Friday, March 20, 2020

Stopping Along the Natchez Trace Parkway

Plans for a Good Girls road trip down the Natchez Trace Parkway evolved over time as we worked with the wonderful group from We would drive the route, stopping to explore and stay in nearby cities. We hoped to discover American history, country music, and indulge in southern cuisine. While others enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping on the Trace, we chose less adventurous, but more comfortable boomer-style activities.

Natchez Trace Map

The National Park Service manages the 444-mile Parkway, so to me it seems like a very long, but narrow National Park. The landscape encompasses historical markers, trails, campgrounds, and bodies of water. You’ll find no billboards, trucks, hotels or gas stations on the two-lane road - how nice. The speed limit remains at 55 mph, making it feel like a Sunday drive on a rural country road.

Driving along the beautiful Natchez Trace

If you don't know about the  fascinating history of the Natchez Trace, please read our previous post here: Following History's Tracks

The high embankments and poor roads along the old Trace. 

Parkway Headquarters in Tupelo

Natchez Trace Visitor Center

After our stay in Tupelo, we headed to the Parkway Headquarters looking forward to watching the introductory film at the Visitor Center. However, a group of predominately dulcimer players had gathered for a brief concert, so the ranger set up the movie on a small TV near the exhibits. As always, the National Park Service does a good job with their presentations, this one, of course, explores the trail’s past. We highly recommend the stop.

The official Trace map (available at the center or online) denotes numerous historical markers, all designed as areas for drivers to pull off and park. We found it humorous that everything marked on the map's right was actually on the left hand side, and vice versa. We stopped frequently to read the signage and occasionally found something interesting enough to get us out of the car.

Natchez Trace Parkway Map

For example, at the Chickasaw Village site, homeland to the tribe, we looked at artist renderings of a fort and walked a short interpretive trail. Plans to reconstruct the fort and village have not reached fruition, but would make a wonderful added attraction. The tribe was one of many forced to relocate to Oklahoma in the 1800s.

At another marker, we took a five minute walk to reach old Confederate graves with stone markers. We discovered a group of motorcyclists putting flags on the gravesites.

Curious, we read some intriguing tales about the Witch Dance stop, so pulled in. Legend claims the bare, scorched patches in the grasses  were caused by the dances of witches. We didn’t see any, so did our own dance.  Ghosthunters may wish to investigate for paranormal activity.

Witch Dance Sign, typical signage found along the Natchez Trace. 

We walked along the remains of the Old Trace in several places.

A Walk along the Old Natchez Trace Path. 

The French Camp settlement dates back to 1810, when Louis LeFleur and his Choctaw wife opened a tavern and inn on the property. LeFleur’s son would go onto become a Choctaw chief and Mississippi State Senator. We wanted to tour the historic buildings including the Colonel James Drane House, the LeFlore Carriage House, Black Smith Shop, and report on the four-room Bed and Breakfast, but everything was closed. Would make a marvelous overnight stop, however, if you planned ahead.

French Camp - might be open for lunch. 

The name Kosciusz, Mississippi (Kahz-Choos-ko) intriguied us, so we stopped at Kosciusz Information Center  that included a small museum about the Polish General.  According to the sign, his military genius and engineering played a vital role in the success of our Revolutionary War. Restrooms are available here.

General Tadeusz Kosciusz
Pretty soon,  we saw the exit for Jackson, we took it. We would return to the Parkway the next day. 

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