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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Virtual Tour: The Natchez Trace Trail


The Natchez Trace has been mentioned directly or in passing in a couple of different books I have read recently, and I really didn’t have much of an idea of what this really was. Apparently, it is a trail!

The Natchez Trace is a 440 mile trail that stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. It began as an early Native American and natural animal trail and in the 18th and 19th centuries became more trafficked by European traders. As with any highly traveled roads during this time period – they were also highly trafficked by robbers and highwaymen. Many travelers, including Meriwether Lewis, met their fates on this trail. With the mainstream usage of the steamboat, transportation of goods traveled up and down the waterways as opposed to over the land-routes and the usage of the Trace decreased and eventually dried up. Today, the main travelers of the Trace are tourists and historians.

As the trail covers 440 miles there are many areas where you could pick up and enjoy various areas of the Trace. But there are a few good places to start!

The Natchez Trace Trail and Parkway are kept up by the National Park Service. The Parkway is a scenic 2 lane roadway that runs along the Trace. It has limited access from 50 entry points. Along the trail, there are various historic sites where you can stop and visit. Among the sites are: the Meriwether Lewis Museum, Mount Locust stand, Mississippi Craft Center, Rocky Springs Ghost Town, scenic Cypress Swamp, Chickasaw Village, and Meriwether Lewis National Monument.

Places of Interest:

  • Emerald Mound – Located at milepost 10.3 – this is the second largest ceremonial mound in the US. This is a ceremonial site and there is a walking path to the top of the mound for a beautiful scenic view.
  • Mount Locust – Located at milepost 15.5 – The last remaining “stand” or local inn on the Trace. Park rangers man the stand and can provide historical interpretation.
  • The Sunken Trace – Located at milepost 41.5 – One of the most traveled portions of the trace caused the trace to sink.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

  • Rocky Springs Ghost Town - Located in Claiborne County, Mississippi between the Old Port Gibson Road and the Natchez Trace Parkway at mile post 54.8. Once a prosperous town, Rocky Springs faced problem after problem and by 1940 there were no residents left in the town. All that remains is the church, post office safe, and a cistern. There is a campground space here – no hookups.
  • The Ross Barnett Reservoir – Located at mile post 105.6 and 107.9. Just a reservoir with beautiful scenery.
  • Cypress Swamp – Located at milepost 122.0. This is a self-guided walking trail through the cypress swamp.

Cypress Swamp, Natchez Trace Parkway
Photo Credit: Marc Muench

  • The Little Mountain Overlook at Jeff Busby – Located near milepost 193. This is one of the highest points along the Trace. There is a picnic area and campground here.
  • Bynum Mounds – Located at milepost 232.4. A grouping of 6 burial mound sites – two of which have been restored and interpretive exhibits are here telling the story of early inhabitants.
  • Chickasaw Village Site – Located at milepost 268.1. Representative of the native villages that were once here.
  • Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center – Located a milepost 266 – approximately halfway on the trail. There is an orientation film, interpretive exhibits, and store.
  • Confederate Gravesites – Located at milepost 269.4 – 13 mysterious Confederate gravesites – origins being a mystery.
  • Pharr Mounds Site – located at milepost 268.7 – the site of 8 burial mounds with interpretive signs.
  • Colbert’s Ferry – located at milepost 327.3 – now there is a bridge that spans the Tennessee River, but previously George Colbert operated his ferry here. Great site for picnicking and boating.
  • Rock Spring Nature Trail – located at milepost 330.2 – a short hiking trail around Colbert Creek.
  • Meriwether Lewis National Monument – located at milepost 385.9 - this is the location of where Lewis died and a monument/gravesite. Here you can read through an interpretive history of Lewis. There is also a campsite and picnic area here.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • Fall Hollow Trail – located at milepost 391.9 – a short hike to a beautiful waterfall.
  • The Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive – located at milepost 401.4 – here you can access the Old Trace itself only if traveling from south to north. The tobacco farm provides information about one of the local agricultural pursuits.
  • Jackson Falls – located at milepost 404.7 – a short hike to the falls – a popular tourist site.
  • Birdsong Hollow – located at milepost 438 – views here of the double arched bridge located here.

If you plan on visiting any of these sites, you might find some maps useful. It would also be helpful to know where you can access amenities, such as food, gas, and lodging. As these are not typically provided along the Trace itself, they are typically close by. You can download the Visitors Guide here for additional information about traveling the Trace. The guide provides maps, locations of amenities, and historical marker information.

Here is a quick little video introduction to the Trace:

Have you visited any of the sites along the Trace?  I would love to hear about your journey.


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