The Creation of the National Scenic Parkway
Although reclaimed by Mother Nature, historians, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Mississippi Congressman Jeff Busby revived interest in the Trace. Busby sponsored legislation to finance the construction of a modern road with historical markers to closely follow the route of the old Trace. Ground was broken in 1937 and the National Trace Parkway was commissioned as a unit of the National Park Service to commemorate the historic road. Today there are hundreds of notable stops and points of interest catalogued and identified along the Trace. To win designation as an All-American Roadway the Trace would have show significance in at least two of the following six categories: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. The Natchez Trace Parkway qualifies in all six * (from the Natchez Trace Visitor Guide).
The modern Natchez Trace travels through four geographical and interest regions: Natchez to Jackson, Mississippi; Jackson to Tupelo, Mississippi; Tupelo to the Tennessee State Line; and the state line to Nashville. Go to the NPS – Natchez Trace Website to see interesting places to visit in each of these regions.
Points of Interest Along the Trace. There are easily a hundred wayside stops with some sort of scenic or historical interest along the Parkway. Here’s a few of our favorites.
Traveling north from Natchez, one of the first stops you should make along the Trace is at Mount Locust, milepost 15.5. Back in the day, this was Day 1 on the Boatman’s trip back to the Ohio Valley. The stand was originally constructed as a farm homestead in 1780. But being in the right place at the right time encouraged later owners, the William Ferguson family, to open up a crude inn to serve the growing number of travelers. Eventually an annex was constructed to better meet the need. The Inn has been restored and is open for daily tours from February through November. See link to Mt. Locust Brochure.
Sunken Trace – At several points along the parkway the “old Trace” intersects with or comes close to the Parkway. At mile marker 41.5 is one of many rest stops where you can walk to and through a portion of the original Trace.
Rocky Springs, Milepost 54.8 – The former community of Rocky Springs is now a park, picnic site and rustic campground. A self-guided trail leads to the location of the former village and to the graveyard and old church that are all that remain of a village that once held over 2000 souls. Map of Rocky Springs Campground & Historical Site
Cypress Swamp, Milepost 122.0 – At mile marker 122 you’ll have an opportunity to stretch your legs with a half-mile loop annotated nature trail through a Cypress and Water Tupelo Swamp. We saw a baby alligator sunning itself on a little island in the swamp pond.
French Camp, Milepost 180.7 – A “stand” (inn) was established here in 1812 serving travelers along the Trace. Later in 1822 it added a school, which exists to this day. Included in the restored complex, joined by a boardwalk, are a cafe, gift shop, visitor center, log cabin, crafts center, and sorghum making center. An interesting historical stop, an opportunity to stretch your legs, and get a bite to eat.
Jeff Busby, Milepost 193.1 – Named for Mississippi Congressman Thomas Jefferson Busby (whose bill created the Parkway), the park has a visitor exhibit area, a nice picnic area with tables, grills, and parking, a 22 site campground, restrooms, hiking trails, and a mountain top overlook that is one of the highest points in Mississippi.
Jeff Busby Campground & Picnic Area Map – Jeff-Busby-map
Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center, Tupelo, Mississippi, Milepost 266.0
The Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center has a twelve-minute orientation film, interpretive displays about the natural and cultural history of the Natchez Trace, as well as an Eastern National Bookstore. A park ranger is available from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily (except Christmas Day) to answer any questions you may have. This is also the location to get your passport stamps for the Natchez Trace Parkway, Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Tupelo National Battlefield, and Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield.
Merriweather Lewis Site Milepost 385.9
This recreational site has a campground, washrooms, picnic areas, hiking trails, and a historical exhibit on Merriweather Lewis, including a monument erected at the site of his burial and a replication of the Grinder House, the “stand” where Lewis stopped on his way back East and and mysteriously died of gunshot wounds in the middle of the night. Exhibits tell the story of that evening, plus other significant aspects of Lewis’ history. See MLewis-Site-Bulletin
While the campground has no utilities it has paved and reasonably level parking areas for RVs. Each wooded site has a picnic table, a fire pit, trash bin, and nice separation from adjacent sites. Like all the National Forest Campgrounds along the trace, it is first come, first serve for campsites so best to get there early in the afternoon or it will be full. See more photos and info on the Meriwether Lewis Park and Campground here.
Camping Along the Trace
The National Park maintains three improved campgrounds along the Trace (all of which were profiled above): Rocky Springs, Jeff Busby, and Merriweather Lewis. In addition there are several rustic campgrounds reserved for bikers or hikers. Within a few miles of the Trace are both private and public campgrounds with utilities for RVs. This page has links to State Parks convenient to the Trace.
More Natchez Trace Links & Publications