Prepare to be uplifted: As the rolling hills of Mississippi grow steeper, giving way to the lower Appalachian peaks of Alabama, the Natchez Trace Parkway leads through an 80-mile stretch of adventure and terrific scenery that includes a national wildlife refuge, exhilarating recreation areas and cultural sites and attractions sure to boost your spirits.
While the Natchez Trace stretches from Natchez to Nashville, today we’ve complied a list of things to see and do just from Mississippi to Alabama:
Pharr Mounds – Located near Tupelo, eight Native American burial mounds spread out over 90 acres of lush green fields. Archeologists estimate the age of these mounds at around 2,000 years. These mounds were built and used by a tribe of nomadic Indian hunters and gatherers who returned to this site at times to bury their dead with their possessions.
The outdoor recreation capital of the Mid-South – The meeting of the great outdoors and great outdoor fun takes place in Tishomingo County. With two large lakes—Bay Springs and Pickwick Lakes—seven marinas (including one of the largest freshwater marinas in the nation), 40 miles of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, two state parks, more than 12,000 acres of pristine and protected hunting areas and 10 parks.
The Tishomingo State Park – Located on the Trace, this park isn’t just a must-see, it’s a must-experience. Here, in Bear Creek Canyon, magnificent sandstone cliffs hang as tall as 60 feet and beautiful waterfalls fall gracefully into rocky streams. The Park’s 1,530 acres not only has natural beauty, but also 13 miles of hiking trails (including a swinging bridge) and 8 miles of stream that make for great canoeing. Swimming, camping and rock climbing are also part of the fun.
Woodall Mountain – Another scenic climb (one you can make in your car) is located northwest of the Park. Woodall Mountain is the highest peak in Mississippi and a high point of any visit.
Bay Springs Lake – South of Woodall and the Park, at Bay Springs Lake, fishermen are lured by the large mouth bass, while other visitors enjoy the museum and overlook of the lake. Located on Bay Springs’ 530-acre peninsula, the Crow’s Neck Environmental Education and Conference Center is a setting for children to learn exciting lessons in biology and biodiversity. Once school’s out, the sugar white sands of Bay Springs’ Old Bridge Beach are a real summertime treat.
Mineral Springs Park – As a boating and fishing paradise, Tishomingo naturally offers plenty of marinas to accommodate the thirst for water fun. In Iuka, you’ll find the award-winning mineral springs water with a pioneer cabin and covered bridge, all in a charming park attraction. Also be sure to check out the nearby Old Courthouse Museum for a fascinating tour through the area’s past.
Pickwick Lake – From there, it’s time to head north, to one of the “Great Lakes of the South,” the mighty Pickwick Lake. Skirting the edges of Pickwick is the J.P. Coleman State Park, which with its marina, motel, cabins, RV spaces and campground, is a popular gathering place. Pickwick itself stretches from Tishomingo into the Shoals area of Alabama, spreading out at nearly 50,000 acres. The fun at this man-made body of water isn’t endless, it just feels that way. Full of small and large mouth bass, crappie and catfish, the “Small Mouth Capital of the World” is also, naturally, a prime habitat of fishermen, campers, boaters and assorted lovers of fun.
Wilson Lake – At about 15,000 acres, Wilson Lake has plenty of bragging rights, too, with three previous world-records to its credit, for small mouth bass, freshwater drum and sauger. At the adjacent Veteran’s Park in Florence, you can camp, fish, go boating, play tennis or just soak up the view. Also at Florence, you can take a swing or two on the famous Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
Colbert’s Ferry – Back in the early 1800’s, stick-ups were common along the Trace, but at Colbert’s Ferry, you can see the site of what was surely one of the most infamous highway robberies in history. According to legend, George Colbert reportedly charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his army across the Tennessee River.
Shoals Creek Nature Preserve – Hikers find themselves face to face with gorgeous waterfalls, and on the 38,000 acres in or around the Freedom Hills National Wildlife Preserve, hunting by allowed for both small and large game. For hunters who want to experience the chase the way the Native Americans once did, bow-hunting season runs from October through January.
Pope’s Tavern – Civil War history is another Shoals highlight: Historic Pope’s Tavern nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers as a Civil War field hospital. The Edith Culver Museum is a trove of Civil War artifacts, and at LaGrange College Site and Antebellum Cemetery, the first chartered college in Alabama, visitors can stroll through LaGrange Mountain village on the site where the historic college was destroyed during the Civil War.
Ivy Green – You must stop at Tuscumbia to take the tour of Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s childhood home, for another uplifting experience. The house and gardens have been meticulously maintained, and visitors can see both the birthplace cottage where Helen did her work, as well as the main house furnished with the original family furniture. Amazingly, Tuscumbia’s Spring Park draws up to 100,000 visitors every year.
Music – Well, the Muscle Shoals Sounds Studio is no longer there; however, at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and Museum, you can immerse yourself in the whole Muscle Shoals story, as well as the fascinating stories of famous Alabama musicians, like Bob Segar and The Rolling Stones. This is truly a stroll through musical history; the Alabama Music Hall of Fame is a truly interactive experience, complete with recording facilities equipped to give each and every visitor a shot at singing stardom!
W.C. Handy – Another musical must-see is the W.C. Handy birthplace and museum. Born in a log cabin in Florence, Handy went on to world-wide acclaim as the “Father of the Blues.” His piano and trumpet are just a few of the artifacts on display at the museum.
The Rosenbaum House – This is Alabama’s only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, one of only 26 pre-World War II houses and the only such home in the Southeast open to the public. Built in 1939, the home was sold to the city of Florence by the Rosenbaum family in 1999. By then, the house was in dire need of repair, and city residents joined together to implement the improvements with countless volunteer hours and funds. Today, the house is a restored gem, complete with furnishings designed by Wright.
Coon Dog Cemetery – Shoals resident Key Underwood decided that when his trusty dog Troop died, he deserved more than an unmarked plot in the backyard. “Why not a real cemetery with headstones and all?” he thought. Coon Dog Cemetery is a popular Shoals attraction, with more than 100 man’s best friend buried there.
The stretch from Mississippi to Alabama along the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway has something for everyone! Contact us today to plan your trip to this historic 444-mile scenic byway. We also suggest visiting the NPS website to learn more about visiting the Parkway.
FOR VISITOR INFORMATION: 866-TRACE 56