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Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Parks, Trails, Restaurants, Attractions & More

Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest city in Michigan and third oldest settlement in the United States. Father Jaques Marquette founded a mission on banks of the St. Mary's River in 1668, and the settlement grew to become an important trading outpost.

Since the establishment of the Soo Locks in 1855, the town has played an important role in Great Lakes shipping. Ships of all sizes pass through the Soo Locks, with close to 10,000 ships using the locks during a recent year.

Visitors can watch the engineering marvel in action from shore or take a boat tour through the Soo Locks. Soo Locks Boat Tours leave from two locations on Portage Avenue and are available from early May through October 15.

Sault Ste. Marie is also home to Lake Superior State University, the annual International 500 Snowmobile Race, and the Tower of History.

Area Trails

Sault Ste. Marie has trails for snowmobiling, biking, walking, and roller-blading.

A paved path for biking and walking along Business I-75/M-129 starts at the entrance of Cascade Crossings shopping center and continues to Meridian and Fourteenth Avenue. On Meridian Street, the path goes north past Malcolm Park to the campus of Lake Superior State University (LSSU).

In downtown Sault Ste. Marie, several historic spots and attractions are within walking distance of each other. See the Sault Ste. Marie Maps page for a walking route that uses the city's sidewalks to reach the Soo Locks, River of History Museum, Tower of History, Brady Park, Frying Pan Island Lighthouse, Museum Ship Valley Camp, and historic spots along Water Street. Along the way, keep your eyes open for historical markers that describe important places or events from Sault Ste. Marie's past.

Several cross-country ski trails wind and loop through the woods at Sault Seal Recreation Area. The trails are west of the parking area off Minneapolis Park Drive.

From late December through March, the snowmobile trails around the Sault Ste. Marie area are very active. A snowmobile trail near Ashmun Bay Park reaches a part of downtown Sault Ste. Marie crossing under I-75. A snowmobile trail south of Business I-75 has two forks east of M-129 and can be used to access the area near the high school or Portage Avenue.

Bike Routes

Using bike routes along several streets, you can ride from downtown to southern Sault Ste. Marie. Starting on Water Street, the bike route passes Brady Park, the historic homes district, Kemp Downtown Marina, Frying Pan Island Lighthouse, and Museum Ship Valley Camp. At Portage Avenue, the bike route continues east past the docks for the Soo Locks Boat Tours, Alford Waterfront Park, Aune-Osborn Park and Rotary Island Park. Along Riverside Drive, cyclists can use the paved shoulder and ride to 3 Mile Road. At 3 Mile Road, go east and continue riding on the wide, paved road shoulder to Mackinac Trail.

Sault Ste. Marie Parks

Soo Locks Park is a beautifully maintained park adjacent to the Soo Locks. The Visitors Center is open from mid-May to mid-October, and there is no admission to enter the park. Viewing platforms near the water's edge offer terrific views of the locks in action, and a nearby walkway enables visitors to see large vessels and the locks from different perspectives. Inside the Visitors Center, you can learn about the ships visiting the locks and discover the history of fur trading and shipping in the area.

During the summer, the annual Music in the Park Summer Concert Series brings free concerts to Soo Locks Park on Wednesday nights. Visitors are welcome to bring a lawn chair and enjoy some free entertainment.

Rotary Island Park is the second best spot in Sault Ste. Marie to get upclose views of the large freighters that navigate the St. Mary's River. Visitors like to watch the mammoth ships from the picnic areas and parking lots at the scenic park, which includes a small shelter, gazebo, and playground. The dock for the car ferry to Sugar Island is located at the west edge of the park.

Aune-Osborn Park is a short distance from Rotary Island Park on Riverside Drive, downriver from the Soo Locks. The park's two picnic shelters offer nice views of the St. Mary's River, and a large grassy area is located on the east side of the park. Aune-Osborn Park has public boat launch ramps and a large campground for recreational vehicles. The campground has 100 modern camp sites with water and electrical service, showers, and restrooms. The campground is open from mid-May to mid-October; for reservation details, see the City of Sault Ste. Marie's web site.

Brady Park and James A. Alford Waterfront Park are perfect for picnics near the St. Mary's River, with views of the ships entering and leaving the Soo Locks area. Alford Waterfront Park has several benches that provide panoramic view of the river; there are also several horseshoe pits along the back of the Alford Waterfront Park.

Sault Ste. Marie's largest athletic complex, Malcolm Park, is located near the Lake Superior State Campus. The Gordon Malcolm Ballfield Complex contains nine, well-maintained ball diamonds and hosts may softball and little league teams in during the summer. Two small playgrounds and a picnic shelter are located near the athletic fields, and a large playscape is on the west side of Meridian Street. Malcolm Park's playscape resembles a wooden fort and has many spots for climbing and playing, making it a favorite spot for small children.

Sault Seal Recreation Area is a popular spot for winter activities. The park has sled, snowboard and tube hills, which are accessible from the parking area off Minneapolis Park Drive. Cross-country ski trails loop through a wooded area on the west side of the park. On the lower level of the park, which is accessed from School Drive, there are soccer fields, tennis courts, and skate park.

St. Mary's Park is located on both sides Armory Place, next to St. Mary's School. The park has a ball diamond, tennis court, playground and basketball hoops. During the winter, the paved area for the tennis and basketball courts is covered with ice and used for an outdoor ice-skating rink.

Ashmun Bay Park is on the west side of Sault Ste. Marie and features boat launch facilities on the upper section of St. Mary's River. There is ample parking available at the park for boat trailers.

Boating and Fishing

The St. Mary's River isn't just a shipping route for freighters and ocean-going vessels using the Soo Locks; it's a favorite spot for fishing and recreational boating.

Many fishermen consider the St. Mary's River to be the best spot to fish for pike in Michigan. Walleye, salmon, and whitefish are also common to the river. In Sault Ste. Marie, local fishermen like to cast their lines from Aune-Osborn Park, Rotary Island Park and James Alford Waterfront Park. Aune-Osborn Park features a fish-cleaning station and restrooms south of the park's main parking lot. Fishing charters (or your own boat) can take you to other spots on the St. Mary's River for fishing.

For recreational boaters, there are there are three boat launches in the Sault Ste. Marie area; one is west of the Soo Locks at Ashmun Bay Park, while the other two are downriver from the locks at Aune-Osborn Park and Charles T. Harvey Marina.

George Kemp Downtown Marina is located off of Water Street, a short distance from downtown and the Soo Locks. The marina is open from mid-May to mid-October and has boat slips that can accommodate boats up to 100 feet long. Gasoline, pumpout, private showers and electrical service (30 or 50 amp) is available. For more details or to make a reservation, call the Kemp Marina harbor master at (906) 635-7670.

Charles T. Harvey Marina is a little over two miles east of downtown Sault Ste. Marie on Riverside Drive. The marina is open from mid-May to mid-October and has 31 seasonal boat slips. All slips feature water and electrical service, with showers and restrooms nearby. A boat launch is located at the southern end of the marina. Transient docking is not available. For details or reservations, please call the Harvey Marina harbor master at (906) 635-5341.

A valid fishing license is required to fish on Michigan lakes and waterways. You can get a license online at the Michigan DNR E-License web site and at bait shops and sporting goods stores.

Things to See and Do

Sault Ste. Marie is home to the Soo Locks, an engineering marvel that operates from April to December and enables ships of all sizes to bypass the rapids on the St. Mary's River to reach Lake Superior. Approximately 10,000 ships a year use the Soo Locks, and during a visit to the Soo Locks, you will most likely see a large freighter or two use the locks, which is an impressive site. If you want to experience a trip through the locks, Soo Locks Boat Tours offer daily trips when the locks are open.

Other attractions in downtown Sault Ste. Marie include the the Museum Ship Valley Camp, the Tower of History, the River of History Museum, and the historic Johnston House on Water Street. During the winter, watching an LSSU hockey game at the James Norris Center can be a lot of fun.

For lighthouse enthusiasts, Sault Ste. Marie is home to the Frying Pan Island Lighthouse. The stubby, white lighthouse is located along Water Street, next to the Coast Guard Station, and can be easily seen from the street or sidewalk. The lighthouse dates back to 1887 and was originally located in the De Tour Passage on Frying Pan Island, near DeTour Village.

There are many restaurants, large stores, and hotels along Business I-75/M-129. In downtown Sault Ste. Marie, you'll find more food and lodging choices, as well as unique stores and gift shops on Ashmun Street and Portage Avenue, near the Soo Locks.

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