ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Savannah Rapids Park, Georgia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Savannah Rapids Park, Georgia
Savannah Rapids Park
Located in the City of Martinez, part of the Augusta
Metro Area, Savannah Rapids Park provides
spectacular views of the falls of the Savannah.
Savannah Rapids Park
The rapids or "falls" of the
Savannah River have been a
landmark for thousands of
Rapids & Augusta Canal
The Savannah River plunges
over the fall line at the rapids,
providing a natural spot for
the beginning of the Augusta
Canal, seen at left.
Savannah Rapids Park - Martinez, Georgia
The Falls of the Savannah River
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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Augusta Canal Headgates
The headgates of the historic
Augusta Canal still serve their
original purpose and can be
seen at Savannah Rapids
Savannah Rapids
Both the rapids and the
headgates of the Augusta
Canal are visible in this view
taken from the heights in
Savannah Rapids Park.
Savannah Rapids Park provides perhaps the
most spectacular view in the Augusta metro
area. Not located in Augusta itself, the park is
in neighboring Martinez, Georgia.

The rapids or Falls of the Savannah River
have been a major landmark for thousands
of years. Just upstream from Savannah
Rapids Park, for example, is Stallings Island,
a famed prehistoric site and now a national

A sixteen acre island in the center of the
Savannah River, Stallings Island is the
location of shell mounds, middens and other
traces of a prehistoric Native American
culture that reached its height 3,500 - 3,800
years ago. The oldest pottery ever found in
America was discovered here.
Please click
here to learn more about Stallings Island.

For early Indian traders and explorers
making their way down from Charleston or
up the Savannah River from Savannah, the
falls marked the head of navigation on the
river. The presence of the rapids, along with
the proximity of a nearby village of Shawnee
Indians, contributed to the establishment of
the modern city of Augusta.

It was in the antebellum era, however, that
Augusta visionaries realized that instead of
being an obstruction to navigation, the
Savannah Rapids actually could be used to
feed a project that would bring prosperity to
the struggling community.

The power of the water rushing over the
rapids helped spark the idea of building a
canal that would stretch from the cataract
through Augusta and back into the Savannah
River. The force of the falls would be used to
move slower water through the canal which
could be used to turn the wheels of industry.

Begun in 1845, the first stage of the Augusta
Canal was completed the next year. The
headgates at today's Savannah Rapids Park
were opened on November 23, 1846, and
water flowed for the first time into the canal
that had taken 200 men roughly 18 months to

The canal proved to be a success. Industry
began to develop in Augusta, using the slow
moving force of the canal to spin turbines
creating the power necessary to drive textile
and other mills. Thousands of jobs soon
resulted from the project.

The canal also provided a way for upriver
farmers and planter to bring their cotton to
market in Augusta. Large Petersburg boats
carried the bales from the headgates down
the canal to the warehouses and factories in

The beauty of the rapids and scenery along
the canal also made it popular for recreation.
Residents of Augusta took boat expeditions
up to the headgates for picnics and outdoors

The redevelopment of the canal as the center-
piece of the
Augusta Canal National Heritage
Area during the 1980s brought it back into
common use as a place for recreation. As
part of this project, Columbia County soon
built today's Savannah Rapids Park and
Savannah Rapids Pavilion in Martinez.
Savannah Rapids Park is a 33-acre outdoor
facility designed for passive recreation. It
features picnicking, sightseeing, walking
trails and historic features.

The 80-foot high bluff offers stunning views of
the Savannah Rapids and the headgates of
the Augusta Canal. Trails lead past the
smaller but picturesque Reed Creek Falls, a
waterfalls that feeds into the head of the
canal. Atop the bluff is the Savannah Rapids
Pavilion, a publicly owned conference and
meeting facility.

The park also preserves the headgates of
the Augusta Canal. Restored during the
1990s, the structure and its interpretive
panels provide an excellent opportunity to
learn more about the history of the canal.

Located nearby is the Lockkeepers Cottage,
built in around 1890. The Lockkeeper and his
family lived here so he was able to operate
the locks quickly to allow boats carrying
cotton, tobacco and other cargoes to move
from the river into the canal and vice versa.

The cottage today is a visitor center that
provides information both on the history of
the Augusta Canal and on Columbia County.

Also on the grounds is a barbecue pit dating
from around 1880, a 1,500 square foot dance
pavilion dating from the same year and an 80-
seat dining shed that dates from 1935.
These facilities are surviving reminders of
the popularity of the site for recreational
outings by groups coming up the canal from

Savannah Rapids Park is located at 3300
Evans to Locks Road in Martinez, Georgia.
The park is free to visit and is open daily from
dawn until dusk. Pets are not allowed in the
playground area and must be restrained on a
leash in other areas of the park.

Please click here for more information.
Waterfalls of the South