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Natchez Trace Parkway

Natchez Trace Parkway

In many ways the parkway of Natchez Trace is a collection of history, not only a road.  Yes, it has been the path of Indians, settlers, presidents, and now visitors who have journeyed through this part of the south, from Tennessee to Mississippi to Alabama, past the myriad of historic sites and vistas that this parkway ties together along its 444 mile route.  There's opportunities to see Civil War sites, camp in beautiful settings, hike, and bike until your feet and legs are sore.  All amongst the backdrop of nature and beauty and history.  Over 5 million people per year take this route in one form or the other, even though I think it's likely one of those unknown routes for historic travel amongst most of the coastal folks.  It's the south in all its historic splendor and well worth a unique trip down memory lane all on a two lane road maintained by the National Park Service to all of the sites to see.  It has a speed limit of 50 mph and was built to follow the route of the original trace by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s.

The parkway and its services are easy to navigate, although sometimes difficult to see.  There are no services directly on the parkway, but as the parkway is marked with mileposts from 0 in Natchez in the south to 444 outside Nashville in the north, it's not hard to find the visitor center, campground, or historic site you want to visit.

The parkway tells the story of a region, its natural features, its ties to slavery, to traffic along the Mississippi River, and to the Civil War that would change it all.  It tells the stories of the Kaintuck boatman who plied their trade and of the Choctaw and Chickasaw who lived there well before the boatmen arrived.  How long before, ... probably 2,000 years.


Things You Should Not Miss

1. Take a ranger guided walk of an area of interest. They can take you on walks of the trace, to Indian mounds, to a Civil War battlefield, to nature, and Meriweather Lewis.  Check at the information centers or visitor center for a schedule of events.

2. Near the midpoint of the parkway is the official visitor center at Tupelo.  Stop in there to see exhibits on the history of the area, a 12 minute film, browse through the bookstore, as well as to orient yourself about the rest of your trip.

3. Bike or hike along the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail.

What is There Now

Visitor and Information Centers
There are three information centers along the parkway with the Park Visitor Center near Tupelo the official place to begin your visit, if your near Milepost 266.  It's open year round from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The Parkway Information Cabin at Milepost 102.4 is open daily as well, and the Meriweather Lewis Information Cabin is open on weekends (Milepost 385.9).
  
Natchez National Historic Park- (Milepost 0) Located in Natchez, Mississippi, this additional National Park unit tells the story of Nachez, Mississippi and its heritage as a town along the Mississippi River.  Visit the Melrose Mansion or the Johnson house and take walking tours of the area.  The Melrose Mansion tour does include a fee.

Tupelo and Brices Cross Roads National Battlefields - This area is filled with Civil War history, and although Tupelo and Brices Cross Roads are not the largest or most well known of the battlefields, they are well worth a visit for the civil war, or history buff, in general.  The Tupelo battlefield is essentially lost to the sprawl of the city, but a monument and other markers help tell the story.  At Brices Cross Roads, or actually nearby, there is a Visitor and Interpretive Center with a film.

Lodging

Lodging
Although there are no Natchez Trace Parkway motels, hotels, and bed and breakfasts directly on the parkway, some of the most historic places nearby are inns that have been there for hundreds of years.  The Mount Locust Inn and Plantation (Milepost 15.5) dates back to the 1780s, and although you can only visit and not stay there now, it used to cost travelers 25 cents per night. For lists of accommodations, check out the state tourism links below or your favorite online travel site.

Camping

One of the few services you can get, almost directly on the parkway are three campgrounds; Rocky Springs, Jeff Busby, and Meriweather Lewis.  All three are available on a first come, first serve basis and they are free, but primitive without electricity, showers, or dump stations.

Rocky Springs (Milepost 54.8) -  22 campsites and trails through the old townsite of Rocky Springs.

Jeff Busby (Milepost 193.1) -  18 campsites located at one of the highest points in Mississippi, 603 feet.

Meriweather Lewis (Milepost 385) -  32 campsites with ranger station at a site dedicated to the Lewis and Clark explorer.


There are many other public campgrounds just off the parkway that offer additional services, including those that cater to bicyclists.  Check at the visitor center or the local chamber of commerce sites for a list of those that might better fit your needs.

Natchez Trace Parkway Links

Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez National Historic Park
Tupelo National Battlefield
Brices Crossroads National Battlefield
Alabama Travel
Mississippi Tourism
Tennessee Vacation

Nearby Attractions

Vicksburg National Military Park
Shiloh National Military Park



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The Natchez Trace Then and Now

Nature Trace

Natchez Trace Then

The Mount Locust Inn and Plantation - It only cost visitors 25 cents to stay there, and that included room and board.  Even beats Motel 6 for pricing.  It provided lodging for the boatman (known as Kaintucks) who walked over to the trace from their time plying the Mississippi River and needed lodging.  Of course, since this was the mid-1800s, and in the deep south, the Inn and Plantation had a number of enslaved families.  Visit the Inn and Plantation during your drive down the parkway and find out the stories of those families and more.

Photo above: Cut of the original Natchez Trace.  Courtesy Library of Congress Photo Archives.

Natchez Trace Now

Natchez Trace Parkway

Historic Sites and Places to See Along the Way -

Natchez National Historic Park (Milepost 0.0)
Emerald Mound (Milepost 10.3) - Largest Indian mound along the parkway.
The Mount Locust Inn and Plantation (Milepost 15.5)
Sunken Trace (Milepost 41.5) - Part of the trail deepened over the years by foot travel.
Rocky Springs (Milepost 54.8) - Abandoned town.
Ross Barnett Reservoir (Milepost 105.6)
Cypress Swamp (Milepost 122) - Boardwalk trail across a cypress swamp.
Bynum Mounds (Milepost 232.4)
Chickasaw Village Achaeological Site (Milepost 261.8) - No structures standing, but site includes access to the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail.
Tupelo National Battlefield (Milepost 260)
Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center (Milepost 266)
Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield (Milepost 280)
Pharr Mounds (Milepost 286.7)
Colbert Ferry (Milepost 387.3)
Meriweather Lewis Monument (Milepost 385.9)
The Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (Milepost 401.4)
Jackson Falls (Milepost 404.7)

Gun battery at Vicksburg National Military Park

Not Far off the Parkway
Vicksburg National Military Park (photo above)
Himochitto National Forest
Shiloh National Military Park
Nashville

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Visitor Statistics

Natchez Trace Parkway
5,560,668 Visitors (2012)

#7 Most Visited National Park Unit

Natchez National Historic Park
184,551 Visitors (2012)

#186 Most Visited National Park Unit



Park Size

Natchez Trace Parkway
52,207 acres (Federal)
52,302 acres (Total)


Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
10,995 acres (Total)

Natchez National Historic Park
86 acres (Federal)
108 acres (Total)


Source: NPS, 2011 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 367 units.



Park Entrance Fees

Natchez Trace Parkway

Free

Various fees are charged at the historic sites along the parkway.  See individual sites for their current fees.



Natchez Trace Parkway Weather
It's the south.  Expect warm to hot and humid weather in the summer with thunderstorms possible at any time.






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