History, and Hiking, and Hammocks, Oh My!

Get outdoors for slow travel on the Natchez Trace Parkway

The ribbon of time, Natchez Trace Parkway, begins at Milepost 0 in Natchez, Mississippi and ends at Milepost 335 in Nashville, Tennessee. It runs from south to north because this was the direction of travel on the Trace during its busiest years between 1790 and 1820.

This 444-mile-long, narrow federal preserve is ideal for slow travel in a vehicle (50 mile-per-hour speed limit), on a bicycle, and by foot or horseback. The road and only 412.5 feet on either side of the road are federal lands. The terrain is flat with croplands, pastures, fields, and forests decorated with Spanish moss.

Begun as an ancient trail for animals heading to the salt springs in current-day Nashville, the Trace was used by Native Americans, Kaintuck boatmen, and merchants. The U.S. Government also used it for mail delivery - the Pony Express.

Merchants on trading expeditions brought their products by barge down the Mississippi River. They delivered their goods in Natchez, sold everything including the wood from their boats, and walked back to the Ohio Valley to do it all over again. There was only one direction of travel on the Mighty Mississippi until the steamboat changed that in the 1830s.

We embarked on our slow trek by car of the Natchez Trace Parkway at Milepost 100 in Ridgeland, just outside of Jackson, Mississippi, on a hot, humid summer day. We drove south with stops at some of the Trace Top Twenty sites.

Located near the southern terminus at Milepost 10.3 and on the Trace Top Twenty, is Emerald Mound. Visible evidence remains of a Native American ceremonial site, resembling small flat-topped pyramids. You can climb the trail to the top of the largest mound and see other smaller mounds. These are all consecrated grounds.