Thursday, March 14, 2013

Biking the Augusta Canal

My 13 year old son and I took a day trip to Augusta, Georgia this week.  It is Spring Break for him and I had to work most of the week - but we found a little time to get away from home.  

(He is my pack-mule - the sandwiches and water are in his backpack.)

I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the Augusta Canal trails are.  

And it was an absolutely gorgeous Spring day.

Please note that I would never recommend this trip in June, July, or August - as biking in middle Georgia in the middle of summer is similar to being in hell.  Being outside anywhere in Georgia in the summer is miserable.  Just my opinion.

We splurged and spent $10 to go through the Canal Interpretive Museum, which was well worth it.  The film explained how the canal was used.  

The canal was not built for barges or boats, like I thought.  The canal was constructed parallel to the Savannah River because Augusta sits on the "fall line" in Georgia - which is where the topography changes from Piedmont to Coastal Plain.  (the Coastal Plain region of Georgia is sandy and flat -while the Piedmont has lots of granite and hills.)  Along the fall line there are shoals or waterfalls where this drop in the land occurs. 

Several cities in Georgia were founded on the Fall Line because river navigation beyond that point was not easy with the shoals, etc.  Macon and Columbus are also on the Fall Line.  All that to say - the Savannah River drops 52 feet over a series of shoals near Augusta which made the canal water useful for powering textile mills and creating electricity for the area. (Large amounts of elevated water = energy source.  The civil engineer in me is peeking through.)

We saw several river otter, a great blue heron, and turtles.  Plus, there were some fun bridges to bike over.

We also biked down to the Augusta Riverwalk, but I didn't get any photos.

Here is a map of the trails along the canal (click through to the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area site to get the map).

We started a little late in the day, so we didn't have time to bike up to the headwaters of the canal.  We drove there, instead, and arrived just before dark.

This is a photo of the Savannah River, north of Augusta, where the fall line starts and the canal begins.  The shoals formed a dry path across the river and many Indian trails crossed here, as did Hernando DeSoto and his men.  

The beginning of the Fall Line is where the first locks of the canal were constructed to guide the water towards Augusta.  

The shoals are to the right of these locks - so the Savannah River splits and most of the water goes downstream along the River, while about a third of the water goes through the locks and forms the Augusta Canal.

And THAT is your history/geography lesson for the day.

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