When many of us think ‘History’ we associate it with books or museums. But the lands of our ancestors can tell us just as much, and trails are an important part of the story.

Located between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, the city of Sault Ste Marie, ON, played an important role in Canada’s early history and the war of 1812. A stop along the fur trade route, the city was centred between Native, British and American territories – and has many interesting tales to tell.

This is part of the reason why the federal government has designated National Historic Sites protecting our unique cultural history. Just like Parks Canada’s role in protecting our forests, wildlife and natural resources in National Parks, NHS’ provide Canadians with information and experiences about our own history.

Our travels took us to the Sault’s two National Historic Sites: Sault Ste Marie Canal, and Fort St. Joseph, to work with staff and share an outsiders’ approach to trails. Both sites had great recreation opportunities for visitors and residents, but each had their own unique style.

The Canal offers urban trails open year-round on Whitefish Island, nestled between the hundred year old locks and canal, and the St. Marys River. The restored wetlands are greatly used by local fishers, families and tourists and provide a great wilderness experience in the city. Engineering buffs will love the original structures still on site, including the world’s only remaining emergency swing dam.

Fort St Joseph was a different experience altogether.

Forty-five km south of the Sault, on St. Joseph island, the Fort is an archaeological site of ruins from a frontier outpost in the 18th century. On the southern most tip of the islands, the site has a fabulous panoramic view of Lake Huron and really gives the impression of what life may have been like 200 years ago – when Natives and British soldiers stood side by side, to defend what would later become Canadian soil, in the war of 1812.

The Fort is a great site to bring a picnic and spend the day at – check out the ruins and interpretative panels, swim on the sand or rock beaches, see the museum (full of artifacts from the site), or take a hike on a trail back in time.