Friday, March 21, 2008

Natchez Trace Parkway

Peter Parker’s spidey-sense tingles when Spider-Man is needed nearby. I think a storyteller’s writer-sense tingles when a story is present. When I enter the Natchez Trace Parkway, I feel the stories of the people who traveled the road two centuries before hanging in the air.

I wanted to take the same journey in the comfort of my automobile. I started in Natchez, Mississippi and am making my way up the 444 mile two-lane highway that the National Park Service maintains as a tribute to this important road in our nation’s history.

Trace is French for animal track. A park ranger at the Trace Headquarters in Tupelo, Mississippi told me that four major groups used the Trace.

Animals first carved out the trail that became the Natchez Trace. Two theories are: the animals were following the sources of water OR they were traveling to salt licks in the Nashville area.

Native American Indians used the same trail. The Trace winds through land that was part of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.

Kaintucks traveled the Trace from 1785-1830. Kaintucks were men who floated down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to take goods to Natchez and New Orleans. Their boats were dismantled and sold for lumber and these men used the Natchez Trace to walk to Nashville and on to their homes.

Postriders used the trace from 1800-1825. The U.S. Government met with the Choctaw and Chickasaw leaders to gain permission to use the Trace as a national postal road to transport mail between Nashville and Natchez.

By 1830, people could travel up the Mississippi River by steamboat and the Natchez Trace was no longer used on a regular basis.

As I continue my trek along the Trace: more stories and perhaps a photo or two later.


Shauna Roberts said...

Interesting history. One of my ancestors floated down to New Orleans with a load of homemade liquor, so perhaps he was one of those who walked the Trace homeward.

Can you drive the full original Trace? I was under the impression that parts of the original are still dirt and the road for cars runs nearby.

Sphinx Ink said...

How I wish I could ride with you. It's just the sort of trip I'd like. It sounds wonderful--enjoy it, and do report back. Post photos if you can!

Rae Ann Parker said...

The original Trace runs with the Parkway in some places and alongside in others. There are many spots where you can park your car and walk on the Old Trace. We did this several times.

Shauna, if one of your ancestors floated down to New Orleans with his wares, perhaps the craft he floated on ended up as a house in New Orleans' Riverbend neighborhood. Many of the houses there are made from lumber from these barges.