Natchez Trace – Traveled For Thousands of Years

Natchez Trace Parkway from milepost 109 to 170

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Milepost Points of Interest:
122 Cypress Swamp – Many years ago, the Pearl River flowed here. Then it changed course. A shallow area was created by the deposition of sediments as the river retreated. Curing periodic low water, seedlings of water-tolerant cypress and tupelo trees gained a foothold, creating this aquatic forest. A self-guided trail through a Water Tupelo-Bald Cypress Swamp. Watch for alligators as you stroll along the 1/2 mile boardwalk trail.
122.6 River Bend – In 1698, the French Explorer, Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d’Iberville, sailed into the mouth of this river and found pearls. He named it “River of Pearls.” The Natchez Trace, 100 years later, avoided the marshy lowlands by following the ridge between the Pearl River and the Big Black River for 150 miles. The last 75 miles of the river course have served, since 1812, as a boundary between Mississippi and Louisiana.
128.4 Upper Choctaw Boundary – The line of trees crossing the Parkway marked a section of the boundary accepted by the Choctaw Indians and the American Commission under Andrew Jackson in the treaty of Doaks Stand, October 20, 1820. The Choctaw reluctantly gave to the United States the land west of the line from White Oak Spring on the old Indian Path, northwardly to a black oak standing on the Natchez Road, about 40 poles eastwardly from Doaks fence marked “AJ” and blazed. The area surrendered by the Choctaw Nation amounted to some 5.5 million acres, about 1/3 of their land. Ten years later in 1830, the Choctaw were forced to give up all their lands. Other Indians were forced to do the same by 1834 thus clearing for white settlement all areas of the three states crossed by the Natchez Trace.
135.5 Robinson Road – The road crossing the Parkway follows the Robinson Road which was built in 1821, nearly all of it passing through the country of the Choctaw Indians. It joined Jackson  and Columbus, the center of the settlements on the Tombecbee River. There it connected with Andrew Jackson’s Military Road through Florence, Alabama to Nashville, Tennessee. Designation of the Robinson Road as the mail route in 1822, drew much of the traffic from the northern Mississippi section of the Natchez Trace, which quickly lost importance. No longer was the Trace the only direct road through the wilderness from the east to the old southwest.
140.0 Red Dog Road – Running to Canton, Mississippi, Red Dog Road was opened in 1834 and named for a Choctaw Indian, Ofahoma, or Red Dog. Like other Choctaw, he had accepted the ways of his pale faced neighbors and had become a farmer. Red Dog, an important chief, was one of the signers of the treaty of Dancing Rabbit in 1830, by which the tribe agreed to move to Oklahoma. Nearby is the community of Ofahoma which for many years had a U.S. Post Office.
160.0 Kosciusko Information Center – Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce volunteers provide travel information for the parkway and the local area. General Tadeusz Kosciuszko was an outstanding Polish freedom fighter whose military genius and engineering skills played a vital role in the success of the American Revolutionary War. Kosciusko, Mississippi is the only US city named in his honor.

Natchez Trace Parkway from milepost 171-222

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Milepost Points of Interest: 
175.6 Cole Creek – A 15 minute adventure along a short trail will take you through the last days of a Tupelo-Bald Cypress swamp and into the first stage of a mixed hardwood bottomland forest. Water Tupelo thrives in lowlands and swamps because it can survive with its roots completely submerged underwater. Bald Cypress, another swamp lover, is easily recognized by its knees. It was once thought these knees were breathing organs but it is now believed they merely give additional support to the towering tree. As the swamp is filled, other species of trees are able to survive and reproduce. Beech, hickory, red oak, chestnut oak, ash, elm and many others comprise the mixed hardwood forest that is taking over the area. Cole Creek will always be here but as the swamp fills in and the hardwood forest becomes established, the creek will be more and more limited to its banks. Someday the area will be a hardwood forest with a creek running through it and all evidence of the swamp gone.
176.3 Bethel Mission – About 1/2 mile northwest of the stop, Bethel, meaning “house of God,” was opened in 1822 as one of 13 Choctaw Mission stations. Indians and slaves labored hard during four weeks, frequently until 10 at night by the light of the moon or large fires, to clear the forest and erect the buildings. The missionaries who took the Gospel to the wilderness also taught farming, carpentry, weaving and housekeeping as well as reading, writing and arithmetic to Choctaw and half-breed children. In 1826, people moved from the Trace to new roads and Bethel was closed.
180.7 French Camp Historic District – Originally known as the Frenchman’s Camp, this settlement was founded in about 1810 when Louis LeFleur and his family opened a stand, or tavern and inn. LeFleur married a Choctaw woman and the couple’s son, Greenwood LeFleur, changed the spelling of his last name to LeFlore. He became a Choctaw chief and a Mississippi State Senator. Part of the French Camp Academy, the historic district displays how early American life was lived along its long wooden boardwalk which includes the Log House Museum, the historic Colonel James Drane house, the 1840 Huffman Log Cabin and adjacent sorghum mill, a blacksmith shop and more.
193.1 Jeff Busby Park – The highest point on the Parkway, the area includes an 18-site campground, picnic tables, and overlook atop Little Mountain. On a clear day from atop Little Mountain you can see about 20 miles. The ridges and valleys are part of a geological land form called the Wilcox series that extends northeast into Alabama. Some 50 million years ago the Wilcox existed as layers of sand and mud. Pressure of overlying sediments and early upheavals have resulted in those layers being tilted and converted into sandstone and shale. More resistant to erosion than the shale, the sandstone portions are the present day ridges.
198.6
Old Trace

Old Trace

Old Trace – In the early 1800’s many thoughtful Americans believed that isolation and the difficulties of communication would force the Mississippi Valley settlements to form a separate nation. Hoping to hold the frontier, Congress in 1800 established a post route from Nashville to Natchez. The Trace, then a series of Indian trails, had drawn from the Secretary of State the bitter comment, “The passage of mail from Natchez is as tedious as from Europe when westerly winds prevail.” To speed the mail, President Jefferson ordered the army to clear out the trail and make it a road. Postriders carrying letters, dispatches and newspapers helped bind the vast, turbulent frontier to the republic. However, their day passed. By the mid 1830’s steamboats running from New Orleans to Pittsburgh robbed the Trace of its usefulness as a main post road. A one half mile long loop nature trail descends into a shady hollow. It can easily be completed in about 30 minutes. However, the more time you allow the more you will see and hear. Walk gently and give the forest residents a chance to welcome you into their home. A one half mile long side trail from the loop leads to the campground.

 203.5 Pigeon Roost Creek – A reminder of the millions of migrating passenger pigeons that once roosted in trees in this area. The species has been completely destroyed. One mile east where the Natchez Trace crossed the creek Nathaniel Folsom of New England and his Choctaw wife had a trading post before 1790. Their son, David, later operated it and accommodated travelers. David Folsom, strong supporter of Christianity and Indian education, was elected chief of the northeast district of the Choctaw Nation in 1826.
213.3 Line Creek –  Unlike modern nations, Indian nations seldom recognized clear, exact boundaries to their lands. However, Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians came to accept as a dividing line the stream that flowed in this valley. It remained the boundary until both tribes moved to Oklahoma in the 1830s. Although the stream’s course has been changed somewhat by a modern drainage canal, it is still called Line Creek. Near here, Noah Wall and his Choctaw wife had a stand where food and shelter were provided.
221.4 Old Trace – Preserved here is portion of a nearly 200 year old road, the Old Natchez Trace. Maintaining this 500 mile long wilderness road in the early 1800s was a difficult if not hopeless task. As you look down the sunken trench, note the large trees growing on the edge of the 10 foot wide strip we clear today. These trees are mute testimony to the endless struggle between man to alter and change and nature to reclaim, restore and heal.

Continue on to mileposts 222 to 268

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