Have you ever tried moose radish? No? Then travel to Ontario, to Sault Ste. Marie along the shores of the St. Mary’s River! Often referred to as the Soo, Sault Ste. Marie sits just north of the U.S. border.
This bustling waterfront town is the perfect home base for accessing the great outdoors while also taking advantage of all of the amenities that an urban city has to offer. Moose radish appears on local menus and is a blueberry and horseradish jam – delicious with many dishes.
The Soo is currently home to approximately 75,000 people but was originally the meeting ground for indigenous tribes, the Objibwe being the most predominant. The St. Mary’s River, creating the southern boundary of the Soo, is where Lake Superior flows into Lake Huron. The variations in the depths of the water create beautiful rapids and the river is home to an abundance of white fish. Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best rainbow trout fishing in the world is in the rapids of the Canadian Soo.” While the rapids are very different nowadays than they were before, the fishing records are still mind-boggling; records indicate 500 fish an hour.
The Soo is also famous for its canal – the Sault St. Marie Canal. Now a historic site, the canal is home to the first electric-operated lock in the world and at one point it was also the busiest canal in the world! Today, boats wishing to pass through the locks can do so free of charge.
Agawa Canyon Tour Train
To escape the city and step into nature, take the Agawa Canyon Tour Train to Agawa Canyon Park. As you travel towards the canyon you will wind your way through breathtaking landscapes of thickly wooded forest and exquisite lakes; scenery so stunning that it inspired a group of Canadian artists, the Group of Seven, to depict its beauty in their art.
The Group of Seven were particularly drawn to the depth of the topography in this region where the Canadian Shield starts. The Canadian Shield stretches from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean and boasts the largest expanse of Archean rock on the planet – rock that originated millions of years ago as continents began to form. At mile 92 of the train tour, you will be witness to one of the painting sites of the Group of Seven. As the train continues, catch a glimpse of Bridal Veil Falls – the inspiration for a number of paintings completed by various members of the group.
At the end of the train tour, experience the beauty of the landscape firsthand. The train runs for four hours and 114 miles and stops last at Agawa Canyon Park where you will have access to trails, can enjoy a picnic or take it all in from the lookout. Along the way, listen to stories of the history of the region; points of interest are narrated as you pass each point. The Agawa Canyon area has seen many occupants – the Objibwe, fur traders, explorers and businessmen, to name a few – and is rich with history.
Fall is a particularly popular time to see the canyon as the trees are all changing color. The last two weeks of September and the first week of October usually boast the best and brightest fall foliage. It is important to book early if you are interested in taking the tour in the fall. However, no matter what the time of year, there is plenty of beauty to behold.
Moments of Algoma
After witnessing the beauty of the landscape that inspired the artists of the Group of Seven, learn more about them by seeing “Moments of Algoma” at the Heritage Discovery Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. The Group of Seven got their start nearly 100 years ago when they spent a month painting at Agawa Canyon Park. “Moments of Algoma,” a theatrical play, gives insight into the life of Lawren Harris, one of the Group of Seven’s founding members. Afterwards, you will be treated to dinner and dessert in the Old Stone House by the hearth – an evening you won’t want to miss! Tickets are $55 and shows run monthly in August, September and October.
For more of the great outdoors, drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay – named one of the Top 10 drives in America! Towns tumble down the sides of the highway like small stones found in the clear waters of the lake. You can expect the drive to take approximately eight hours but you might also want to budget time for a few stops along the way. Both Wawa and Rainbow Falls Provincial Park make for great stopping points; you may also want to consider stopping at Terrace Bay – a popular spot among tourists.
Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center
Visit the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center to learn more about the small planes that helped affect mighty change! There are 29 planes on display, most of which have been donated. These planes helped to open up the north where there were no landing strips; they are small enough to land in short areas or on water. The center is open from mid-May to mid-October, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m daily.
The Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site
Stop in to see the amazing homes that give visitors insight into the way life was more than 100 years ago. The site consists of an interactive Heritage Discovery Center and two of the oldest stone buildings located northwest of Toronto – the Ermatinger Old Stone House and the Clergue Blockhouse. The Ermatinger Old Stone House is restored to depict the domestic and professional life of Charles Oakes Ermatinger and other prominent residents and visitors of the house between 1808 and 1870. The Clergue Blockhouse served as the home of industrialist Francis Hector Clergue from 1894-1908.
For visitor information, visit the following: