Big Al and I left Vicksburg in a blinding rain storm and turned south to link up with the Natchez Trace. Thank goodness we did, because we would have been right in the path of the tornado that leveled parts of Clinton, MS, if we had gone east instead.
From the welcome area at the south end of the Trace.
THE OLD TRACE
Across the Parkway behind you is a portion of the Old Natchez Trace – a wilderness road that originated from a series of trails used by the southeastern Indian tribes. The Natchez Trace was politically, economically, socially, and militarily important for the United States in its early developement. Among those that traveled this road were American Indians, traders, soldiers, “Kaintucks”, postriders, settlers, slaves, circuit-riding preachers, outlaws, and adventurers. The Old Natchez Trace serves as a reminder of those who contributed to events that shaped the broad patterns of our common history.
The Natchez Trace today is a quiet, two-lane road that follows the route settlers used from Nashville, TN, to link up with El Camino Real in Natchez, MS.
It is well-maintained by the National Parks Service, with ocassional rest stops and historic markers to give travelers a sense of the history.
This is one of the “You are Here” signs from a lay-by. The writing on the left-hand sign says,
LOWER CHOCTAW BOUNDARY
The line of trees to your left has been a boundary for 200 years. It was established in 1765 and marked the eastern limits of the Old Natchez District. This boundary ran from a point 12 miles east of Vicksburg southward to the 31st parallel.
First surveyed in 1778, it was reaffirmed by Spain in 1793, and by the United States in 1801.
Since 1820, it has served as the boundary between Hinds and Claiborne Counties, Mississippi.
And on the right it says,
RED BLUFF STAND
“John Crego of the lower Choctaw Line respectfully informs the public, and travellers particularly, that he keeps constantly on hand a large and general supply of GROCERIES, ground Coffee ready to put up, Sugar Biscuits, Cheese, Dried Beef, or Bacon, and every other article necessary for the acommodation of travellers going through the nation, on very reasonable terms. He is also, prepared to shoe horses on the shortest notice.”
Established in 1802, this hostelry on the Indian boundary was for several years the last place a northbound traveler could get provisions.
The next lay-by we came to had this sign.
The sounds of a busy woodland stream and the quiet murmur of a lazy waterfall have long been stilled here. Only after heavy rainfall does water fill the stream and set the waterfall singing.
Over the years the water table has dropped several feet, and the spring which feeds Owens Creek has all but disappeared.
Little remains of a scene once familiar to early residents of the Rocky Springs community.
Lucklily the day we were there, the waterfall was trickling and the there was a little water in the creek, maybe because of the torrential rains we had come through earlier in the morning.
There was even a trickle of water dripping over the lip of what used to be quite a waterfall.
All along the Trace as we drove, there were bicyclists sharing the road with us.
The red clover was out in all the open fields. It was just beautiful!
As you could tell from the sky, we weren’t finished with the rain, although it was just showers – not downpours.
Obviously, through the years the land around the Trace has been farmed, and the National Parks Service has been careful to keep up some examples of split-rail fencing.
Some more interesting factoids compliments of the National Park Service.
Before your very eyes an endless struggle is taking place. Trees are striving here for the essentials of life – water, sunlight and space. Trying to get ahead, the hardwoods push upward, their crowns filling all the overhead space, shutting out sunlight from young seedlings. Like their elders, this younger generation also has to fight for survival. The competition is keen and the hardwoods are winning over the pines. A 15-minute walk along this trail will take you from a mixed hardwood-pine forest (the loser) to a mixed hardwood (the winner).
Across the field, behind the split-rail fence, you can just make out a 200-year-old inn that welcomed travelers on the Trace in the early days.
Some interesting topography in the area.
This bluff shows a deep deposit of windblown topsoil know as loess (pronounced LOW-ess).
It was formed during the Ice Age when glaciers covered the northern half of the United States. At this time nearly continuous duststorms swept in from the western plains and covered this area with windblown dust to at depth of 30 to 90 feet. Here it rests on sands and clays of an ancient sea. It originally covered a vast region but in this area is now confined to a strip east of the Mississippi River from 3 to 30 miles wide extending from Baton Rouge into Tennessee.
Where the old Natchez Trace passed over loess it formed sunken roads, in places 20 feet deep.
I was very glad we had taken the opportunity to drive along the Natchez Trace. It provided an interesting historical reminder of this area of the country, as well and a welcome break from hurrying interstate highway driving.