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The Natchez Trace Parkway 

(Reprint from News: June 29, 2001)

June 27, 2001


In my 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?  I first 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.



Left:  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.




Above 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.

Above center:  My ol' truck at one of the many interpretive pullouts on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Above 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.



Above 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 Carol" here.

Above center:  Gravestone of a 15-year old wife.

Above 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 for breakfast!



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