Take a trip down the rabbit hole..

Natchez Trace

The Trace is an old Buffalo run from Natchez Mississippi to Nashville Tennessee. It was used for a short time by man as a road around 1800. In the late 1900's the land was purchased by the Federal Government and a parkway was built.

Getting here is half the fun. From the moss-draped Mississippi bottomlands to the rocky, oak-forested bluffs of central Tennessee, the area along the 400-mile Natchez Trace Parkway offers an American history lesson that's way cooler than anything you learned in eighth grade. The road follows the ancient trade route of Native Americans and 18th-century settlers, passing colonial-style mansions, abandoned plantations, and other relics of the antebellum South. Stop at milepost 385.9 to see where Meriwether Lewis was either shot or committed suicide--the circumstances of his death remain a mystery. He was buried here, too, and this secluded camping spot, perched on a forested ridge overlooking a creek, is near the monument that marks his grave.

KIDS: If you're approaching from the south, stop at the visitor center in Tupelo, MS, (milepost 266) for Pioneer Days, where kids can learn skills like leather working and basket making. For event dates and times, contact (800) 305-7417; http://www.nps.gov/natr/pphtml/forkids.html.

TEENS: Ride horseback on a nearby 24-mile section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. For horse rental and riding information, call the Parkway ranger station at (615) 790-9323.

ADULTS: Paddle the Buffalo River, west of the monument, through unintimidating rapids and long flat-water stretches. Contact Buffalo Canoeing in nearby Hohenwald, (800) 339-5596; http://www.buffalocanoeing.com.

Trip Planner
Location: Approximately 50 miles southwest of Nashville on Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 385 Season: Year-round
Facilities: Water, toilets, 32 tent/RV sites
Fee: None (no reservations accepted)
Contact: (800) 305-7417; http://www.nps.gov/natr

Dayhike: Devils Backbone Loop

Located in the new Devils Backbone State Natural Area, just north of the campground, this 2.7-mile hike winds along creeks and through mature upland hardwood forest. It's known for abundant wildflowers in spring and early summer and fall colors in October.

Roadside Attraction
Find a perfect picnic spot on the pastoral grounds of the historic Gordon House (Natchez Trace milepost 407), the 1818 brick home of John Gordon, who ran the Duck River ferry.

The Natchez Trace was once a 450 mile highway across a part of the US running from Nashville, Tenn to Natchez, Ms. Before 1820 it was known as the "Path to the Choctow Nation." The French included the Trace in their maps as early as 1733, and many thousands of travelers used it in its heyday from the 1780s to the 1810s.

In 1811 the Roosevelts "plied down the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburg to New Orleans" aboard another piece of Americana, the river boat. In the 1820s the Natchez Trace saw a last hurrah when Andrew Jacksons Military road cut the overland distance to New Orleans by over 200 miles. The Trace had become obselete.

In the 1930s the Natchez Trace Parkway was begun to allow travelers to follow the old Trace from end to end. The Parkway is almost complete now. There are a few miles near Natchez and Jackson where the Parkway has not been completed, but otherwise the Parkway and the Trace are now known as one and the same.

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