Brunswick-Altamaha Canal

Image Source: Bubba73, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Brunswick-Altamaha Canal is a twelve-mile-long canal in southeast Georgia that was built in order to connect Brunswick, Georgia to the Altamaha River. The canal connects to the Turtle River in Brunswick, where it was intended to help trade goods from Brunswick be transported inland and further north faster. Construction began on the canal in 1836, however by the time it was completed and opened in 1854, the rapid introduction of rail transport made it obsolete. The canal follows a north to south depression that has been determined to be in the trough of an old Pleistocene shoreline formation called the Princess Anne. The bottom of the tough is about ten to fifteen feet below sea level, while ridges on the sides of the trough reach about thirty-five feet. The middle section of this trough was a lagoon in Pleistocene times, yet in modern and recent historical times has been a freshwater swamp.

The drainage systems of both the Altamaha and Turtle Creek reached into this trough before the canal was constructed between them. Yet the canal’s builders had plans in place to alter the existing drainage patterns by keeping the water’s saline, not fresh like the Altamaha, and keeping the canal at a high tide level at all times, removing the effect of tides. The corridor around the canal contains three different types of plant landscapes: estuarine marsh, freshwater wetland, and oak-pine upland.

Today, the canal flows through forests and natural landscapes, as well as rural developments, subdivisions, and industrial areas as it moves further south towards Brunswick. The current condition of the canal is somewhat degraded; about a mile of it has been filled in, and in many parts it is filled with silt, clogged by debris, or overgrown with aquatic plants. Because the canal exists in this degraded state today, it is often stagnant due to the many impediments to drainage and tidal flow. Overall, the canal represents an important historical moment for southeast Georgia at a time when the country was rapidly developing, which unfortunately has led to a modern-day canal in an abandoned state.



Brunswick—Glenn County Join Planning Commission. (August 1981). Brunswick Altamaha Canal Study. Web. Retrieved 15 November 2021.

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