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Savannah and Ogeechee Canal
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 1.6 miles Type of trail: Loop
County: Chatham County, GA Our rating: E
Features: historic Your rating:
Usage: Added on: March 08, 2002
Last hiked: February 11, 2002 Updated on: February 05, 2009
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Directions to Savannah and Ogeechee Canal

This level walk follows the 1820's era Savannah and Ogeechee Canal from Ft. Argyle Road to the Ogeechee River. Wide paths and photographic opportunities abound.

Before trains and automobiles America moved on its rivers; when rivers did not go where transportation was needed canals were built. Although the Savannah and Ogeechee did not rival other canals in length or in amount of goods transported, it was an important route for the coastal plantations to get their crops to market. Rice, corn, naval stores, and lumber were all common products shipped along the Savannah and Ogeechee Canal. Most planters selected this canal for an economic reason: They could get their goods to market more quickly. Also, the canal was somewhat safer than trying to navigate the coastal islands and Savannah River.

The canal was completed in 1831 after seven years of work. In 1836 the original company went bankrupt, but a second company took over, widening the canal and attempting to compete with the railroads. During the next 20 years the canal was a success. In early December, 1864, William Tecumsah Sherman and sixty thousand men spent a night in the area where the canal and the Ogeechee River meet. Some of his men continued to camp there as a ruse while his main body assaulted Fort McAllister a few miles east of the canal.

During the 1870's the canal fell on hard times, and returned to bankruptcy. Over the years several attempts have been made to revive the canal, none successfully until the Savannah and Ogeechee Canal Society was formed in 1992. Today they have been charged with leading a team of organizations in creating a 16 mile linear park from the Ogeechee to the port of Savannah.

There are a number of routes to follow in the park. Begin at the museum and walk several yards south to Lock #5 (there is an interpretive sign near the lock). This is a good starting point for the hike. Continue south along the tow path, by the side of the canal. On this wide bank the mules that would tow the barges walked up and down the length of the canal. The banks are now home to large cypress trees that did not exist when the canal was being used. Slaves (before 1865, freedmen after) ran the canal, keeping the mules pulling the heavy barges. As you continue south a marsh spreads out across the canal, filled with wildlife typical of a large river flood plain. On our early morning walk we spotted numerous birds, including a couple of large pelicans.

A gazebo welcomes you at the end of the trail, although you can continue on for a short distance.

On the return you can stroll along an old road that served the workers on the canal or wander into the woods on the enthusiastically named "Laurel Ridge" Trail.

View from the lock down the Savannah and Ogeechee Canal
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Looking back at Lock no. 5 on the Savannah and Ogeechee Canal
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The S and O Canal tow path is visible to the side
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Reconstructed lock from the canal
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At the end of the trail
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