Photojournalism: The Augusta Canal near the fall line and headgates on a winter’s day

At one time, a marker told the story of the Savannah River near the fall line and the Augusta Canal’s headgates. But all that remains of that marker is a framework.

The Historical Marker Data Base website, however, provides the inscription for the missing marker once located near the spot overlooking the Savannah River.

“The roar of water over the ledges of Bull Sluice – the turbulent mid-river channel just below the dam – signals the beginning of the Fall Line. Along this four mile zone, the Savannah River drops markedly in elevation as it leaves the hard, crystalline strata of the Piedmont Plateau and hits the softer sedimentary bedrock of the Upper Coastal Plain.

The Savannah River at the Fall Line. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

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“The rock ledges form a natural constraint limiting boat travel up the Savannah River from the sea. General James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, recognized the defense and trade advantages of controlling the head of navigation, and established Fort Augusta just seven miles downstream of this location in 1736,” the inscription continues.

“The 52-foot drop in water elevation between the upper river and the settled area downstream prompted businessman Henry Cumming to visualize a canal, built in 1845 and enlarged in 1875, to provide transportation, power, and water supply for the city of Augusta, fueling its economic growth,” the website said.

Another view of the Augusta Canal from the headgates. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

“The headgates are designed to regulate the amount of water flowing from the river into the canal. The new 1875 headgates facility incorporated rack and pinion gearing which allowed a single gatekeeper to easily raise and lower seventeen gates.

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“The new 1875 lock was designed with miter gates that swung open to the sides, replacing the low overhead dropgates in the earlier lock, and enabling vessels of any height to pass through the new lock,” the website said.

The Fall Line and Headgates represent one portion of the Augusta Canal which is approximately five miles long.

The waters rush into the Augusta Canal at the headgates. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett
Spanish moss drips from the trees along the Augusta Canal tow path. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett
A glimpse of the Reed Creek waterfall through the moss and trees. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett
A view from the tow path overlooking the Savannah River. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett
The Reed Creek waterfall near Savannah Rapids pavilion. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Subscribe to the newsletter here.

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