Monday, November 15, 2004

Canal Environs

Rae's Creek drains the area to the south of the Augusta Canal. In 1845 an aqueduct was built to carry the canal over the creek. However, it was built of wood and didn't last more than 5 years. Masons were brought in from Italy to build a fancy stone aqueduct in 1850. Here's a picture of it. Apparently they still open the thing from time-to-time, which would've made for a more interesting shot. Actually, a child was drowned about 50 feet behind where this photo was taken and I believe it was due to just such an event.

The area below the aqueduct looks downright picturesque, huh? From here Rae's Creek flows into the Savannah River. On the other side of the canal the creek is dammed, forming Lake Olmstead. Olmstead, who'd worked on the Eerie Canal, was one of the engineers hired to enlarge the canal, right around 1871. The enlargement of the canal was said to be "a work in width and depth in excess of any similar work in the world, save the Suez Canal." This was not true, but sounded good. The plan was to make Augusta the Philadelphia of the South. Did it work?

Apparently the banks of Rae's Creek were once used as a dumping ground for large appliances discarded by the citizens of Augusta. As you head down the creek toward the river you can see literally countless washing machines and refrigerators rusting into the earth. Even more are obscured by kudzu. They oughta bring some school kids out and get them to clean the place up for Earth Day. Get 'em used to heavy lifting.

Isn't this jail just the cutest thing? Who wouldn't want to be incarcerated in an Art-Deco jail built for 10 inmates on the banks of the Augusta Canal? It makes you want to go out and do some crimes. But the only inmates now are wayward cats and dogs--the Humane Society of Augusta has taken it over.

If you cross the canal by the pump house, go under the bridge, then beyond the baseball fields, past the deserted radio station, and down a dirt path strewn with junk that runs along Riverwatch Parkway (and, really, who wouldn't do that?) you'll find the small appliance graveyard. There's lots of dead lawnmowers back here, some small engines, a weed-whacker or two. There's a few bed frames and several bicycles, as well. Also, the occasional vacuum.

Who doesn't love clowns? Yeah, well, me. So, it was a real treat to find this guy discarded and peeking out of a raspberry bramble. In addition to being a dumping ground for small applicances, there's a surprising number of children's toys. Stuffed bears, plastic swimming pools, toy cars, it's all to be found amongst the dented gas cans and catbriar vines. Whatever happened to preserving the treasured items of youth? That "No Dumping Allowed" sign is really getting the job done.

It's now time to head out of Augusta proper and cross the Savannah River into North Augusta, South Carolina. Ahead is the old brick factory, the nightmarish Hamburg honky-tonk/mission, Getzen's Pond (formerly a reknowned swimming hole, now deserted), and many other weird and alluring sights. Stay tuned.

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