarks.

'The Soo' – Where It All Began

The main artery of the region is the St. Marys River, which flows from Lake Superior, over the rapids for which the town is named (French colonists referred to them as “Les Saults de Ste. Marie,” “Sault” translating to “jumps” or “falls”), into Lake Huron. Because of its prime location, Sault Ste. Marie was positioned for prominence: “The Soo” is where Michigan was born.

Flowing from Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River is the lifeblood of Sault Ste. Marie.

Flowing from Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River is the lifeblood of Sault Ste. Marie.
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The Soo Locks

The world-famous Soo Locks bypass those rapids and permit freighters to pass up or down the St. Marys River to and from the Great Lakes Waterway. You can see the locks at work – an average of 10,000 ships per year pass through them – from atop the 64-meter Tower of History near downtown Sault Ste. Marie. Or board a Soo Locks Boat Tour and see the freighters up close as you pass through the locks yourself.

Boat tours allow visitors to get up close as giant freighters pass through the world-famous Soo Locks.

Boat tours allow visitors to get up close as giant freighters pass through the world-famous Soo Locks.
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The SS Valley Camp and Water Street

From atop the tower, you also can see the SS Valley Camp, a Great Lakes freighter turned into a 6,100-square-meter museum. Exhibits include the lifeboats from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in 1975 in Lake Superior with a crew of 29 aboard. The Valley Camp also holds four 4,500-liter aquariums stocked with fish from the Great Lakes.

Just a stroll down the road brings you to historic Water Street, where you can visit the John Johnston and Bishop Baraga houses and Henry Rowe Schoolcraft office. In addition to displays, the historic buildings house performers who portray fur traders, missionaries and settlers.

Visit the SS Valley Camp, a Great Lakes freighter turned museum on the Great Lakes’ maritime and natural history.

Visit the SS Valley Camp, a Great Lakes freighter turned museum on the Great Lakes’ maritime and natural history.
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Whitefish Bay

Upstream from town, the mouth of the St. Marys River is at Whitefish Bay, infamous for its many shipwrecks after the Soo Locks opened in 1855. Today, the bay is also a hot spot for canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders, who flock to its calm waters during the warmer months. Many paddlers will take out at trailheads and hike the hills to get a view of Lake Superior, or wander the shore swimming, fishing or watching the birds.

The St. Marys River and its surrounding waterways are also stunning playgrounds for water sports enthusiasts.

The St. Marys River and its surrounding waterways are also stunning playgrounds for water sports enthusiasts.
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Getting There

You can get to Chippewa County International Airport, located 32 kilometers south of Sault Ste. Marie, via direct Delta flights from Detroit, Michigan. From there, it’s easy to rent a car and head to “the Soo”.