The Natchez Trace Parkway from Mississippi to Alabama

Categories
Trace Blog Itineraries

The Natchez Trace Parkway from Mississippi to Alabama

The Beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway
The Beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway

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.

Pharr Mounds - milepost 286.7
Pharr Mounds – milepost 286.7

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.

Tishomingo Swinging Bridge built in 1939

 

Woodall MountainAnother 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.

Pickwick Lake
Pickwick Lake

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.

Colbert Ferry - Milepost 327.3
Colbert Ferry – Milepost 327.3

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.

Helen Keller's Childhood Home
Helen Keller’s Childhood Home

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!

Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Alabama Music Hall of Fame

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.

The Rosenbaum House in Florence, AL
The Rosenbaum House in Florence, AL

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.

See photos and keep up-to-date by following The Natchez Trace on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @TheNatchezTrace

FOR VISITOR INFORMATION:  866-TRACE 56

(866-872-2356)

www.scenictrace.com

Why You Should Bike the Natchez Trace Parkway

Categories
Trace Blog Itineraries

Why You Should Bike the Natchez Trace Parkway

Cycling the Natchez Trace Parkway (NPS Photo)
Cycling the Natchez Trace Parkway (NPS Photo)

Some are individualists who want to travel light, and alone, and prefer to camp under the stars. Others may want to enjoy the comfort and charm of a bed and breakfast at night (and then, of course, the delicious home-cooked breakfast the following morning.) Some come with tour groups, and some with family or friends. Some are novices and some are serious competitors. Some do it for a few hours at a time, or a convenient “out and back,” while others take the whole route in one trip, all 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville for the “experience of a lifetime.”

Dogwoods along the Parkway
Dogwoods along the Parkway

But however they decide to bicycle the Natchez Trace Parkway, on one thing all riders agree: the Parkway offers an easy-going, easy-to-love experience. The National Park Service has designated the entire 444 miles as a bicycle route, and with light automotive traffic— commercial traffic prohibited—slow speeds (only 50 miles per hour) and no stop signs or intersections, bikers can relax and enjoy an exceptionally scenic roadway, unspoiled by commercial signage or development, and offering up gorgeous vistas at every turn, from forests to farmlands to rivers and lakes. And, as for all travelers, on two wheels or four, the Parkway provides innumerable side trails and opportunities for fun in the great outdoors or through artistic and cultural adventure, whether digging into history at significant sites or digging into delicious dining and shopping at historic and charming communities that stretch the length of the Parkway.

Those who have biked the Parkway suggest that planning is the key to a great experience.

Start with a call or a click.

            Terry Wildy, the Parkway’s Chief of Interpretation and Partnerships, suggests that before beginning their trip all cyclists get the Parkway’s  biking packet that can be obtained free of charge with a call to the Parkway (662-680-4027).  “We want everybody to be safe and know the rules,” says Wildy, who notes the packet contains not only safety regulations, but also convenient information such as a map as well as lists of bicycle suppliers and outfitters, convenient places to purchase food, the location of bike-only campgrounds, and more. Cyclists may also email for the packet or download the information from the Parkway’s website at here.

Choosing the time of year for the trip is important. Because there’s an approximately 12 degree temperature difference between the most southern end of the route in Natchez and the most northern end in Nashville, most riders who want to cycle the entire Parkway in one trip do so in spring between late March and early May, or fall between late September and early November. Cyclists who want to ride during the cold winter months or hot summer months often choose to ride either the northern or southern segment of the Parkway only; an “out and back” trip allows them the convenience of a return to their starting point where their own vehicles (or friends’ vehicles or rental cars or airport shuttles) make for easy pick-up. Of course, some choose to make their trip with an obliging friend or family member who follows the route in a vehicle—not much of a sacrifice since the drivers also enjoy the beautiful views and adventure!

While most of the Natchez Trace Parkway maintains its rural character and light motorized traffic, cyclists are encouraged to plan ahead and avoid areas around Tupelo, MS and Ridgeland, MS during peak commuting times and to always wear high-visibility clothing.

Cycling the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway
Cycling the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway

Riding, staying comfortable:

            While there are ten campgrounds along the Parkway, five strategically located campgrounds are bike only, equipped with tent sites, picnic tables and fire grates, with water available year-round inside Parkway restrooms and outside also during the other three seasons.* With all these campgrounds and nearby communities, cyclists can plan to ride between 30 to 60 miles daily and enjoy a welcoming rest at the end of the day.

For those cyclists who would prefer not to rough it, a little extra planning can put them in soft beds, enjoying home-grown hospitality each evening. B&Bs catering to Parkway travel as well as excellent motel/hotel accommodations can be found all along the route. In creating their itineraries, many cyclists make reservations themselves, but reservation services such as NatchezTraceTravel.com are ready to provide tips from terrain to terrific dining spots at no cost when B&Bs are booked through their website.

And, just as there are ample hospitality options to stay rested and refreshed, there are also plenty of bike outfitters and shops along the way to keep wheels running smoothly. A list of outfitters comes with the Parkway biking packet.

Going your way:

            While solo riders enjoy their serene solitude, they also find the Parkway is well stocked with friendly travelers and residents alike, so making new acquaintances is a serendipitous highlight for most riders, whether they’re biking alone, in couples or groups. While Wildy notes that group riders require a permit, there are also commercial bike tours available, and every year, there are opportunities for exciting group rides like Ridgeland’s annual Natchez Trace Century Ride in May. This is a popular event for families and riders of all ages. The annual Tour de Wayne, in Collinwood, TN, runs through the Natchez Trace Parkway in June, taking in sights on the Buffalo and Tennessee Rivers in 100-, 50- and 25-mile rides, plus fun family rides.

Families or couples, groups or solo, for those ready go the distance or enjoy a short, leisurely ride, at any time of the year (or time of life) when it comes to cycling, the Natchez Trace Parkway is everybody’s ticket to ride.

So why is the Natchez Trace Parkway an exceptional bike route?

  1. National Park Service designates the entire parkway as a bike route. Numerous signs instruct cars to share the road with bicycles.
  2. Commercial traffic is prohibited.
  3. Maximum speed limit for cars is 50 mph.
  4. Motorized traffic is generally very light, however cyclists should plan ahead to avoid peak commuting times.
  5. No stop signs or stop lights. Access on and off the Trace is via on/off ramps which means no need to worry about cross traffic.
  6. The scenery is beautiful! Cyclists get to see forests, farmland, creeks and pretty vistas.
  7. All along the Trace through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, historical and nature attractions offer interesting breaks and rest stops.
  8. Restroom facilities on the Trace are available about every twenty miles.
  9. Numerous side trails take you past antebellum and victorian homes, sunken roads, civil war battlefields and Southern towns.
  10. There are many “cycling friendly” bed and breakfasts located along and near the Trace.

FOR VISITOR INFORMATION:  866-TRACE 56

(866-872-2356)

www.scenictrace.com

New Section of the Multiuse Trail on the Parkway

Categories
Itineraries

New Section of the Multiuse Trail on the Parkway

Multiuse Trail

The newest section of the Multiuse Trail gave bikers and walkers something to cheer about. The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Friday, January 21, 2011 at 11:00am along the Natchez Trace Parkway. The National Park Service, the City of Ridgeland, and Federal Highway Administration jointly opened the new section of the Multiuse Trail at Reservoir Overlook, Milepost 105.6 along the Parkway.  The public were invited to attend.

Multiuse Trail with bridge

The Multiuse Trail is perfect for biking, jogging and walking. Nature-lovers can appreciate the beautiful plants and greenery that surround the path. Weekends and warm weather make a popular time for friends and family to enjoy the trail.  Strollers and pets are welcome, as well. You’ll be so pleased with your time on the Multiuse Trail, you’ll forget you’re getting exercise with such a graceful scenery. Citizens of all ages can experience the beauty of the Natchez Trace. The trail is 10-feet wide, allows access for wheelchair users and is designed to preserve the scenic cultural landscape of the Parkway.

“The completion of this segment represents another great partnership effort between the National Park Service, the City of Ridgeland, and the Federal Highway Administration,” said Parkway Superintendent Cameron Sholly. “Current and future segments of the Multiuse Trail will continue to enhance the quality of life for visitors and residents of this entire area.”

Family enjoying the trail

The Multiuse Trail projects are funded through the Park Roads and Parkways program within the Federal Lands Highway Program. The National Park Service recently completed two sections of multiuse trail. The segment between Highland Colony Parkway and Livingston Road included three miles of trail and the section between Old Canton Road and the Reservoir Overlook included 2.3 miles of trail and three bridges. The new segments connect to 2.1 miles of trail already completed by the City of Ridgeland from Highland Colony Parkway to Old Canton Road.

Construction on new segments of the Multiuse Trail continues, providing opportunities for safe and enjoyable recreation along the Natchez Trace Parkway in the Jackson Metropolitan Area.

For any questions about the event call (662) 680-4027. Visit www.scenictrace.com and find us on Facebook and Twitter to join us in the conversation.

Photography by: Sandi Kavanaugh and Bob Felker

What Can You See in Tennessee?

Categories
Itineraries

What Can You See in Tennessee?

Wondering what to do and see in Tennessee along the Natchez Trace? Take a look at these sites and attractions:

  • The new Wayne County Welcome Center – In Collinwood, the center welcomes guests to Tennessee as friendly volunteers tour attractions like Collinwood’s Old Depot Library, the only surviving building associated with the Tennessee Western Railroad. Tour the small museum at the Welcome Center, learn about local festivals and enjoy rural attractions like canoeing, fishing and hunting.
  • Sweetwater Branch – Continue with a walk among the wildflowers along the banks of the free flowing stream at Sweetwater Branch, a popular destination for locals and visitors.

    Meriwether Lewis Monument
  • Meriwether Lewis – From SweetwaterBranch, it’s a short drive to the grave of early American explorer Meriwether Lewis, who met his mysterious death, possibly by suicide, on this spot in 1809.  It was Lewis, along with his partner William Clark, who first documented vast areas of the Louisiana Purchase.  At the gravesite you’ll also find a campsite, picnic area, with self-guided walking trails and restrooms.
  • Leiper’s Fork – On from the Lewis site, the road crosses over the Tennessee Valley Divide, which served as the boundary between the United States and the Chickasaw Nation when Tennessee joined the Union in 1796.  From there it’s on to Leiper’s Fork, a delightful village that is a Registered National Historic District and a great place to kick back and relax.
  • Lawn Chair Theatre – Today, in Leiper’s Fork, you’ll see historic homes that have been converted into antiques stores, cafes and artists’ shops. Break out your blankets and watch outdoor movies with the whole family at the Lawn Chair Theatre.
  • Civil War site – In nearby Franklin, the road leads to the site of a dramatic Civil War battle that has been called the “bloodiest hours” of the entire war.  The Carter House, which served as Union headquarters, is a Registered Historic Landmark, with over 100 bullet holes in its sides, is open as a museum and interpretive center with a video presentation.

    The Carnton Plantation
  • The Carnton Plantation – Only a few miles away, the scene was equally brutal, as wounded Confederates filled every inch of the house and lawn.  After the war, when a neighbor’s field containing the remains of some 1500 soldiers was going to be plowed under, Carnton owners John and Carrie McGavock offered the services of their beloved Carnton, making Carnton the largest privately held Confederate cemetery in the nation.
  • The Factory at Franklin – History has always run deep in Franklin, TN. The Factory retains many of the architectural features and feel of the old premises while providing a picturesque venue for dining, shopping, galleries and even theatre.
  • Double Arch Bridge – You’ll soon cross over an actual bridge linking the small town charm behind you to the bright lights of Nashville ahead.  This remarkably innovative double arch bridge, an architectural and engineering landmark is the only one of its kind in the world.

    The Parthenon in Nashville, TN
  • The Parthenon – In Centennial Park, you can stand in awe before a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon; inside, you can look up for what seems like miles at the Athena Parthenos, the tallest indoor structure in the entire world.
  • Country music – Nashville is the heart of country music, where stars come to make their mark and fans come to see their idols. From venues like the Blue Bird Café, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ole Opry, which is continuing its more than 80-year tradition, Nashville hums and strums with excitement.  The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is one of the many unbeatable attractions on Music Row.
  • Art – The Frist Center for the Visual Arts has world-class rotating collections of fine art. At Cheekwood Botanical Garden, 55 acres of botanical gardens, a sculpture trail and museum of art make for a captivating excursion.

    The Hermitage
  • The Hermitage – But no trip up (or down) the Natchez Trace would be complete without a visit to the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s Nashville home.  Perhaps no other single individual has been as closely associated with the history of the Trace as the man who was U.S. President as well as the namesake for Mississippi’s capital. Costumed interpreters are stationed throughout the house to guide visitors and to provide context—though some of the best context a visitor might find would be on that road, the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, where Andrew Jackson, along with so many other Americans, found his way.

For visitor information: 866—TRACE 56 (866-872-2356)    www.scenictrace.com

Attractions along the Parkway in the Jackson, MS Area

Categories
Itineraries

Attractions along the Parkway in the Jackson, MS Area

Downtown Jackson at nighttime

Get ready to take the plunge:  Music, art, crafts, history, museums galore, hot nightlife, cool neighborhoods, literary legends, shopping, shopping, and more shopping. And then there are those 33,000 acres of gorgeous water for boating, swimming and fishing. The Clinton, Jackson, Ridgeland area is so welcoming it will make you feel like home before you can spell Mississippi.

  • Clinton Visitor Center – Located on the Parkway, when you roll into Clinton don’t be surprised if they’re playing your song at the Clinton Visitor Center on the Parkway.  Requests are welcome at the monthly jam sessions of the Mississippi Olde Time Music Society.  Even if you don’t make the jam, there are plenty of other tasty Mississippi-made treats available at the Center and historical exhibits to devour.

    Mississippi College
  • Mississippi College – This Christian University was the first institution of higher learning in Mississippi, and the first co-ed college in the nation to award degrees to women. On your stroll through campus, be sure to stop at the Samuel Gore Art Gallery and Statue Garden.
  • Clinton Community Nature Center – Take a hike through the 33 acres of lush native trees, ferns and foliage.  There are benches for relaxing, or you can follow a piece of the Old Natchez Trace that winds through the center.
  • Mississippi Museum of Art – Construction is complete on the newly renovated MMA creating a beautiful new home for the Museum and its permanent collection of extraordinary art. The renovation project, which took just under a year to complete, marks a historical day for Mississippi and its artistic legacy.
  • Museum of Natural ScienceInside the park, the Museum’s buildings and grounds feature a 73,000-square foot complex overlooking a 300-acre natural landscape, 2.5 miles of nature trails, and an open-air amphitheater. It has a variety of exciting exhibits, including: a series of life-size displays of the state’s diverse habitats, a 100,000-gallon aquarium network housing over 200 living species, and a 1,700-square foot greenhouse.
  • The Agriculture and Forestry Museum – The Ag Museum sits you smack in the middle of an 1860s working farm and on the streets of an old-timey Mississippi town. Begin your journey through time as your guide reveals how agriculture and forestry molded the history and heritage of the State. Your travels would not be complete without savoring some good Southern cooking and hometown entertainment.
  • The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum – This museum willput you up to bat with stats, bios and trivia in interactive exhibits on Mississippi sports legends from Dizzy Dean to Archie Manning to Jerry Rice to Brett Favre.

    Mississippi Governor's Mansion
  • The Mississippi Governor’s Mansion – The Governor’s Mansion introduces the fascinating story of Mississippi history. And should you run into him, say hello to the governor, too.  He lives there, in the second oldest continuously occupied residence in the U.S.
  • The Jackson Zoo – The Discovery Zoo, the children’s area at the Jackson Zoo, has been named by the New York Times Travel Guide as one of the top five children’s zoos east of Mississippi, and now with the $8 million addition, called the Wilderness Mississippi Area, you can see tigers, black bears, river otters and beavers in habitats of the latest design.
  • Historic neighborhoods – You can check out Belhaven where the Eudora Welty House Museum is located and the quaint Fondren District where residents greet each other on the sidewalks,  in the unique shops, galleries and showrooms, and of course – the trolley.
  • The Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi – Founded in 1973, this non-profit organization of craftsmen is interested in preserving contemporary, folk and traditional crafts of Mississippi. The Guild members, who now number more than 400 professional artisans from all across the Southeast, create every sort of beautiful item imaginable and have been named Best of Jackson for “Best Place to Find Unique Gifts” for 2010.

    The Renaissance in Ridgeland
  • The Renaissance at Colony Park – You’ll admire the view sitting at one of the outdoor cafés or on one of the wrought iron benches of The Renaissance at Colony Park. This massive outdoor lifestyle center offers an out-of-ordinary retail experience that’s about premium brands and much more. Modeled after an old-world European village, the Renaissance features luxurious touches like tiled roofs, fountains, lush greenery, and a village green for concerts and other events.

    The Reservoir
  • Ross Barnett Reservoir – The Reservoir is a huge attraction, 33,000 acres of water to be exact, in Mississippi. It’s a sportsman’s paradise on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a man-made wonder. Fun and relaxing restaurants are located on the bays of the Reservoir, ideal for anybody who enjoys a water-front view along with a tasty bite to eat. It’s perfect for sailing, boating, swimming, fishing and bird-watching with miles of hiking trails on the Natchez Trace.

For Visitor Information: 866-TRACE-56 (888-872-2356) www.scenictrace.com