We enjoy tracing through history down the Natchez Trace. This 444-mile parkway follows a Native American footpath from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississipi. It’s our third time down this road and we look forward to discover more jewels.
Why do we take this route? It’s slower than the main highways 55MPH/90KPH with no commercial traffic. The well paved road is beautiful and we really like the views along the way.
Double Arch Bridge
The Birdsong Hollow and Double Arch Bridge is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 438.
The bridge was completed in 1994, the double arch bridge that spans Birdsong Hollow received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1995 for its innovative design that rises 155 feet above the valley. The bridge carries Trace travelers 1,648 feet across the valley and Tennessee Highway 96.
The bridge can be viewed from two locations we only viewef from just north of the bridge. There is a parking area with a view of the bridge and the valley below. Just south of the bridge is an exit ramp that takes you down to Tennessee Highway 96.
Our next stop was at the Meriwether Lewis Campground.
Meriwether Lewis was an American explorer, soldier, politician, and public administrator, best known for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery, with William Clark
There are three campgrounds along this trace and we get to enjoy every one of them on this adventure.
Dispersed Camping is the term given to camping on public land other than in designated campsites. This type of camping is most common on national forest and Bureau of Land Management land.
All camping must take place within designated campgrounds. The Natchez Trace Parkway does not allow dispersed camping. Those who are biking the Parkway may be interested in the bicycle-onlyand equestrian-only campgrounds along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
In the Grinder House, the ruins of which are still discernible 230 yards south of this spot, his life of romantic endeavor and lasting achievement came tragically and mysteriously to its close on the night of October 11, 1809.
Piney Grove Campground
Because of repairs to the Natchez Trace Roadway we had to take a slight detour and headed to Piney Grove Campground to spend the night. Just north and west of the Trace we had a great two evening stay. We had the opportunity to do some biking and hiking through the campground.
The Sunken Trace
Back on the trace again we stopped at a couple really interesting places including a section of the original Trace which has sunken down below the ground level.
Sunken Trace – Preserved here is a portion of the deeply eroded or “sunken” Old Trace. Hardships of journeying on the Old Trace included heat, mosquitoes, poor food, hard beds (if any), disease, swollen rivers, and sucking swamps. We walked this sunken trail and let our imagination carry us back to the early 1800’s 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.
Jeff Busby Park
This is one of the three free parks in Natchez Trace Parkway. It was very busy when we arrived here and almost all of the sites were filled. So we double parked with our friends.
We proceeded back to the Natchez Trace after a construction detour and stayed outside the national park. The bridge crossing took us across the Tennessee-Tombigbee.
Tupelo Bald cypress Swamp
A short drive and we get to see this beauty! Water tupelo and bald cypress trees can live in deep water for long periods. After taking root in summer when the swamp is nearly dry, seedlings can stay alive when the water is deep enough to kill other plants.
This trail leads through an abandoned river channel. As the channel fills with silt and vegetation, black willow, sycamore, red maple, and other trees will gradually replace the baldcypress.
The change will take several hundred years.
This was our second time visiting the french camp historical village. It appears maintenance has been rolled back as there were needed unattended repairs. Construction of the Colonel James Drane house began in 1846 using a water powered saw. The foundation and framing are secured with wooden pegs and the ceiling with squared nails. Moved to this location in 1981, the house is now owned and operated by the French Camp Academy. You are invited to visit the Drane House. The information station is in the 1840 Huffman Log Cabin. A sorghum mill adjacent to the cabin operates during the fall sorghum season. The Colonel James Drane home which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Louis LeFleur first traded with the Choctaw Indians at a bluff now part of Jackson, Mississippi. About 1812, he established his stand 900 feet to the northeast on the Natchez Trace. Because of the storekeeper’s nationality the area was often called “French Camp”, a name retained by the present village. LeFleur married a Choctaw woman. Their famous son who changed his name to Greenwood Leflore, became a Choctaw chief and a Mississippi State Senator. For him are named the city of Greenwood and the county of Leflore.
A stone memorial marks a stage of the Natchez Trace at French Camp. The first highway opened through the lower south by the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 between the American government and the Choctaw Indians. The surrounding country became a part of the state of Mississippi. Here Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee and Kentucky commands rested on their way to join him in his coast campaign in the War of 1812, during which second struggle for American Independence, Mississippi took a heroic part. Presented to the town of French Camp by the Mississippi Daughters of the American Revolution, November 10, 1915.
Rocky Springs Campground
The Town of Rocky Springs near the end of the trace 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.