Natchez Trace Parkway

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Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez-Trace-Parkway-Highsmith.jpeg
Map showing the location of Natchez Trace Parkway
Location Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, USA
Nearest city Jackson, Mississippi
Area 52,302 acres (21,166 ha)[1]
Established May 8, 1938 (1938-May-08)
Visitors 5,765,343 (in 2011)[2]
Governing body National Park Service

The Natchez Trace Parkway (also known as the Natchez Trace or simply the Trace) is a National Parkway in the southeastern United States that commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace and preserves sections of the original trail.

The Natchez Trace Parkway logo can be seen on signs and trail markings along the parkway.

Its central feature is a two-lane parkway road that extends 444 miles (715 km) from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Access to the parkway is limited, with more than 50 access points in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The southern end of the route is in Natchez at an intersection with Liberty Road, and the northern end is northeast of Fairview, Tennessee, in the suburban community of Pasquo, Tennessee, at an intersection with Tennessee 100. In addition to Natchez and Nashville, the larger cities along the route include Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi, and Florence, Alabama.[3][4]

The All-American Road is maintained by the National Park Service, to commemorate the original route of the Natchez Trace.

Notes[edit]

The road is maintained by the National Park Service, and has been designated an All-American Road.

Commercial traffic is prohibited along the entire route, and the speed limit is 50 miles per hour (80 km/h).

Total area of the Parkway is 51,746.50 acres (209.4 km2), of which 51,680.64 acres (209.1 km2) are federal, and 65.86 acres (0.3 km2) are nonfederal. The parkway headquarters is in Tupelo. The parkway also manages two battlefields: Tupelo National Battlefield and Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site. The parkway has nine district offices: Leipers Fork, Meriwether Lewis, Cherokee, Tupelo, Dancy, Kosciusko, Ridgeland, Port Gibson and Natchez.[5]

History[edit]

Footpath[edit]

Main article: Natchez Trace

The gentle sloping and curving alignment of the current route closely follows the original foot passage. Its design harkens back to the way the original interweaving trails aligned as an ancient salt-lick-to-grazing-pasture migratory route of the American Bison and other game that moved between grazing the pastures of central and western Mississippi and the salt and other mineral surface deposits of the Cumberland Plateau. The route generally traverses the tops of the low hills and ridges of the watershed divides from northeast to southwest.

Native Americans, following the "traces" of bison and other game, further improved this "walking trail" for foot-borne commerce between major villages located in middle Mississippi and central Tennessee. The route is locally circuitous; however, by traversing this route the bison, and later humans, avoided the endless, energy-taxing climbing and descending of the many hills along the way. Also avoided was the danger to a herd (or groups of human travelers) of being caught en-masse at the bottom of a hollow or valley if attacked by predators. The nature of the route, to this day, affords good all-around visibility for those who travel it.

By the time of European exploration and settlement, the route had become well known and established as the fastest means of communication between the Cumberland Plateau, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico settlements of Pensacola, Mobile, and New Orleans. In the early post-American Revolutionary War period of America's (south) westward expansion, the Trace was the return route for American flat-boat commerce between the territories of the upper and lower Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland River valleys. The Americans would construct flat-boats, load their commerce therein, and drift upon those rivers, one-way south-southwestward all the way to New Orleans, Louisiana. They would then sell their goods (including the salvageable logs of the flat-boats), and return home via the Trace (for the middle section of their return trip), to as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Improved communications (steam boats, stagecoach lines, and railroads) and the development of ports along the rivers named above, (e.g., Natchez, Memphis, Tennessee, Paducah, Kentucky, Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky) made the route obsolete as a means of passenger and freight commerce. As a result, no major population centers were born or developed along the Trace, because of its alignment, between its termini Nashville and Natchez. The two cities of note, near or on the Trace's alignment (Jackson, Mississippi and Tupelo, Mississippi), developed only as a result of their alignment along axis of communication different from the Trace. Thus the Trace and its alignment come down to us today almost completely undeveloped and unspoiled along its whole route. Many sections of the original footpath are visible today for observing and hiking the Parkway's right-of-way.

Civilian Conservation Corps[edit]

Construction of the Parkway was begun by the federal government in the 1930s. The development of the modern roadway was one of the many projects of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The road was the proposal of U.S. Congressman T. Jeff Busby of Mississippi, who proposed it as a way to give tribute to the original Natchez Trace. Inspired by the proposal, the Daughters of the American Revolution began planting markers and monuments along the Trace. In 1934, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration ordered a survey. President Roosevelt signed the legislation to create the parkway on May 18, 1938.[5] Construction on the Parkway began in 1939, and the route was to be overseen by the National Park Service. Its length includes more than 45,000 acres (182 km²) and the towering Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge in Williamson County, Tennessee, completed in 1994 and one of only two post-tensioned, segmental concrete arch bridges in the world. (See the Federal Highway Administration's photo.)

Emergency Appropriations Act of June 19, 1934, allocated initial construction funds; established as parkway under National Park Service by act of May 18, 1938.

Gaps and Completion[edit]

For many years in the later 20th century, most of the trace had been complete, but owing to a lack of funds, two gaps remained, especially one, a several miles long bypass of Jackson, Mississippi. These final two segments, between Interstate 55 and Interstate 20 (in Ridgeland and Clinton, Mississippi, respectively); and between Liberty Road in the city of Natchez, Mississippi and U.S. Highway 61 near Washington, Mississippi, were finally completed and opened on May 21, 2005.

The Natchez Trace Parkway Land Conveyance Act of 2013 (S. 304; 113th Congress) (S. 304) is a bill that was introduced during the 113th United States Congress.[6] The bill would require the National Park Service (NPS) to convey about 67 acres of property in the Natchez Trace Parkway to the state of Mississippi. The legislation also would adjust the boundaries of the parkway to include 10 additional acres.[7] The two pieces of land in question originally belonged to Mississippi and were donated to the National Park Service when the NPS was trying to determine where to end the Natchez Trace Parkway.[8][9] Since the NPS did not choose to use either of these pieces of land, the state would like the land back.[8]

Historical sites on the Natchez Trace Parkway[edit]

There are numerous historical sites on the Parkway, including the Meriwether Lewis Museum, the refurbished Mount Locust stand, and the Mississippi Craft Center in Ridgeland, Mississippi, which focuses on promoting Mississippi's native art. Nestled between the Parkway and Old Port Gibson Road is the ghost town of Rocky Springs that thrived in the late 19th century. Today the old Rocky Springs Methodist Church, the cemetery and several building sites still exist and are accessible from the Parkway. Scenic Cypress Swamp is located at Mile Post 122. There are also several cascading waterfalls to view; for access, some require a bit of hiking from the parkway. In addition, parts of the original trail are still accessible. The history of the Parkway and that of the entire Trace is summarized at the Natchez Trace Visitor Center in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Emerald Mound, the second largest Native American ceremonial mound in the United States is located just west of the Trace and north of Highway 61 near Natchez. It offers a unique look at the ingenuity and industry of native culture. Two smaller mounds rise from the top of the main mound and rise above treetops offering a wide view. Travelers can reach Emerald Mound with a five minute detour from the main trace highway. Emerald Mound measures 770 feet (230 m) by 435 feet (133 m) at the base and is 35 feet (11 m) in height. The mound was built by depositing earth along the sides of a natural hill, thus reshaping it and creating an enormous artificial plateau.

The Ackia Battleground National Monument (established August 27, 1935, and now called Chickasaw Village) and Meriwether Lewis Park (proclaimed as Meriwether Lewis National Monument February 6, 1925 and transferred from the War Department August 10, 1933) were added to the parkway by act of August 10, 1961.

Parkway Highlights[edit]

Highlights based on the Natchez Trace Parkway website.

Natchez to Jackson[edit]

Jackson to Tupelo[edit]

Tupelo to Tennessee state line Highlights[edit]

Tennessee Highlights[edit]

  • Milepost 385.9 Meriwether Lewis Monument
  • 391.9 Fall Hallow Trail
  • 401.4 Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive
  • 404.7 Trail to Jackson Falls and Baker Bluff Overlook
  • 438 Bridge at Birdsong Hollow

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
  3. ^ The National Parks: Index 2001-2003. Washington: U.S. Department of the Interior
  4. ^ National Park Service, Natchez Trace Parkway Fact Sheet, February 25, 2010
  5. ^ a b "Distribution of Administrative History, Natchez Trace Parkway" (Scanned into Adobe Acrobat (PDF)). National Park Service. p. 177. Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  6. ^ "S. 304 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "CBO - S. 304". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "House Republican Conference's Legislative Digest on S 304". House Republican Conference. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Congress passes bill to give city 'bean field' property". Natchez Democrat. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 

External links[edit]