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.
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- Then and Now
- Things You Should Not Miss
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 five 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.
Photo above: Eight mounds at Pharr Mounds, Mississippi, a ninety acre complex of burial mounds built 1,800 to 2,000 years ago. Source: National Park Service.
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. The site has been restored to its 1820s appearance, although it had been an inn (or stand) for travelers since the time of the American Revolution, circa 1780s.
Natchez Trace Now
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)
Photo above: Mount Locust Inn on Mound Plantation in Cannonsburg, Mississippi. Date unknown. Courtesy Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress.
Natchez Trace Parkway
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.
Photo above: Tupelo National Battlefield. Courtesy National Park Service.