Crisp fall mornings, warm afternoons, and cool nights would make autumn on
the Natchez Trace Parkway enjoyable enough. Add stunning fall colors, the
scent of campfires and pine trees, and especially the joy of picking up just
fallen pecans at Mt. Locust and the picture is complete. When we stood
still and were quiet, we could almost hear the whisper of footsteps from long
ago. Was it an Indian moccasin? Or was it a Tennessee settler
returning home on the Natchez Trace from selling his livestock'? Perhaps
we will never know for sure but knowing the rich history of the Natchez Trace
makes it easy to imagine the possibilities.
In a sense, buffalo created the original Natchez Trace on their way to better
feeding grounds. The Choctaw, Natchez, and Chickasaw Indians improved the
primitive trail and in the early 1700's the French drew a map showing a trail
from Natchez, Mississippi to the northeast. By 1785, farmers who had
floated their goods down the Mississippi River to Natchez or New Orleans made
good use of the Natchez Trace to return home. However, walking or riding a horse
on the trace could be hazardous. Thieves, swampland, flooded rivers, and
unfriendly Indians took their toll on the unwary traveler.
Construction on the Natchez Trace Parkway began in the late 1930's and about
90% of the proposed 444 miles are complete today. Only a few miles through
Jackson, Mississippi remain to be constructed. Many RV'ers have discovered
the pleasures of ambling along the 50 mph scenic roads of the Trace without the
trials and tribulations that the settlers of old endured. The Parkway
roughly follows the Old Natchez Trace and in many places, the visitor can take a
walk on sections of the old trace. No commercial traffic is allowed and
unbelievably, there are no stoplights or stop signs on the Trace itself.
The very helpful Natchez Trace Parkway Official Map and Guide can be picked
up in several points along the route. Milepost signs make it easy to
follow the map and plan ahead for the dozens of stops for self-guiding hiking
trails, Indian mounds, picnic areas and nature exhibits. There is only one
service station directly on the Trace (Jeff Busby, Milepost 193. 1), other
stations are available just off the Trace.
Boondockers will appreciate the three free campgrounds on the trace:
Meriwether Lewis at Milepost 385.9 (32 sites), Jeff Busby at Milepost 193.1 (18
sites), and Rocky Springs at Milepost 54.8 (22 sites). There are no
hook-ups but restrooms, phones, and picnic tables are available. Other
commercial campgrounds are located just off the Trace in many locations.