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Sarnia, Ontario

Sarnia is a city in southwestern Ontario, Canada (population 70,876 in 2001). Sarnia is the county seat of Lambton County. It is the largest city on Lake Huron, located where the three upper Great Lakes empty into the St. Clair River. The city's natural harbour first attracted the French explorer La Salle, who named the site "The Rapids". The Sarnia port is still an important center for lake freighters and "salties" carrying cargos of grain, ore, and petroleum products. The growth of the city received a major boost when North America's first oil discovery was made at nearby Petrolia in the 1850s.

In 1938, the Bluewater Bridge was built to join Sarnia with Port Huron, Michigan; in 1997, the bridge was twinned. Linking Ontario Highway 402 with the US I-94, the bridge is one of the most important gateways on the north/south truck routes. This bridge to America had been preceded by the construction of the St. Clair tunnel in 1891 - the first rail tunnel ever to pass under a river. The tunnel was an engineering marvel in its day, achieved through the development of original techniques for excavating in a compressed air environment.

When World War II threatened tropical sources of natural latex for rubber, Sarnia was selected as the site to spearhead development of synthetic petroleum-based rubbers for war materials. Large pipelines bring Alberta oil to Sarnia, where oil refining and petrochemical production have become mainstays of the city's economy. Large salt beds found under the city became a source of chlorine and another significant ingredient in the success of the "Chemical Valley."

While industry expanded south along the St. Clair, Sarnia's population tended to move out eastward along the Lake Huron shoreline. The sandy freshwater beaches are a popular tourist attraction, while the sheltered harbor houses marinas for recreational sailing. Since 1925, the 250-mile Mackinac race from Sarnia/Port Huron to Mackinac Island, at the north end of the lake, has been the highlight of the sailing season, drawing more than 3000 sailors each year.

Famous people from Sarnia include:

PGA Tour golfer Mike Weir, winner of the 2003 Masters, actually comes from Bright's Grove, on the outskirts of the city, but Sarnians tend to claim him as their own.

According to the 2001 Statistics Canada Census:


North: Lake Huron
West: Point Edward
Sarnia East: Plympton-Wyoming
South: Sarnia 45, St. Clair