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It is the seat of the Algoma District and the third largest city in Northern Ontario, after Sudbury and Thunder Bay.
Shipping traffic in the Great Lakes system bypasses the Saint Mary's Rapids via the American Soo Locks, the world's busiest canal in terms of tonnage that passes through it, while smaller recreational and tour boats use the Canadian Sault Ste. French colonists referred to the rapids on the river as Les Saults de Ste. Hundreds of years ago, this slowed shipping traffic, requiring an overland portage of boats and cargo from one lake to the other.
It was at the crossroads of the 3,000-mile fur trade route, which stretched from Montreal to Sault Ste.
Marie and to the North country above Lake Superior.
Sault survives almost exclusively in geographic names dating from the 17th century. Louis, Quebec, and Grand Falls/Grand-Sault, New Brunswick, three other place names where "sault" also carries this meaning.) Traders regularly interacted with tribes from around the Great Lakes, but the fluid environment changed during and after the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.
Trade dropped during the war and on July 20, 1814 an American force destroyed the North West Company depot on the north shore of the St. Since the Americans were unable to capture Fort Mackinac, the British forces retained control of Sault Ste. In 1870, the United States refused to give the steamer Chicona, carrying Colonel Garnet Wolseley, permission to pass through the locks at Sault Ste Marie. Marie, Ontario was incorporated as a town in 1887 and a city in 1912.
A cosmopolitan, mixed population of Europeans, First Nations peoples, and Métis lived at the village spanning the river.
The city developed considerable industry before and after World War II, especially in steel-making.An anti-aircraft training facility was established 100 kilometres (62 mi) north of Sault Ste. Barrage balloons were installed, and early warning radar bases were established at five locations in northern Ontario (Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Hearst, Armstrong (Thunder Bay District), and Nakina) to watch for incoming aircraft.Military personnel were established to guard sensitive parts of the transportation infrastructure.Algoma Steel and the Chromium Mining and Smelting Corporation were key producers for transportation and military machines.The Huron Central Railway has been important to the operation of the steel operation, but Genesee and Wyoming, Inc., owner of the railway, has announced its intention to discontinue operations.