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Savannah River

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Title: Savannah River  
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Subject: Eastern Continental Divide, Richard B. Russell Lake, Lake Strom Thurmond, Columbia County, Georgia, U.S. Route 29 in South Carolina
Collection: Borders of Georgia (U.S. State), Borders of South Carolina, Geography of Savannah, Georgia, Landforms of Abbeville County, South Carolina, Landforms of Aiken County, South Carolina, Landforms of Allendale County, South Carolina, Landforms of Anderson County, South Carolina, Landforms of Barnwell County, South Carolina, Landforms of Burke County, Georgia, Landforms of Chatham County, Georgia, Landforms of Columbia County, Georgia, Landforms of Edgefield County, South Carolina, Landforms of Effingham County, Georgia, Landforms of Elbert County, Georgia, Landforms of Hampton County, South Carolina, Landforms of Hart County, Georgia, Landforms of Jasper County, South Carolina, Landforms of Lincoln County, Georgia, Landforms of McCormick County, South Carolina, Landforms of Richmond County, Georgia, Landforms of Screven County, Georgia, Rivers of Georgia (U.S. State), Rivers of South Carolina, Savannah River
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Savannah River

For the Department of Energy facility, see Savannah River Site
Savannah River
Tugaloo River
Savannah River at Augusta, with the Augusta Canal running alongside
Country United States
States Georgia
 - left Seneca River
 - right Tugaloo River
Cities Augusta
Source Lake Hartwell
 - elevation 655 ft (200 m) [1]
 - coordinates  [2]
Mouth Atlantic Ocean
 - location Tybee Roads
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m) [1]
 - coordinates  [2]
Length 301 mi (484 km)
Basin 9,850 sq mi (25,511 km2) [3]
Discharge for near Clyo, GA
 - average 11,720 cu ft/s (332 m3/s) [3]
Map of the Savannah River watershed
Talmadge Memorial Bridge over the Savannah River in Savannah
A cargo ship navigates the narrow Savannah River channel at Savannah

The Savannah River is a major river in the southeastern Tallulah River, a tributary of the Tugaloo River that forms the northwest branch of the Savannah River.

Two major cities are located along the Savannah River: Colonial period of American history.

Through the building of several locks and dams, and upstream reservoirs like Fall Line) and the Atlantic Ocean; maintenance of this channel for commercial shipping ended in 1979, and the one lock below Augusta has been deactivated.[5]

The Savannah River is tidal at Savannah. Downstream from there, the river broadens into an estuary before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The area where the river's estuary meets the ocean is known as "Tybee Roads". The Intracoastal Waterway flows through a section of the Savannah River near the city of Savannah.


  • Name 1
  • History 2
  • Natural history 3
  • Pollution 4
  • Notable tributaries 5
  • Crossings 6
    • Front River 6.1
    • Back River 6.2
    • Savannah River 6.3
  • Dams 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Notes 10


The name "Savannah" comes from a group of Augusta.[6] These Shawnee were called by several variant names such as Shawano, Savano, Savana, and Savannah.[7] The origin and meaning of the name savana for these Shawnee is uncertain.

One theory is that the name was derived from the English term "savanna", a kind of tropical grassland, which was borrowed by the English from Spanish sabana and used in the colonial southeast. The Spanish word was borrowed from the Taino word zabana.[8] Other theories interpret the name Savannah to come from Atlantic coastal tribes, who spoke Algonquian languages, as there are similar terms meaning "southerner" or perhaps "salt".[9][10]


Historical and variant names of the Savannah River, as listed by the U.S. Geological Survey, include May River, Westobou River (for the Westo tribe), Kosalu River, Isundiga River and Girande River, among others.[2]

The Westobou River was the former name of the Savannah River that was derived from the Augusta, Georgia, in what was likely to be the 1660s.

The Westo used the river for fishing and water supplies, for transportation, and for trade. They were strong enough to hold off the Spanish colonists making incursions from Florida. The Carolina Colony needed the Westo alliance during its early years. When Carolinians desired to expand its trade to Charleston, they viewed the Westo tribe as an obstacle. In order to remove the tribe, they sent a group called the Goose Creek Men to arm the Savanna (also known as the Savannah) Indians, a Shawnee tribe, who defeated the Westo in the Westo War of 1680.

Following this, the English colonists renamed the river as the Savannah; it was integral to early development. They founded two major cities on the river during the colonial era: Savannah was established in 1733 as a state capitals. In the nineteenth century, the sandy river channel changed frequently, causing numerous steamboat accidents.

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a blockade around the Confederate states, forcing merchantmen to use specific ports along the coast best suited for this purpose. The harbor at Savannah became one of the busiest ports for blockade runners bringing in supplies for the Confederacy.[11]

Navigation improvements in the 20th century, such as the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, completed in 1937 during the Great Depression, were intended to provide commercial navigation as far north as Augusta. The Savannah River was significant during the 1950s when construction started on the U.S. Government's Savannah River Plant for making plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons. In 1956 Clyde L. Cowan and Frederick Reines detected neutrinos with an experiment carried out at the Savannah River Nuclear Plant, after a preliminary experiment at the Hanford Site. They placed a 10-ton tank of water next to a powerful nuclear reactor engaged in making plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. After shielding the neutrino trap underground and running it for about 100 days over the course of a year, they detected a few synchronized flashes of gamma radiation that signaled the interaction of a few neutrinos with the nuclear protons in water. The neutrinos were not themselves observed, and they never have been. Their presence is inferred by an exceedingly rare interaction. One out of every billion billion neutrinos that pass through the water tank hit a proton, producing the telltale burst of radiation. In 1995 Reines was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this accomplishment, but Cowen did not live long enough to share it.) [12]

Between 1946 and 1985, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built three major dams on the Savannah for hydroelectricity, flood control, and navigation. The J. Strom Thurmond Dam (1954), the Hartwell Dam (1962), and the Richard B. Russell Dam (1985) and their reservoirs combine in order to form over 120 miles (190 km) of lakes.[13]

Donnie Thompson named a small subdivision "Westobou Crossing" which is located in North Augusta, South Carolina. The area of the subdivision is located marks the first natural ford that crosses the Savannah River, thus promoting trade and allowing travel. Many native artifacts were found in the area and these now belong to private collections.

Natural history

The Savannah River flows through a variety of climates and ecosystems throughout its course. It is considered an Savannah. The river becomes a large estuary at the coast, where fresh- and saltwater mix. River dredging operations to maintain the Port of Savannah have caused the estuary zone to move further upstream than its historical home. This is causing the transition of rare freshwater marshland into saltwater spartina marsh.

The river supports a large variety of native and introduced aquatic species:

Additionally, the river is one of only four left in the southeast with significant populations of

  1. ^ a b Google Earth elevation for GNIS coordinates.
  2. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Savannah River
  3. ^ a b Water Resource Data, South Carolina, 2005, USGS, p. 559. Gages farther downriver affected by tides.
  4. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed April 26, 2011
  5. ^ [2] Pavey, Rob. New Plant Vogtle parts could require dredging; Augusta Chronicle; September 3, 2009.
  6. ^ Cashin, Edward J. (1986). Colonial Augusta: "Key of the Indian Countrey". Mercer University Press. p. 4.  
  7. ^ Savannah River Basin, Georgia River Network.
  8. ^ Bright, William (2004). Native American Place names of the United States. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 424.  
  9. ^ Names in South Carolina, Volume 22, Institute for Southern Studies.
  10. ^ Names in South Carolina, Volume 16, Institute for Southern Studies.
  11. ^ Wise, 1991 p.24
  12. ^
  13. ^ Army Corps of Engineers J. Strom Thurmond Lake and Dam Hydropower
  14. ^ Markwith, Scott H.; Scanlon, Michael J. (May 11, 2006). (Amaryllidaceae) genetic diversity, genetic structure, and gene movement under the influence of unidirectional stream flow"Hymenocallis coronaria"Multiscale analysis of . American Journal of Botany. Botanical Society of America. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act".  


  • Wise, Stephen R. (1991). Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War.
    Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 403.


See also


Crossing Carries Location

Front River

Talmadge Memorial Bridge U.S. 17 South Carolina
Houlihan Bridge S.R. 25 South Carolina

Back River

Savannah River

Seaboard Coastline Railroad Bridge CSX Transportation South Carolina
Interstate 95 Bridge I-95 Hardeeville, South Carolina
Georgia Highway 119 Bridge GA Highway 119 Garnett, South Carolina
Burtons Ferry Bridge US 301 Allendale, South Carolina
Sand Bar Ferry Bridge GA Highway 28 Beech Island, South Carolina
Bobby Jones Expressway/Palmetto Parkway Bridge Interstate 520 North Augusta, South Carolina
James U. Jackson Bridge U.S. 25 North Augusta, South Carolina
Jefferson Davis Highway Bridge U.S. Highway 1 North Augusta, South Carolina
5th Street Bridge 5th Street North Augusta, South Carolina
13th Street Bridge GA/SC Highway 25 North Augusta, South Carolina
Interstate 20 Bridge I-20 North Augusta, South Carolina
Furys Ferry Bridge GA/SC Highway 28 South Carolina
J. Strom Thurmond Dam US 221 Clarks Hill, South Carolina
McCormick Highway Dam US 378 McCormick, South Carolina
Calhoun Falls Highway Bridge over Lake Richard B. Russell GA/SC Highway 72 Calhoun Falls, South Carolina
Elberton Highway Bridge over Lake Richard B. Russell SC Highway 184 Iva, South Carolina
Smith McGee Bridge SC Highway 181 Iva, South Carolina
Hartwell Dam Bridge US 29 Anderson, South Carolina
Lake Hartwell Bridge Interstate 85 Fair Play, South Carolina
Toccoa Highway Bridge (old and new) US 123 Westminster, South Carolina
Cleveland Pike Bridge Cleveland Pike Road Westminster, South Carolina

This is a list of crossings of the Savannah River.


Notable tributaries

The Savannah River has the fourth-highest toxic discharge in the country, according to a 2009 report by Environment America.[15]



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