“Trace”ing History

While today it is a pretty standard – though quite scenic – two-lane road managed by the National Park Service, the Natchez Trace Parkway was originally carved by the migrating buffalo that called this region of the country their home. Following the buffalo down this path were the mighty Choctaw Indians, until of course they were politely asked to recede to make way for the white man’s manifest destiny.

Then, in the early 1800s, the Natchez Trace hosted tens of thousands of river men who, after riding the currents south to trade their goods, would use the nearly 500 mile path as a return route to their homes in the Ohio Valley. This exhausting, and sometimes dangerous hike forced them to walk at least 10 hours a day for a month or more before they arrived in Nashville. From there, if they were lucky, they could grab a horse or other transportation home.

As steamboats were developed that could push their way up the mighty Mississippi River current, this trail became a relic. But, now, the Trace offers one of the most beautiful drives through Mississippi up to Tennessee, and represented a fabulous path for us through the state. We drove from Natchez to a night’s rest in Jackson, before heading north to Tupelo.

We saw many historic places along the way like a restored home that would provide a sleeping place for men on the Trace, walked a quiet Cyprus swamp trail, and examined interesting pillars from one of the state’s grandest plantation homes lost in a devastating fire. We also passed the site of the April 2011 tornadoes known as the 2011 Super Outbreak that left felled trees and catastrophe in its wake. More than 350 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service over three days. It looked like an atomic bomb had been detonated.

It was a humbling drive down a trail that has defined our country’s heritage. Definitely something you should check out if in the area. More info here.