Mississippi (Part 1)
Maps of Natchez Trace courtesy of National Park Service. Milage Markers listed on photo titles are measured from the southern terminus and are approximate.
These 100 miles will be done in four parts. It was quite refreshing to drive the Trace with no billboards, 18 wheeler trucks or any other type of commercial vehicle. In fact no commercial vehicles are allowed on the Trace. In fact, according to one ranger, towing a lawn mower on the Trace can result in a $137.00 fine if caught. There are no services on the Trace other than picnic areas and restrooms, which can be quite the distance apart. Lodging can be anywhere from 17 -30 miles off the Trace. One needs to plan accordingly.
Emerald Mound is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 10.3. Indian History – 10-30 minutes
This is the second largest Indian Temple Mound in the United States. It was built and used between 1300 and 1600 A.D. by the forerunners of the Natchez Indians. These Indians used a natural hill as a base, which they reshaped by trimming the top and filling the sides to form a great primary platform, 770 feet long, 435 feet wide and 35 feet high. At the west end still stands a 30 foot secondary mound once topped by a ceremonial structure.
Mount Locust is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 15.5. – Hiking Trail, Old Trace, History/Nature Exhibit, Restroom – 15-60 minutes
Constructed circa, 1780, this home is one of the oldest structures in Mississippi. It functioned as a working plantation and an inn, where travelers on the Natchez Trace could rest for the night. Mount Locust is the only surviving inn of the more than 50 that existed during the period of greatest use of the Old Natchez Trace. This home was closed when we passed through.
Windsor Ruins: milepost 30.0 (10 miles northwest of the Trace) 25 minutes drive time, 15-30 minutes
Built in 1859-61 by Smith Daniell who only lived in the large mansion for a few weeks before he died. The Windsor plantation once sprawled over 2,600 acres. Legend says that from a roof observatory, Mark Twain watched the Mississippi River in the distance. A Yankee soldier was shot in the front doorway of the home. During the Civil War the mansion was used as a Union hospital and observation post, thus sparing it from being burned by Union troops.
However, after the Civil War, during a house party on February 17, 1890 a guest left a lighted cigar on the upper balcony and Windsor burned to the ground. Everything was destroyed except 23 of the columns, balustrades and iron stairs.
Windsor Ruins is open to the public during daylight hours every day. There is no fee.
At the time of our travels along the Trace, there was a closure on highway 552 (also known as Rodney Road) just south of the ruins. So, exiting the parkway at milepost 30 was not an option. If that closure is still in effect, follow either set of directions below which both take you thru Port Gibson.
Traveling north on the parkway: exit the parkway at milepost 37 onto US 61. Turn left and travel north into Port Gibson. In town, turn left on Carroll Street. Then, on the southwest side of town bear left onto Rodney Road. Travel about 10 miles to Windsor Ruins which would be on your left.
Sunken Trace is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 41.5. – Old Trace – 10-30 minutes
Preserved here is a portion of the deeply eroded or ‘sunken’ Old Trace. Hardships of journeying on the Old Trace included heat, mosquitos, poor food, hard beds (if any), disease, swollen rivers, and sucking swamps. Take five minutes to walk this sunken trail and let your imagination carry you back to the early 1800s when people walking 500 miles had to put up with these discomforts and where a broken leg or arm could spell death for the lone traveler
Grindstone Ford is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 45.7.
Grindstone Ford – This ford marked the beginning of the wilderness of the Choctaw Nation and the end of the Old Natchez District. Nearby Fort Deposit was a supply depot for troops clearing the Trace in 1801-1802, and troops were assembled here during the Burr conspiracy allegedly to separate the western states from the Union. The site takes its name from a nearby water mill.
The trail to your left takes you to the Old Trace and Grindstone Ford. Riverboatmen on foot or horseback crossed here, northbound, after floating cargo down to Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans. Soldiers splashed across from the north to protect the Natchez District from British and Spanish threats. For post riders, Indians, bandits, and preachers, Bayou Pierre was the line between civilization and the wilderness.
Daniel Burnett’s stand stood near here. Burnett was the speaker of the Territorial House of Representatives, a principal negotiator with the Choctaws, and a framer of the state constitution but his stand was unpretentious. His guests supped on mush and milk in a room filled with their own gear and Burnett’s supplies. From here you may follow their path along the Old Trace to Grindstone Ford.
Rocky Springs is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 54.8. Hiking Trail, Old Trace, Picnic Area, Restroom – 10-45 minutes
The Town of Rocky Springs. At the end of this trail is evidence of a once thriving community. First settled in the late 1790s, the town grew from a watering place along the Natchez Trace, and took its name from the source of that water – the rocky springs. In 1860, a total of 2,616 people lived in this area covering about 25 square miles. The population of the town proper included three merchants, four physicians, four teachers, three clergy and 13 artisans; while the surrounding farming community included 54 planters, 28 overseers and over 2,000 slaves who nurtured the crop that made the town possible – cotton. Civil War, Yellow Fever, destructive crop insects and poor land management brought an end to this once prosperous rural community.
Reservoir Overlook is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 105.6. Scenic Overlook – 10-20 minutes
This 50 square mile reservoir is formed by an earth filled dam. It is administered by the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, an agency of the State of Mississippi. Information concerning recreational facilities may be obtained at the marinas. Access from the Parkway is by way of state and county roads.
Click here to view more images of the first 100 miles of the Trace. Images begin at the Southern Entrance and end at the Reservoir Overlook.