Enjoy the Augusta Canal -- but please do so safely

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It has become an annual rite of summer: The weather heats up, folks seek places to cool off and The Augusta Chronicle sends a photographer to document their refreshing frolics. This usually means an enticing photo of the so-called “Aqueduct Park” near the Augusta Canal, as was the case in your June 14 edition.

Another rite of summer: our annual reminder about safely enjoying the water in and near the Augusta Canal.

It is important to point out that the Rae’s Creek spillway (a.k.a. “Aqueduct Park”) is not a park. 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 come roaring down the rocky bank at any time. The water can go from a trickle to a torrent with no warning.

Also, the drop-off in the pool below is sudden: waders on the rock ledge easily can step off into water over their heads – a serious danger for non-swimmers. Glass shards and other sharp objects left by litterers often are hidden beneath the water. There is no lifeguard.

Swimming in the canal itself has been illegal for more than 150 years. Although the water may appear safe, its swift, treacherous currents caused by the intake gates near the mills, waterworks pumping station and the Olmstead Bulkhead can trap even strong swimmers. For this reason, tubing also is prohibited.

Summer brings an increase in risky behaviors such as jumping off canal bridges, docks and the railroad trestle near the raw water pumping station. This is both 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 the continued 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.)

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soapy_725 06/23/13 - 08:37 am
The Truth for once. From a bureacrat.

Equally dangerous with regard to the canal waters is the waterfall just downstream from the Rapids Pavilion. Reed Creek.

deestafford 06/23/13 - 09:38 am
Have there ever been any documented instances of injury

at the "Falls"? If so, how many and what frequency? One of our problems in today's society we want to put people in a ''safety" bubble where there is not risk...I do not doubt the good intentions of the letter writer. I just think safety can be taken too far.

chapm917 06/26/13 - 11:00 am
canal safety

I personally, as a Petersburg Boat tour guide, have seen the risk that people take up close and personal. Not only have people put themselves in danger, but also innocent people who are out enjoying the canal as well. It is important to stress safety, because when you don't, then someone wants to rant and rave and lay blame on others. As the saying goes," better safe, than sorry".

angedelune 06/28/13 - 12:09 pm
rope swings

someone tore down the rope swings along the river across from the sand bar/north augusta rec center. we used to walk along the pump station hiking trail to this area and spend hours swinging out over the river. the last time we went someone had taken down all the boards and burned them along with the ropes. this really irritated me as it was a great place to go and have fun. the water is deep in the area. they even busted up the wooden stairs someone spent time making. i hope they are happy with their vandalism

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