Saturday, 29 December 2012

Historic Natchez Trace

Starting on December 14, we spent four days along the Trace.
The natural travel and trade corridor leads from the lower Mississippi River to the southern Appalachian foothills. This 444  mile long trace, now a road, meanders between Natchez MS to Nashville TN. It became a major route for travel and trade in the late 1700's into the early 1800's. The Trace, meaning trail, bisected the traditional homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a National Park and is flanked by one mile of natural lands, on both sides to preserve the area's history. The original trail is still used today by adventurers who want to add the trace to their list of completed American hiking trails.

The speed limit of 50 miles per hour sets the pace and mood for a visit along the Natchez Trace. The road is a balance of forests and agricultural lands, acres of grain and grazing cattle interspersed with gorgeous treed woodlands. We drove through an eight mile stretch of the route where destruction was evident of a tornado passing through in 2011. The barren ground, twisted and broken trees stand as in a horror film, a frightening depiction of nature's power.
                                                                        vultures stretching their wings

There are three visitor centres within the park which provide maps, exhibits of artefacts found on the old trace, interactive nature displays as well as books and souvenirs. We watched an excellent film depicting the history of the trace. Special places such as bridges, cemeteries, old schools and Indian mounds are well marked along the highway. Many pull outs and picnic areas are provided and campgrounds are available free of charge. We set up in Jeff Busby Park for our first night where we enjoyed great hiking and met an amazing neighbour.

Margaret is an eighty five year old woman who RVs on her own. Every winter, she drives from her home in Ohio to a campground in Texas. She not only drives, but can repair mechanical problems, winterize and maintain her Class C Chinook RV. She told us about her years of Airstream Rving around the world with her husband. Before he died eight years ago, he taught her all the basics about their RV. She has had a stroke, has a bad back, both knees give her problems and she walks with a cane but nothing holds her back.  How inspiring!!

Over the next three days we explored more of the Natchez sites. Spent some time at the impressive Cypress Swamp where huge, elegant cypress trees reflected in a silent pond. Amazing groups of "knees" which spread out and provide support for the submerged tree trunks, look like a fellowship of hooded monks standing ankle deep in the water.

Cypress knees
We walked on a few sections of the "Old Trace", named Sunken Trace, where a large section of the pathway had collapsed under the weight of so many travelers.  Farmers and merchants would float rafts down the Mississippi river to markets in the south, sell their goods and use the trace to walk back up north to their homes. These sunken areas were favorite haunts of bandits who would lie in wait for unsuspecting traders and merchants with pockets full of cash to rob. We saw one of the many Indian Mounds, huge 15-30' high hillocks, that were constructed by carrying and dumping baskets of earth. These were created for use as sacred, ceremonial places by the native communities. We hiked along cedar rail fences into woods decorated with numerous lichen, moss, mushrooms and fall leaves. We found a handful of old gravestones to examine. They were so overgrown and decayed, they looked like an organic component of the woods.

                                                                                  Indian Mound


  1. We've traveled the Natchez Trace a few times and love it. That nice, easy-going way of moving along is so nice. Aren't the campgrounds free? I think the first time it took us a week to get up to Nashville... Love your photos! Now... about Ohioans... we're tough old birds so while I don't know nor had ever heard of Margaret, I'm happy to hear she's still on the road.

    1. Thank you for your support. Yes, the campgrounds are free in Natchez Trace. Cheers, Caron

  2. yer photos, as ever, are fab!..i soo love meeting people like margaret...they really do give ya boost :) picturing you 2 RVing well into yer 80's ...all bent over and crabby :):)

    1. Wendy: thank you for following our blog and encouraging me with comments and praise! Caron