Augusta's Stonehenge: Who arranged rock slabs in river?

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Someone asked me recently about the mysterious squared rocks arranged along the Savannah River’s Georgia shore.

Squared rocks along the Savannah River's Georgia side by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1930s and '40s have become more visible due to low water levels.  ALAN ENGLISH/STAFF
ALAN ENGLISH/STAFF
Squared rocks along the Savannah River's Georgia side by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1930s and '40s have become more visible due to low water levels.

They start just upstream from the 13th Street Bridge and extend for almost a mile, resembling – for lack of a better description – a waterlogged Appian Way.

This summer, with water levels lower than usual, they are more visible – and even more interesting.

Who put them there? I had no clue.

After getting “I dunnos” from folks at the Canal Authority, Savannah Riverkeeper and Port Authority, it occurred to me that I should contact the one entity known for building things that pretty much last forever: the Corps of Engineers.

The mystery was solved by Scott Hyatt, the project manager at Thurmond Lake, who dug into his archives and learned the project was part of the Federal Flood Control Act of 1936.

That public law, he said, authorized the corps to “pave” portions of the river’s edge as part of a project to raise and strengthen the Augusta Levee – all in the name of flood control.

In a series of 1939 drawings, “paving” slabs were proposed on the river side of levee, from the upper end of present-day Waters Edge subdivision upstream past Sibley and King mill gates and Hawks Gully, Hyatt said.

The corps’ 1940 annual construction report mentions completion of that project, and on June 6, 1941, having finished all work on the levee, jurisdiction over the entire structure was returned to the city of Augusta.

“So we don’t know, from this record, exactly when they were built, but the corps finished their levee construction in 1941,” he said.

BARTRAM TRAIL: The Corps of Engineers’ Bartram Trail at Thurmond Lake was recently designated by the Department of Interior as a national recreation trail.

In all the department announced 54 trails across the country that will be added to the National Trails System, a network of about 15,000 miles of trails that link communities to public lands and parks across the nation.

Spanning 27 miles, the Bartram Trail is a multi-purpose trail used for hiking and biking. Nine miles of trail were added in 2010 with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and constructed with volunteer help from the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association. The Corps also renovated about eight miles of the trail in 2005.

The trail was named for William Bartram, America’s first native-born naturalist artist and the first author in the modern genre of writers who portrayed nature through personal experience as well as scientific observation. His travels from Augusta, beginning in May 1775, took him north to Fort James on the Petersburg Road, paralleling the Savannah River about three or four miles away from its banks. On this trail, he passed through Columbia and Lincoln counties in areas now covered, at least in part, by Thurmond Lake.

STRIPER HONOR: The Clark Hill Striper club recently awarded its coveted Angler of the Year honor to Vern Smith, who amassed more points for the period from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 than any other member.

Points are received by participating in events and from pounds of fish caught. Smith accumulated 1,337 points, including 357 pounds of fish, said club member Bill Tinley.

The Clark Hill Striper Club, by the way, meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Golden Corral restaurant on Bobby Jones Expressway, and visitors are always welcome. For details on the club, contract Tinley at 706-760-8210.


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