History - what was The Natchez Trace? The answer dates back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. Enterprising men in places upstream, like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, would load rafts with merchandise and float them down stream. They followed rivers such as the Ohio to the Mississippi. Continuing downstream on Ole Miss, the rafters would find a port where their merchandise was needed. They'd off load the cargo, sell the raft's timbers for home building, buy a horse and ride back north so they could repeat the scenario. Natchez was a popular end point for many of them. The roadway on which they began their journey back north was none other than The Natchez Trace.
Initially, The Trace, as many early roadways were called, was a path beaten down by Native Americans, followed by French and Spanish settlers. However, traveling via The Trace was not without its trials. Unfriendly Indians, bands of thieves, floods, thigh-deep mud, disease bearing insects and few amenities were all possibilities if not probabilities along this "super highway." Then, with the introduction of steamboats, circa 1812, transportation methods changed, and The Trace fell into disuse.
The United States government saw merit in preserving this history and in the late thirties began construction of the highway, as we now know it. It's still not complete. There is a twenty-six-mile discontinuity in the area around Jackson, Mississippi. (Download map from the website.) Let's hope that it's completed by the time you try it out.
When riding The Trace, you'll be pleased that there are no billboards. You will see segments of the original Natchez Trace, an original house, Indian mounds, the grave site of thirteen unknown Confederate soldiers, a cypress swamp, meandering streams, waterfalls, modest rivers like the Duck, huge rivers like the Tennessee and the Tenn - Tombigbee Waterway, farm land, French Camp (where sorghum is made in the Fall), miles of trees, wild flowers and flowering shrubs, the delightful fragrance of honeysuckle and (on Saturday and Sunday afternoons) the heavenly bodies sun bathing on the beaches of enormous Ross Barnett Reservoir.