At every turn, the 444 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway deliver scenic beauty. From the expansive Barnett Reservoir in Ridgeland to cascading waterfalls, the water views are impressive. With rolling pasture lands framed by weathered rail fences and quaint small towns dotting the way, you’ll have an endless array of scenery to enjoy. But what about the history?
Knowing more about the origins of the Natchez Trace brings a new, deeper perspective to your travels. Learning about those whose journeys literally created the pathway allows you to appreciate the hardships they endured and gives a new lens through which to view our modern-day luxuries.
From Natchez, Mississippi, along the Mississippi River to Tupelo, Mississippi, across the northwest corner of Alabama and on to Nashville, Tennessee, the Trace began as a simple foot path, horse trail and later a wilderness road. Before the states were states, the area was Chickasaw, Choctaw and Natchez Indian territory.
Over the centuries and even millennium’s countless people traveled along a portion or the entirety of the path, and communities grew along the road to welcome those travelers. In 1801, it was designated as a national postal road. Below are a few top recommendations to enhance your understanding.
Important Historic Sites near Ridgeland
Brashears Stand – Milepost 104.5
Stands were inns along the trace that provided a needed stop for travelers from the late 1700s to the mid 1800s. While the structures of this stand are no longer with us, you can still enjoy a walk to an old section of the trace. Look for a new trail portion and boardwalk to connect to the nearby Bill Waller Crafts Center.
Of note for cyclists and walkers, the city of Ridgeland has built a Multi-Use Path that parallels the parkway from milepost 101 to milepost 103. It is a great way to experience the area without the auto traffic.
Boyd Site – Milepost 106.9
Looks from the surface only hint at what lies below. In this unassuming 100-foot mound, archeologists discovered the remains of 41 burials. Differences in the pottery they found indicates that the mound was constructed over a long period of time. Additional study revealed that a house stood here around 500 A.D. and the pottery found has been dated to prior to 700 A.D.
Other Significant Historic Sites
Sunken Trace, Port Gibson, MS – Milepost 41.5
Here the deeply eroded portion of the original trace gives you a true sense of the countless people, horses and wagons that traveled the path over the years. Each one wearing away the earth, leaving behind a sunken path with the surrounding land rising on each side.
French Camp Historic Village, French Camp, MS – Milepost 180.7
Established first as a stand in 1812, then a school in 1822, the historic village offers a chance to travelers along the trace to step back in time. The village includes a pottery studio, restaurant, bed & breakfast and log cabin gift shop.
Both of these sites, and many others, are easily accessible with a day trip when you stay in Ridgeland. Check out our lodging options.
Learn more about these and other sites along the Natchez Trace Parkway and plan your visit.