Natchez Trace – Traveled For Thousands of Years

Natchez Trace Parkway from milepost 109 to 170

Milepost Points of Interest:
122 Cypress Swamp – Many years ago, the Pearl River flowed here. Then it changed course. The deposition of sediments created a shallow area 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 this river’s mouth and found pearls. He named it “River of Pearls.” The Natchez Trace, 100 years later, avoided the marshy lowlands by following the Pearl River’s ridge 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 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 Doak’s fence marked “A.J.” 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 all areas of the three states crossed by the Natchez Trace for white settlement.
135.5 Robinson Road – The road crossing the Parkway follows the Robinson Road, 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 Tombigbee River. It connected with Andrew Jackson’s Military Road through Florence, Alabama, to Nashville, Tennessee. The designation of 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 his pale-faced neighbors’ ways and became 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 American Revolutionary War’s success. Kosciusko, Mississippi, is the only U.S. city named in his honor.

Natchez Trace Parkway from milepost 171-222

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. Once thought these knees were breathing organs, it is now believed they merely give additional support to the towering tree. As the swamp is filled, other trees can survive and reproduce. Beech, hickory, red oak, chestnut oak, ash, elm, and many others comprise the mixed hardwood forest 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 for four weeks, frequently until ten 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, housekeeping, reading, writing, and arithmetic to Choctaw and mixed-race 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 an 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 landform called the Wilcox series that extends northeast into Alabama. Some 50 million years ago, the Wilcox existed as layers of sand and mud. The pressure of overlying sediments and early upheavals have resulted in those layers tilted and converted into sandstone and shale. The sandstone portions are the present-day ridges more resistant to erosion than the shale.
Old Trace

Old Trace

Old Trace – In the early 1800s, many thoughtful Americans believed that isolation and communication difficulties 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.” President Jefferson ordered the army to clear the trail and make it a road to speed up the mail. Postriders carrying letters, dispatches, and newspapers helped bind the vast, turbulent frontier to the republic. However, their day passed. By the mid-1830s, steamboats from New Orleans to Pittsburgh robbed the Trace of its usefulness as the 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 allow the forest residents 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 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, a strong supporter of Christianity and Indian education, was elected chief of the Choctaw Nation’s northeast district 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 the stream that flowed in this valley as a dividing line. It remained the boundary until both tribes moved to Oklahoma in the 1830s. Although a modern drainage canal has changed the stream’s course somewhat, 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 a 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 cleared today. These trees are mute testimony to the endless struggle between man to alter and change and nature to reclaim, restore, and heal.

Continue to mileposts 222 to 268