Augusta Canal Headgates, 1840s & 1870s, Columbia County

Augusta Canal gatehouse, headgates, and locks.

Henry Harford Cumming envisioned Augusta as the “Lowell of the South” [in reference to the textile hub in Massachusetts] and was the driving force behind the Augusta Canal. The first nine-mile section was completed between 1845-1846, and within a couple of years three mills had already been risen along the waterway. Built near the end of the Canal Era [roughly 1800-1850], it was amazingly successful, as most Southern canals never were, and is the only intact industrial canal still in use in the South today. It was lengthened and enlarged between 1872-1877. It was after this expansion that most of the mills associated with Augusta’s industrial heritage were constructed. These included the Enterprise, Blanche, Sibley, and King Mills. I believe the present gatehouse dates to the expansion period in the 1870s.

Diversion Dam and Savannah River Rapids

A V-shaped dam diverts the Savannah River at the headgates and below it are what is now known as the Savannah Rapids. It is a popular recreation area and a very picturesque location.

Augusta Canal just below the headgates

Along the walkway at the gatehouse you’ll notice hundreds, if not thousands, of modern padlocks. These have been left behind by visitors over the years, as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the place. I’m not sure when the tradition started, but it has definitely caught on.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

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