In and Around Michigan’s First City
Your travels today will take you to a number of great attractions that reveal secrets of the unique history and flavor of our city.
We begin at Soo Locks Park, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The park is home to an Information Center, hosting many exhibits detailing the history and heritage of the Soo Locks system. Make sure you visit the theatre for a special film showing the history and construction of the locks system.
Special outdoor viewing platforms allow you to get a bird’s eye view of freighters passing through the locks. Refresh yourself directly across the street among the unique gift, fudge and ice cream shops on Portage Avenue.
To the East of Soo Locks Park is Brady Park. Situated on the grounds of the original Ft. Brady, you’ll find a number of informative displays detailing the early years of Sault Ste. Marie. A local favorite is the lighted fountain, which in the evening, dances in time to music. Flowers and towering maple trees compliment the Park, as does the “Torii” –a beautifully designed traditional Japanese archway. This was given to Sault Ste. Marie by Chase S. Osborn, Governor of Michigan from 1911 to 1913, and a former resident. The Torii was brought from the town of Ryuo, our sister city in Japan.
Tower of History
Travel one block further east and visit the Tower of History. This 210-foot tall tower features an observation deck, easily accessible by an elevator, and presents an outstanding panoramic view of the surrounding area. Exhibits inside the tower chronicle the Jesuit missionaries and their influence in settling and establishing the area.
S.S. Valley Camp
Continuing east one block, you will come upon the museum ship S.S. Valley Camp. This retired ore freighter sits at a permanent dock, and features numerous displays of the maritime heritage of Sault Ste. Marie. Be sure and visit both the huge fresh-water aquarium, as well as the Edmund Fitzgerald exhibit; one of the finest you’ll find anywhere. On display here are the only major artifacts ever recovered from the shipwreck, two of its lifeboats.
Soo Locks Boat Tour
Adjacent to the S.S. Valley Camp is the Soo Locks Boat Tour dock #2 (dock #1 is located about three-quarters of a mile further east.) While you are here, grab your camera and hop aboard a ‘locks boat’ for a two-hour, narrated tour that actually takes you through the locks. In the summer season, tour boats also schedule very popular evening dinner cruises and lighthouse tours.
Downtown ShoppingLooking for souvenirs, household goods, specialty or convenience items? You’ll find everything you need –and then some –in Sault Ste. Marie.
Many businesses, especially tourist shops, are located on Portage Avenue across from the Soo Locks Park. Often called ‘Fudgie Row’ by locals, the Portage Avenue shops offer both mementoes and our legendary homemade fudge.
Located on the southern side of town, Cascade Crossings Plaza has many establishments that will provide your everyday needs while you are visiting.
Are slots your specialty? Blackjack your best game? Ready for roulette? Keen on Keno? The Sault Ste. Marie area is home to three casino gaming facilities; Kewadin Casino, located in Sault Ste. Marie, Bay Mills Resort and Casino, located 20 minutes away in Brimley, and Kings Club Casino, also located in Brimley
Be sure to visit our “Attractions” page for a more detailed description of the many landmarks and points of interest around town, plus a map that shows you right where everything is located.
There’s something for everyone in Sault Ste. Marie – all year long!
Cloverland Electric Cooperative’s historic hydroelectric plant has been in operation for over 100 years and helps supply power to over 42,000 homes and businesses in the eastern Upper Peninsula. It is the longest horizontal shaft hydroelectric plant in the world and has been in operation since 1902. The plant is constructed of steel and red sandstone and is a quarter mile long, 80 feet wide and has seventy-four horizontal shaft turbines located on the generation floor level. The power canal that supplies water to the plant is 2 1/4 miles in length and winds through Sault Ste. Marie. The canal’s water current is created by the 20 feet of headwaters falling from the upper St. Marys River to the lower river. The water flows through the gates of the plant’s turbines, spins the generator rotors and electricity is created.
The plant is locally owned and operated by Cloverland Electric Cooperative, a not-for-profit, member-owned electric utility serving Chippewa, Delta, Mackinac, Luce, and Schoolcraft counties. It is located east of the Soo Locks along the St. Marys River and Portage Avenue. The facility also houses the Aquatic Research Laboratory operated by Lake Superior State University. Once a year, the hydroelectric plant is open to the public for free tours on the last Friday in June in celebration of Engineer’s Day. For more information about the annual open house and the history of the hydroelectric plant, visit cloverland.com.
Sugar maples dominate the forest of this 15-mile-long island in the St. Marys River. It has been a favorite Indian sugaring spot for many hundreds of years. Many Ojibwa lived here in recent times. The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians bases its tribal membership on being able to trace ancestry to the Sugar Island band.
When the sugar maples turn red and yellow during fall color season, a drive around the island is a spectacular experience. There’s a café and ice cream shop at the ferry and a bar with food two miles up the hill on 1 1/2 Mile Rd. A small township park is on the North Shore Road. Get a map at the Sault Chamber of Commerce on Bus. I-75 or call 800-MI-SAULT. There’s no perimeter road except along the north shore and part of the west shore, so you have to seek out the waterfront places. The downbound shipping lane is along the west shore, by the Michigan mainland. The upbound lane is on the Canadian side and further from shore.
Sugar Island and the St. Marys River are important migration flyways for many migrating birds. The island is considered a birding hot spot for seeing migratory snowy and great gray owls. The Little Traverse Conservancy has acquired four preserves on Sugar Island, mostly shoreline wetlands of significance to many kinds of wildlife – mammals and fish as well as birds. Visit www.landtrust.org and see “nature preserves” for a map and description of these areas. The conservancy states that the habitat of its new preserve on the island’s south end is ideal for species including the spruce grouse and black terns (listed as of special concern in Michigan), sedge wren, and long-eared owl. For preserving expanses of natural habitat, it’s a plus that the preserve is near large parcels of land owned by the University of Michigan Biological Station, land that was once Governor Chase Osborn’s summer home.
For an experience by the woods and water that’s close to town, consider investigating Sugar Island , especially if you like to fish or boat. They are open from May through October. For boat rentals & the tackle shop call 906-635-0573.