Exploring the Rich History of The Natchez Trace

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 Exploring the Rich History of The Natchez Trace


Natchez Trace Parkway Pharr Mounds
Pharr Mounds

Nestled in the Southeast U.S. is the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile historical and ecological treasure. The Natchez Trace travel corridor has been an avenue of travel, trade, change, conflict, and communication for more than 10,000 years. It is rich in American history and provides visitors with a window into the past while appreciating the glories of the present. As the only National Parkway honoring a historic path of travel, the Natchez Trace is recognized as a designed landscape today. 

The Old Natchez Trace is one of the oldest transportation routes in North America and consists of a system of trails. American Indians traveled and traded on these trails which pass through the ancestral grounds of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes. Along what is now the Natchez Trace Parkway, people from these countries and their ancestors developed rich cultures that survived for thousands of years. 

By 1785, boatmen who floated down the Mississippi River to market their wares in Natchez and New Orleans were using the Old Trace as a means of transportation. These “Kaintucks” sold their flatboats as lumber and traveled home by foot or horseback along the Old Trace, as their flatboats proved to be ineffective against the Mississippi current. Along the trade route, lodgings for this and other travelers appeared; these were called “stands.” 

The modern Parkway spans 444 miles and traverses through three states, crossing 25 counties and numerous communities. Completed in 2005, the Parkway now encompasses one of the largest geographical ranges within the National Park System. Spanning five degrees of latitude, the Parkway corridor covers 52,000 acres of scenic, natural, cultural, and historic landscapes, including forests, wetlands, prairies, rivers, pastures, and croplands. 

Recognized for its significant historic, cultural, natural, and scenic attributes, the Natchez Trace Parkway was designated an All-American Road in 1996. In 1983, Congress established the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail as an independent unit of the National Park Service. This scenic trail comprises 66 miles of foot and horse trails, with certain sections following segments of the Old Trace. These trail segments run parallel to the Natchez Trace Parkway in five distinct areas spanning from middle Tennessee to southern Mississippi. 

Natchez Trace Parkway visitors can fully immerse themselves in the park’s rich past. With more than 250 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding paths, tourists may explore the surrounding area’s natural splendor and walk in the footsteps of historic explorers. Interpretive signs and historical markers along the trails offer information on the cultural heritage of the park and the significance of the Natchez Trace trail. 

There is plenty to enjoy for everyone, regardless of your interests—nature lovers, history buffs, or outdoor explorers. Come discover the history and beauty of this hidden gem in the mid-south. 

By: Morgan McHaney