This weekend, people are invited to paddle, pedal or stroll in or alongside one of Augusta's best-kept secrets - one built nearly 160 years ago.
Stretching from Columbia County through downtown, the Augusta Canal was built to entice industries to locate in Augusta and boost the city's ailing economy. Today, the quiet, green waterway lies nearly forgotten, its red clay paths used by the occasional bicycle rider, jogger or fisherman. Dayton Sherrouse, executive director of the Augusta Canal Authority, hopes the 14th annual Augusta Canal Cruise and Cookout will help raise its profile.
"We have generations of people, born and raised here, that come out for this event and are amazed by the canal," Mr. Sherrouse said. "It's like it was just put here, even though it has been around since the mid-1800s. Our purpose in doing this is really to stage an event that gets local people out to appreciate and discover this resource that we have right under our nose. This gets the word out about the canal."
Participants in the canal cruise can canoe or bike the canal between the headwaters and Lake Olmstead, where a cookout catered by Sconyers Bar-B-Que, music by the band Stardust and games await. Last year's event attracted about 375 people, 70 on bicycles and the rest in 120 canoes.
The event is a fund-raiser for Georgia Public Radio. It is also designed to educate people about the history of the canal and, with a little luck, its future.
"We want people to have an appreciation for the resource and what it has meant for this community," Mr. Sherrouse said. "I mean, the canal probably saved Augusta in the 1800s, and, although it no longer has the industrial applications it once had, it is an incredible educational resource."
A good paddling
What: 14th annual Augusta Canal Cruise and Cookout
When: 1 p.m. Sunday; registration required by noon Saturday
Where: The Augusta Canal, between the head gates and Lake Olmstead
Admission: $40 per person for canoes (canoe included), $20 per person bicycling (bicycles not included) and $15 for barbecue alonePhone: 823-0440
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626.