This past Monday we visited the Augusta Canal Tour and Discovery Center…
Located in downtown Augusta, Georgia, the Discovery Center is housed in the old Enterprise Mill (textile) building…First up, we watched a 10 minute overview film on the canal. Then, it was off to the tour; boat tours are taken in one of the center’s two, 36 passenger Petersburg boats, and last an hour. The guided tour pilots you up the canal a couple of miles, and gives you a history on the making and use of the canal. (when we got to the canal, I discovered that my camera battery was dead! 😮 A huge thanks to our friend Sandra for sharing her pics of our tribe on the tour!!!) We rented binoculars from the Discovery Center, and the kids enjoyed checking out the birds and turtles that line the edges of the canal. The canal was originally built to provide hydro power to the textile mills in Augusta. Still today, many of the hydro power plants are in use generating power even in some of the mills that are no longer in use. The Enterprise Mill generates all it’s own electricity from its hydro power plant, and even produces extra that it sells to the power company.This is a river rake, which traps debris that is in the canal, and the rake pulls it up and off of the grate it catches on, then out of the water (because of these at each hydro power plant, the banks of the canal are surprisingly clean!). The canal was built in 1854 and was designated a Natural Heritage Area in 1996. Along it’s banks, there are still several large textile factory buildings as well as some still standing tenant houses that were used for the mill workers.During the Civil War, this location was the site of the Confederate’s Powderworks; the only buildings to ever be built by the government of the Confederate States of America – 28 buildings in all, that stretched along the canal for nearly 2 miles (a precaution against an explosion destroying the entire works). Producing 3.5 TONS of gunpowder a day, the Powderworks provided 60% of the confederate’s gun powder, and made Augusta a main supplier of ammo for the Confederate army.
Shut down at the close of the Civil War, the Powderworks was later dismantled, tho the massive 150 ft tall chimney still stands as a Confederate memorial. (the cotton mill behind the chimney was built later using bricks from the dismantled powderworks buildings)
The Petersburg boat tours are offered several times a day. There are a couple of different kinds of tours – we took the regular boat tour because we had other things going on too that day, but the 1:30 boat tour covers the area’s role in the Civil War; we would love to go on that tour some day since that is our fetish. LOL!
The tour we took was a great intro into Augusta history and the canal’s role in its success and longevity.Back on solid ground, we spent some time exploring the Discovery Center (still no camera, but we popped in later in the week, real quick, for some photos for the scrapbook). The Enterprise Mill (the big brick building that houses the Discover Center), used to be a textile mill. Its job was to change raw cotton… into cloth. The Discover Center takes you through the process, from field to finished product. There were lots of hands on stations for the kids to check it out. There were samples of the cotton, at each stage in the process, for the kids to examine… This display was a favorite with Caleb! The trolly would drive through Augusta lighting the buildings up as it went. The plaque explained each kind of building and it’s role in the history of Augusta… There were a couple of displays that were self-powered by these little wheels. Caleb ADORED them!!! On this one, the house would light up when the wheel was cranked. The plaque described how electricity works, but he didn’t care… it’s all about ‘doing’ with him! In order to draw in the large numbers of laborers that were needed to run the mills in Augusta, some of the factories built and provided housing for their employees… …they were called ‘shotgun’ houses because they were long, thin houses, where all the doors lined up on one side – it was said that you could stand at the front of the house, with all the doors open, and fire a shotgun through the house and out the other end. There are still some shotgun houses standing that we could see on the canal tour.
This next display/activity was the favorite with the boys… The kids got to practice being a ‘duffer’. Duffer jobs were often filled by children as young as 8. They worked long hours replacing the bobbins for the cotton production; removing empty bobbins, cleaning off the spindles, and putting on new bobbins full of thread. The display had a timer, and the kids could see if they could cut it being employed as a duffer. They would start the timer, dump the bobbins, then have to replace them all before the timer ran out.
The boys and Emma could do it, but I can’t imagine them having to repeat it over and over and over for 11.5 hours a day!!!Another wheel – this one powered the water to a waterwheel – I had to drag Caleb away from this one to get him to look at anything else in the center!
(He’s just started this thing where he knows that I want him to smile for the camera, so he gives me this big cheesy grin for about 4 seconds – if I miss it, too bad because he won’t even look at me after that! LOL!)
The little girls liked the Boat Parties and Picnics area – there were slide shows in two of these viewers…
The boys version of a cool viewer 😉 The Discovery Center was fun for both the kids, and us adults;
there were a lot of hands on activities that the younger kids enjoyed,
(tho I think if I were to do it again, we would explore the Discovery Center more before the canal so that we knew more about the area and process when our guide was telling us about it)
The Discovery Center even covers the role that the canal plays in current day Augusta…
Cute photo op… (Emma, Molly, and Savanna)
The Discovery Center has a very nice gift shop with some fun and unique items (and, bonus!, they had a bumper sticker)…We really enjoyed our visit to the Augusta Canal and Discovery Center – it was a fabulously fun way to learn about the history of Augusta, Georgia!