Historic Augusta Canal and Industrial District
|Location||Augusta, Georgia / Columbia County, Georgia|
|NRHP Reference #||71000285|
|Added to NRHP||May 27, 1971|
|Designated NHLD||December 22, 1977|
The Augusta Canal is a historic canal located in Augusta, Georgia, United States. The canal connects two points of the Savannah River. It was devised to harness the power of the fall line of the Savannah River for mills, to provide transportation of goods, and to provide drinking water for the city. It is the only canal in the world still used for its original purpose of providing power to textile mills.
The Augusta Canal was chartered in 1845 and completed in 1847, as a source of water, power and transportation for the city of Augusta. It was one of the few successful industrial canals in the American South. During the time of construction, the canal was headed by Henry Cumming and was designed by J. Edgar Thomson. In 1847, the first factories started, a saw and grist mill and the Enterprise Mill, were built. It would be one of many factories that would be built along the Augusta Canal.
By the time of the Civil War, Augusta was one of the few manufacturing centers in the South. The power afforded there led Confederate Col. George W. Rains to select Augusta as the location for the Confederate Powderworks. The twenty-eight buildings, which were the only ones constructed by the government of the Confederate States of America, stretched for two miles along the Augusta Canal. Other war industries started to establish along the canal making Augusta an important center for materiel.
Unlike most Southern cities after Sherman's march through the South, Augusta ended the war in better condition. The population had doubled and hard currency was available to finance recovery. The canal was enlarged in 1875.
A boom era saw the construction of the Enterprise Mill, King Mill, and Sibley Mill, the Lombard Ironworks and may others opened or expanded. Many people who lived on farms moved to the city to work at the mills, inclucing women and children. The factories led to the rise of mill villages in their precincts.
In the 1890s, the city replaced its old water pumping station with impressive structure at mid-canal that is still used by the city of Augusta today. As the electric age began to dawn, Augusta began to turn the canal's falling water power to drive the first generation equipment. By 1892, Augusta boasted both electric streetcars and street lights — the first Southern city to have these amenities.
Flooding became a big problem in Augusta during the early 20th century. Following major floods in the 1920s and 1930s, the Federal Works Progress Administration deployed hundreds of workers to make repairs and improvements, build a new spillway and to straighten the canal.
By the mid-20th century, the canal came into a period of neglect. Textile factories began to close and the city's industrial activity began to shift south of the city. At one point in the 1960s, city officials considered draining the canal to build a superhighway.
Flickers of interest in reviving the Augusta Canal began appearing in the 1970s. A state park was proposed, but never materialized. In 1989, the state legislature created the Augusta Canal Authority, the body that has jurisdiction over the canal today.
National Historic Landmark
The canal is part of the Historic Augusta Canal and Industrial District, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It was also named a National Heritage Area by Congress in 1998, the first designated National Heritage Area in Georgia. 
The Augusta Canal is the main source of drinking water in Augusta and is a centerpiece of the city. The seven mile long towpath forms a backbone for a recreational trail system. It also has been a center of redevelopment. Textile mills such as the Enterprise Mill have been converted to upscale offices and loft apartments. New projects, such as the Kroc Center, Harrisburg Canal Village, and Augusta Canal Park are proposed or under construction.
Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Interpretive Center
Enterprise Mill in Augusta is also site of the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Interpretive Center, an interactive museum which details how the canal was built and how it works, hydroelectricity, the history of the mills along the canal and the life of mill workers, and the 20th century decline of the mills and the effects on the canal. Boat tours of the Canal start from the Interpretive Center.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Historic Augusta Canal and Industrial District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 21 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
- Welcome to the Augusta Canal
- Official website
- Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Interpretive Center
- National Park Service "Discover Our Shared Heritage" travel itinerary
- Out There Somewhere - Augusta Canal App, George Eskola, WIBF, News Channel 6, ABC, October 8, 2010
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. GA-5, "Augusta Canal, Augusta, Richmond County, GA"
- HAER No. GA-36, "Augusta Canal Industrial District, Augusta, Richmond County, GA"