The Natchez Trace Parkway
last entry, I had just embarked on the Natchez Trace Parkway near its southern
terminus, at Natchez, Mississippi. The
Natchez Trace Parkway is probably the most unique and undiscovered highway in the U.S.
The Parkway is a
500-mile long, two-lane highway managed by the National Park Service that extends
from Natchez up through Mississippi and on to Nashville, Tennessee. The
parkway parallels the old Natchez Trace, a trail used for hundreds of years,
first by Indians and later, in the 1800s, by pioneers and Army troops.
Before railroads or highways were built, the Natchez Trace was for many years the only overland link between the
Southern states and the Northeast.
Because the Natchez Trace Parkway is a National Park site, commercial vehicles,
including trucks, aren't allowed on it. Furthermore, there
aren't any commercial facilities of any kind allowed on the Parkway.
Believe me, it feels pretty darn strange to drive on a beautiful,
lightly-used, two-lane highway for several hours through the rural countryside
without seeing a single truck, gas station, motel, billboard, or restaurant. If you need to get gas or have a
craving for a Whopper, though, you can get on or off the Parkway every few miles
at intersections with local highways.
To top it off, there are interpretive pullouts
every few miles on the Parkway with historic signs or nature walks, so you could
easily spend a whole week on the Parkway traveling from Natchez to Nashville while learning about the
South. And if you want to camp, there are three, free National Park
campgrounds along the Parkway. What a great deal, huh?
traveled on the Natchez
Trace Parkway in 1984, but I only drove on a small portion of it during that
trip. This time, though, I wanted to drive the entire length, all the way
to Nashville. Traveling on the Parkway is a real blast
into the past.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a two-lane highway that extends 500 miles
from Natchez to Nashville.
You won't see any restaurants, gas stations, or trucks here -- it's very cool.
left: This is on the Natchez Trace Parkway, north of
Jackson, Mississippi. There are interpretive stops like this, each marked
with this type of sign, every
few miles for the entire 500-mile length of the Parkway.
center: My ol' truck at one of the many
interpretive pullouts on the Natchez
right: The original Natchez Trace was a north-south trail that had been used
by Indians for hundreds of years. There are still some sections of the original Trace, including here.
left: A very creepy (but fascinating) abandoned cemetery at Rocky
Springs, Mississippi, a ghost town along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Except for the
Spanish Moss, they could've filmed the graveyard scene from "A Christmas
center: Gravestone of a 15-year old wife.
right: My third strange experience of my trip (along with the
disappearing golf ball in San Diego and hearing the Navajo chanting in Utah) happened here. This is a
church next to the abandoned Rocky Springs cemetery in a remote area several miles from the nearest
house. I distinctly heard two voices inside but when I opened the door, the church
was empty. I guess I shouldn't have had those
Krispy Kreme donuts
Travels (2001-02) >
Story List >
U.S. Stories > The
Natchez Trace Parkway