Headgates History & Renovation

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Historic Augusta Canal Headgates

In 1845 the Augusta Canal Company was formed as a publicly owned corporation to handle the financing and View of Canal Headgatesconstruction of Augusta’s canal system. The contruction crew that worked on the canal were laborers of different cultural backgrounds, including Irish and Chinese workers as well as freed blacks.

The first water flowed through the gates on November 23, 1846, into the canal’s first level, which was 7 miles long and capable of producing 600 horsepower for Augusta’s industry. The second and third levels were completed in 1848, bringing the canal’s full length to 9 miles. In the 1850’s the banks were raised to increase the canal’s depth to 7 feet.

“Back country” farmers carried cotton by narrow Petersburg boats down the river, through the locks and down the canal to the 13th Street Basin, where it was loaded onto wagons and carried to the market at Cotton Row on Reynolds Street. By 1850, 25,000 bales of cotton were brought to Augusta yearly.

In 1872-1875 enlargement left the canal much as it is today: 9 miles long, 11’ deep, 150’ wide at the surface, 106’ wide at the bottom, and capable of producing 14,000 horsepower.

From the beginning the canal has been used for recreation, social events and escape from the city. In the 1840’s boats charged 50¢ to take passengers up the canal. Even in 1866, the dark days of reconstruction, the new and elegant pleasure boat “Stonewall Jackson” had a thriving business taking clients up the canal to the head-gates.

In the mid 1990’s Columbia County recognized the historical significance of this area and applied and received Federal Grant assistance to restore the Canal buildings to give something back to the local residents. The Augusta Canal is on the National Historic Register and we are proud to oversee this great treasure and to offer it to you for use as it was originally intended.