Natchez Trace (Parkway)

“The Natchez Trace seemed much safer to him than risking a sailboat from New Orleans to Washington,” 

Stephen E. Ambrose, quote from Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America’s Wild Frontier

I’m in a hotel in Louisiana eating potato salad at midnight while I write this.

Why am I still up you ask? Well, I keep getting all of these tornado warning beeping alarms on my phone. I’m a girl from Los Angeles. I am much more equipped mentally to deal with a surprise earthquake than the never ending doom of a violent funnel cloud sucking me into the sky. My current little town is in the center of the Weather Channel’s map of where NOT to be… inside the large burgundy circle of tornado danger zone. Awesome.

I’m in a budget hotel. It’s not the Westin.

They say, “Get in the tub!”

There is NO way I’m sitting in that tub.

On to the actual adventure.

I only remember three things about the Natchez Trace from my history classes since the fifth grade: It was terribly dangerous, the Trail of Tears crossed through a large portion of it, and it was the location of Meriwether Lewis’ lonely demise.

Leipers Fork, TN

When I was planning this little (3 week) road trip, I was so excited to fit this parkway into my huge loop from Washington D.C. to New Orleans and back home.

Leipers Fork, TN

The parkway is 444 miles, spans over three states (Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi) and took me two solid days to conquer. I could have spent much more time exploring on various hikes, but I was careful to pick and choose which ones I wanted to take.

Leipers Fork, TN

Regardless of all the dark history that has happened along this trail over time, it is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken!

“The Trail Where They Cried”

In 1838, the Cherokee and Chickasaw living in the Southeast faced the combined weight of hostile federal and state policies. Forcible removal from their traditional homeland into Oklahoma became a fearful and tearful reality.

Old Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace was designed to meet early necessities of trade between Nashville and the Lower Mississippi. Along the parkway, there are multiple pull outs where you can walk along the now silent buffalo and Indian trail that was once a system of bold and crude commerce of the Pioneers.

War of 1812 Memorial
Lola on the Trace somewhere in Mississippi
Tennessee Valley Divide
Tobacco Barn
Cabin next to the site and ruins of the Grinder House in which Meriwether Lewis met his death on the night of October 11, 1809.
Old Natchez Trail
Gravesite of Meriwether Lewis

The Natchez Trace – Early American Trail

A marker along the route reads, “The Natchez Trace, a very old trail, was traveled by many early Americans. Captain Meriwether Lewis, leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory, died near this point in 1809 while traveling the Natchez Trace to Washington D.C. with his expedition journals and accounts.

In 1843 the state of Tennessee created Lewis County in his honor, and in 1848 erected a monument over his grave.

Pharr Indian Mound
Camping spot at Davis Lake, Mississippi
Emerald Mound

This photo of Emerald Mound does it no justice in showing its size. I had to hike sixty feet onto the massive plateau, which is the hand-built mound, to photograph this mound where the temple once stood. Emerald Mound is the second largest temple mound in the United States. Only Monks Mound in Cahokia, Illinois, is larger.

Emerald Mound – The hill behind my car is the massive 8-acre flat mound that also has other ceremonial mounds on top of it. It’s huge!

This eight acre mound, constructed from a natural hill, was built and used from about 1300 to 1600 by the Mississippians ancestors of the. Natchez Indians.

Unlike dome shaped mounds constructed only for burials, Emerald Mound supported temples, ceremonial structures and burials of a complex society’s civic and religious leaders.

Original Natchez Trace
Bynum Mounds
The journey’s end: The Mississippi River. The town of Natchez, Mississippi, on the right. Vidalia, Louisiana, on the left. Tornado warnings in the middle of last night.

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