Savannah-Ogeechee Canal

Savannah-Ogeechee Canal

The historic Savannah – Ogeechee Barge Canal is one of the prime relics in the history of southern canals. Beginning with the tidal lock at the Savannah River, the waterway continues through four lift locks as it traverses 16½ miles, before reaching another tidal lock at the Ogeechee River. Along the way, the canal passed through Savannah’s 19th century industrial corridor, former rice fields, timber tracts, and a still lush tidal river swamp and adjacent sandhill environment that is the characteristic habitat for several unique species of flora and fauna.

1825 - 1890's

The Savannah - Ogeechee Canal was an important and profitable enterprise during the mid-nineteenth century. Originally chartered in 1824, the 16.5 miles of canal was completed in December 1830. Numerous problems (such as decay of wooden locks and repeated erosion of embankments) plagued the canal during its early days of operation. The parent company declared bankruptcy in 1836. A new company was formed that widened and improved existing structures within the canal. From the 1840s to the 1860s, the canal generally prospered and became an important element in the south Georgia economy.

The canal opened to transport in 1831 and became an important partner in the economy of south Georgia. [ Georgia Encyclopedia] ] Its impact on the lumber trade was particularly important with one of the nation’s largest sawmills located along the canal’s basin. Cotton, rice, bricks, guano, naval stores, peaches, and other goods also traversed the canal. Later in the century, the canal suffered a gradual decline. Heavy June rains seriously damaged the canal embankments in 1876 coupled with a yellow fever epidemic which fatally inflicted over 1,000 individuals. The canal had become more a public health nuisance than an economic asset. By the early 1890’s the canal ceased to operate as a transportation corridor as the Central of Georgia Railway brought various wharves, warehouses, and canal frontage properties.


Now a century after the canal ceased commercial operations, local citizens have started to restore and interpret the waterway and its natural environment. In cooperation with Chatham County’s [] Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs, the Savannah – Ogeechee Canal Society [ [] ] is working to turn the canal into a multipurpose linear park. Currently most of the effort is expended at the Ogeechee River terminus where a small museum and nature center is open to visitors near Lock 5 with displays that emphasize both the canal’s history and the natural history of the local area. A half-mile walk along the Heel or Tow paths provides a delightful and attractive setting to enjoy this unique waterway.


External links

* [ Savannah Ogeechee Canal Museum]

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