Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, located on Lake Superior on the border with Michigan, still retains the natural beauty that attracted its original settlers, aboriginal people who gave it the name Bawating in Ojibway, meaning "the Gathering Place." No doubt its location on the St. Mary's River, which joins Lake Huron with Lake Superior, and proximity to both forests and water gave it an advantage in the 18th and 19th centuries. It became a major stop on the French fur trading route, and the French Jesuits who settled there named it Sault Ste. Marie; it became two cities -- one in Michigan, too -- after the United States and Canada became two separate countries. The end of the fur trade in the late 19th century threatened to throw the city into an economic slump, but the canal brought commerce chugging through its waters, the development of a pulp mill and other industrial activities. The city takes its name from the French word for jump, no doubt a reference to the twenty-foot drops in the cascades of Lake Superior to the lower level of the lakes. Its sister city in Michigan is the oldest city in that state.
Today the city of 80,000 is a gateway to much of the natural beauty that surrounds it, whether that means small islands such as St. Joseph, a train trip through the Agawa Canyon, a cruise through the Soo Locks (the second-busiest locks after the Panama Canal), which consist of two canals and four locks and recently celebrated 150 years of service in St. Mary's River and the Great Lakes. The city is also the hometown of Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada's first woman in space.