Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Forgotten Canal Gives Peek into Past; an Unkept Waterway Built for Early Transportation Is Hoped to Be Used Again

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Forgotten Canal Gives Peek into Past; an Unkept Waterway Built for Early Transportation Is Hoped to Be Used Again

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

BRUNSWICK - The waterway near Harry Driggers Boulevard looks like a drainage ditch. But when Louise Henry peers across its mosquito-laden pools, she sees a piece of Glynn County history.

It is the Brunswick-Altamaha Canal, built by 19th-century entrepreneurs to connect Darien to the Port of Brunswick, creating a final shipping link to bring products from inland farms down the Altamaha to Brunswick's port.

One and a half century's worth of neglect has left that vision overgrown and all but forgotten.

Earlier this month Henry, who is president of the Colonial Dames XVII Century's local chapter, received county permission to erect an interpretive sign on Harry Driggers Boulevard.

"We're doing it to bring public awareness to the fact that this canal exists and the potential resource it offers the community," Henry said. "Very few people realize what it is."

Glynn County's Public Works Department hopes to clear the canal of beaver dams, which block the water's flow. The canal functions as the main drainage artery for area homes and businesses. Environmental regulators have also laid claim to the canal, saying portions have reverted to a naturalized state and cannot be cleared without replacing the wetlands that would be lost.

With the waterways cleared, it could eventually become an outdoor museum, or developed for canoeing and fishing, Henry said.

"This canal is a source of unlimited resources. Beside the canal there is an old towpath where the mules would walk to tow the barges."

If cleared, these could become a fitness path or a nature trail, Henry said.

The Brunswick-Altamaha Canal was constructed between 1836 and 1854 at the end of the long-canal era, said Kay Wood, an archaeologist with Southern Research and Historic Preservation Consultants in Columbus. It extends from an Altamaha tributary and across Glynn County and Brunswick to empty into Academy Creek just north of the Port of Brunswick.

"Transportation was a major problem in Georgia during that time," Wood said. "All the interior roads were bad. When it rained, the roads became impassable. …

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