WAY WE WERE: AUGUSTA ON THE ROCKS Augusta once had a waterfall that earned its own postcard

A waterfall near Augusta?


That’s what this old postcard, mailed in 1905, seems to indicate.

Sheila Wilson shared it. She said it was found in Austin, Texas, and passed along by her friend Mary Freeman. Mary’s grandson actually came across it, and seeing it was postmarked from Augusta, made sure she got a copy.

The message on the postcard is difficult to read and doesn’t offer many clues. So we are left with a curiosity.

Augusta doesn’t have much to brag about when it comes to waterfalls, but we should have something and the reason is simple.

A very long time ago we were part of the southeast coast of the continent – that’s right – south Augusta was once underwater. We have proof.

A few miles down the Savannah River from Augusta, a bluff of fossilized oysters rises almost 100 feet. William Bartram, the famed naturalist of the 1700s, was among the first to notice their stunning size. The shells, he wrote in 1792, were “15 or 20 inches in length,” with “hollows sufficient to receive an ordinary man’s foot.”

While oysters might be big, there is also the whale fossil they found near Plant Vogtle in Burke County.

All this because our town is on Georgia’s “Fall Line” – the seam that stretches across the state from Columbus in the west, through Macon and then to here.

All those communities not only have a sudden break in elevation, but a river, so all have a history of mills that once used hydropower.

As towns grew into commercial centers they saw this advantage. Engineers, for example, quickly realized that the Savannah River fell about 50 feet in today’s Columbia County as it flowed downstream to Augusta. They built the Augusta Canal in 1845 and enlarged it three decades later.

All this because more than 450 million years ago, when drifting land masses covered the earth’s surface, the North American plate collided with the African plate, pushing up huge mountain ranges along today’s East Coast. Those mountains eroded and their sediment washed seaward into the Atlantic. That shoreline once started here.

But back to our waterfall.

Sheila thinks it could be the canal or river locks. But she also thought it might be interesting if anyone has another idea.

So what do you think?

Email your thoughts to bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.