American Location 2 – Natchez Trace Parkway

This trip is from the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road and off it at the southern terminus into Mississippi and Louisiana.

Finished at Mammoth Cave, we returned to I-65 and drove south out of Kentucky into Tennessee. In downtown Nashville we crossed the Cumberland River and exited onto Hwy. 705. We drove southwest to 100, upon which we continued south to the small town of Pasquo. This is where the northern terminus of Natchez Trace National Road is located.

Here is a good definition of designated national parkways:

A National Parkway is a designation for a protected area in the United States. The designation is given to a scenic roadway and a protected corridor of surrounding parkland. National Parkways often connect cultural or historic sites. The U.S. National Park Service manages the parkways.

The most famous national parkway in the country is the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are others, such as Natchez Trace. This is from the web site:

The Natchez Trace Parkway leads you 444 miles through three states and 10,000 years of North American history. This scenic parkway links Natchez with Nashville and crosses some of the most beautiful terrain in the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. The Parkway has been declared a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road, and has been chosen as one of America’s 10 best biking roads. Open year-round for motorists, hikers and bikers, it provides visitors the opportunity for an unhurried trip through time.

Here is a post on Wikipedia about the history of Natchez Trace:

The Natchez Trace, also known as the Old Natchez Trace, is a historic forest trail within the United States which extends roughly 440 miles (710 km) from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, linking the CumberlandTennessee, and Mississippi rivers. The trail was created and used by Native Americans for centuries, and was later used by early European and American explorers, traders, and emigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. European Americans founded inns, also known as “stands”, along the Trace to serve food and lodging to travelers. As travel shifted to steamboats on the Mississippi and other rivers, most of these stands closed.

Largely following a geologic ridge line, prehistoric animals followed the dry ground of the Trace to distant grazing lands, the salt licks of today’s Middle Tennessee, and to the Mississippi River. Native Americans used many early footpaths created by the foraging of bisondeer, and other large game that could break paths through the dense undergrowth. In the case of the Trace, bison traveled north to find salt licks in the Nashville area. After Native Americans began to settle the land, they blazed the trail and improved it further, until it became a relatively well-established path. Numerous prehistoric indigenous settlements in Mississippi were established along the Natchez Trace. Among them were the 2,000-year-old Pharr Mounds of the Middle Woodland period, located near present-day Tupelo, Mississippi. The first recorded European explorer to travel the Trace in its entirety was an unnamed Frenchman in 1742, who wrote of the trail and its “miserable conditions”. Early European explorers depended on the assistance of Native American guides to go through this territory — specifically, the Choctaw and Chickasaw who occupied the region. These tribes and earlier prehistoric peoples, collectively known as the Mississippian culture, had long used the Trace for trade.

Even before the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson wanted to connect the distant Mississippi frontier to other settled areas of the United States. To foster communication with what was then called the Southwest, he directed construction of a postal road to be built between Daniel Boone‘s Wilderness Road (the southern branch of the road ended at Nashville) and the Mississippi River. The U.S. signed treaties with the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes to maintain peace, as European Americans entered the area in greater numbers. In 1801 the United States Army began trail blazing along the Trace, performing major work to prepare it as a thoroughfare. The work was first done by soldiers reassigned from Tennessee and later by civilian contractors. To emphasize American sovereignty in the area, Jefferson called it the “Columbian Highway.” The people who used it, however, dubbed the road as “The Devil’s Backbone” due to its remoteness, rough conditions, and the frequently encountered highwaymen found along the new road.[1]By 1809, the trail was fully navigable by wagon, with the northward journey taking two to three weeks. Critical to the success of the Trace as a trade route was the development of inns and trading posts, referred to at the time as “stands. “ Many early United States settlements in Tennessee and Mississippi were created along the Natchez Trace. Some of the most prominent were Washington, Mississippi (the old capital of Mississippi); “Old” Greenville, Mississippi (where Andrew Jackson conducted domestic slave trade); and Port Gibson, Mississippi.[3] The Natchez Trace was used during the War of 1812 and the ensuing Creek War, as soldiers under Major General Andrew Jackson’s command traveled southward to subdue the Red Sticks and to defend the country against invasion by the British.

By 1817, the continued development of Memphis (with its access to the Mississippi River), and Jackson’s Military Road (heading south from Nashville) formed more direct and faster routes to New Orleans. Trade shifted to either of these routes along the east or west of the area, away from the Trace.[1] As author William C. Davis wrote in his book A Way Through the Wilderness (1995), the Trace was “a victim of its own success” by encouraging development in the frontier area.

With the rise of steamboat culture on the Mississippi River after invention of the steam engine, the Trace lost its importance as a national road, as goods could be moved more quickly, more cheaply, and in greater quantity on the river.[1] Before the invention of steam power, the Mississippi River’s south-flowing current was so strong that northbound return journeys generally had to be made over land.

Although many authors have written that the Trace disappeared back into the woods, much of it continued to be used by people living in its vicinity. With large sections of the Trace in Tennessee converted to county roads for operation, sections of it continue to be used today.

I enjoy driving on national roads for several reasons. There is no rush. The speed limit is mostly 45 mph, although at times it slows to 35 mph. So don’t get on one if you are in a hurry. This is a place to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Besides the scenic countryside, there are numerous attractions to see along the way, and plenty of places to get out of your vehicle and hike. No commercial vehicles are allowed, nothing but cars and motorhomes. Also, no traffic lights or stop signs. People coming onto the parkway have stop signs, but once you are on it you won’t encounter one until you exit. It is so very relaxing to just cruise peacefully down the road and enjoy the views.

There are numbered mile markers all along the way. From the north they begin with 444, the Natchez Trace northern terminus. I’m not one for taking pictures of signs, so here’s a photo off the Internet of the northern entrance sign.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Next Location – Natchez Trace Parkway north segment

2 thoughts on “American Location 2 – Natchez Trace Parkway”

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