A Quick Tour of the Oldest City in Michigan

Jul 12th 2021

This week finds us in Sault St Marie, MI, which is the oldest city in Michigan, and the 3rd oldest city in the U.S! The city was formed in 1697, long before the border was established. This is why you'll actually find two cities with the same name; one in the US, and one in Canada.

Sitting right on the St Mary's River, it was really cool to watch these huge freighters floating down towards the Soo Locks; an engineering marvel.

Soo Locks

The locks were first built in 1855, but have been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over the years to accommodate larger ships. There's a visitor center here that has neat interactive displays which the kids really got a kick out of.

Then you can head out to the observation platform and watch the boats slip through the locks. It's really something to be able to watch those giant gates swing open and closed and for those locks to fill with water to raise the boats!

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Tower of History

Right down the road is the Tower of History. This was originally called the Shrine of the Missionaries and it was abandoned mid-construction by the Catholic Church in 1968. The Sault Historical Society took it over and added the observation platforms that top the more than 200ft tall structure.

It was really old and smelly on the inside but it affords great views of the city of Sault Ste Marie, the Soo Locks, Valley Camp, and the Edison Sault Hydroelectic Plant (that long 1/4 mile long building).

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Valley Camp

Just down the road a bit further is the USS Valley Camp. This freighter once sailed the great lakes for more than 50 years, but now sits as a 20k sq foot museum. They have so many artifacts and displays from all kinds of stuff.

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There's also this art museum at the end of the ship that has really cozy vibes and has been intentionally left as it was when it last left the water.

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At the other end is a very powerful and moving exhibit with the Edmund Fitzgerald, the largest ship to ever sink in the Great Lakes, claiming all 29 lives aboard. 

The museum was amazing and is absolutely worth visiting.

Clyde's Drive-in

This humble burger joint at the East end of Sault St Marie not only has amazingly large cheeseburgers (2/3rd lb!) and delicious fries, but you can watch the huge freighters pass right by!

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Operating as an old-fashioned drive-in, it's been a staple of the area since 1949. It only has three locations, and the original location (in Sault St Marie) operates seasonally from Spring to Fall.

We really enjoyed our week here but as always, it was definitely too short! We could have easily stayed another week and gotten the chance to see more, but it's time to move onto our next spot.

Author

Nick Haskins
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