Built in 1845 to facilitate shipping between the Piedmont plateau and the city of Augusta, Georgia, the Headgates of the Augusta Canal were the starting point for a seven-mile waterway that bypassed rapids on the Savannah River. Lured by the cheap power, water, and transportation provided by the canal, textile mills and factories began building along its banks. As a result, the city of Augusta, Georgia, which stands at its terminus, became one of the few industrial powerhouses of the South.
Although the mills have long since closed, today the canal is a popular recreational site that attracts fishermen, hikers, picnickers, and birdwatchers, among others. However the most popular activity may be sailing down the canal on authentic replicas of the Peterburg Boats that once carried merchandise to Augusta. The canal and its old mills were listed on the National Register of Historic Places and later declared National Historic Landmarks. In 1996, the U.S. Congress designated the Augusta Canal a National Heritage Area. Not far from the Headgates of the Augusta Canal, the Augusta Canal National Heritage Discovery Center occupies a restored old mill that houses exhibits telling the story of the canal.