The tragic drownings covered in the June 16 edition of The Augusta Chronicle prompt me to write with additional cautions about safely enjoying the water in and near the Augusta Canal.
Swimming in the canal is not allowed. Although it may appear safe, the swift, treacherous currents caused by the intake gates near the mills, the waterworks pumping station and the Olmstead Bulkhead can trap even strong swimmers.
With the onset of hot weather, local media outlets have been running photos and stories about the aqueduct area and the Raes Creek spillway area as a great place to swim. As inviting as it may be on a hot summer day, this area can be a dangerous place for swimming.
Because it is a drainage overflow for the canal, unexpected rushes of water can roar down the natural rock slide. The water can go from a trickle to a torrent with no warning. In addition, the drop-off in the pool below is sudden. Waders on the rock ledge can easily step off into water over their heads -- a serious danger for non-swimmers.
This summer we've also seen an increase in other risky behaviors, such as jumping off canal bridges, docks and the railroad trestle adjacent to the raw water pumping station. This is dangerous and illegal. The canal is only about 10 feet deep and has logs and other underwater obstructions in addition to the swimming risk noted above. Jumpers risk serious injury.
For public safety, swimming in the canal has been illegal for 150 years. Swimming in the Raes Creek canal spillway is not advised. For the safety of the public, please discourage your readers from taking these risks.
(The writer is director of marketing and external affairs for the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area.)