National Park Service Celebrates Centennial Along the Trace

Credit: NPS
Credit: NPS

The National Park Service is gearing up to celebrate 100 hundred years of service in preserving America’s natural and historical treasures. While the official Centennial date–August 25, 2016–is pretty far off, the celebration is already starting on the Natchez Trace Parkway!

The National Park Service is an agency of the U.S. Federal Government that was founded in 1916. NPS manages all of our national park sites, and promotes historical preservation and conservation efforts at sites across the country. The agency was created by the National Park Service Organic Act which was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.

Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace Parkway

As the National Park Service reflects on its work over the last 100 hundred years, one of its projects, your Natchez Trace Parkway, is celebrating its own storied history. Way before the National Park Service began administering the Natchez Trace, history was in the making along the 444-mile route from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.

Let’s take a look at some of the historical highlights from the yesteryear on this beautiful scenic byway…

pharr mounds
Pharr Mounds – milepost 286.7

Way before European settlers found their way to the Trace, people used the Natchez Trace as a trading hub and set up numerous large settlements along the path. Evidence of these original inhabitants is abundant along the Trace. One of the most impressive is the Pharr Mounds, large hills built by Native Americans nearly 2,000 years ago!

Many years later Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto traveled through the area in 1541.  Thanks to the preservation efforts of the NPS, you can walk these same paths that travelers trekked over 300 years ago.

The Sunken Trace at milepost 41.5
The Sunken Trace at milepost 41.5

During the 1800s, action along the Natchez Trace really heated up. Shortly after the Revolutionary War, a new nation sought to expand connections called the Old Southwest – the Natchez Trace area. President Thomas Jefferson ordered the Trace to be expanded in 1803, and the trail was expanded sufficiently to handle horse-drawn wagons.

The Battle of Franklin
Reenactment along the Parkway

During the Civil War, both sides used the Natchez Trace to ferry troops and materiel between points of conflict. Along the Trace you can still find Port Gibson, Mississippi, a town General Grant dubbed, “too beautiful to burn.” You’ll also find the grounds of the epic Battle of Franklin.

More recently, numerous musical artists including Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton have recorded hits in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. You just can’t drive a mile down the Natchez Trace without running into history!

The Swampers of Muscle Shoals, Alabama
The Swampers of Muscle Shoals, AL

So as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its Centennial next year, keep in mind the thousands of years of history that is at your fingertips along the Natchez Trace Parkway. We are lucky and appreciative of the great work the National Park Service has done along the Trace and around the country, and we hope you’ll celebrate the Centennial with us!

Find us on Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation, and follow us on Pinterest and Instagram @TheNatchezTrace to see beautiful photos of the Trace. Download our 2014 Visitors Guide HERE.