360° VR Panoramas of The Great River Road in Mississippi
The Natchez Trace Parkway
Between Port Gibson and Natchez, Mississippi

The Natchez Trace was a route first used by wildlife and Indians to travel north and south parallel to the Mississippi River. President Thomas Jefferson had the Army construct a trail then a wagon road from Nashville to Natchez to strengthen the US presence in the new Louisiana Purchase. The Trace's traffic for many years was mostly northbound, as parties of men who had floated cargo down the river to Natchez or New Orleans on rafts and scows returned to the Ohio Valley on foot.

The Natchez Trace lost its importance when steamboats made upstream transportation feasible. Upgrade to modern road standards was begun by the CCC in the 1930's, but in 1938 it was designated as a National Parkway and construction taken over by the National Park Service. Since no cities or towns had grown up along its 444 mile length it was (and remains) nearly a wilderness route.

Today the Natchez Parkway follows an undulating route through the loess hills west of the river, closely following the original Trace. It has continuous smooth curves but only gentle hills. There is a broad strip of mown grass along each side, often spangled with wildflowers, and towering forest as a continuous wall on both sides. The Parkway is limited access and crossing roads go over or under. It is two lanes, with a speed limit of 50 mph, and commercial traffic is prohibited.

I found driving the southern third of parkway to be an enjoyable, almost serene, experience. There was little traffic and though the scenery was beautiful it had little variation. There were a few "sights" along or near the Parkway, but moslty it was just a smooth drive.

Wikipedia: Natchez Trace Parkway on Wikipedia.

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Natchez Trace Parkway, a beautiful green route with little traffic

Natchez Trace Parkway, a beautiful green route with little traffic

Natchez Parkway scenery varies very little, just green mown verges and walls of forest on each side, mile after mile.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

Date photographed: April 9, 2015
See location in Google Maps

Natchez Trace worn down into the soft loess

Natchez Trace worn down into the soft loess

Through decades of traffic the Natchez Trace between Vicksburg and Natchez was in many places worn down into a trench up to twenty feet deep. This stretch of the route is on a ridge of loess, wind-deposited glacial dust, that erodes easily and forms near-vertical slopes.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

Date photographed: April 9, 2015
See location in Google Maps

Twenty three columns are all that remain of Windsor Plantation

Twenty three columns are all that remain of Windsor Plantation

The evocative ruins of Windsor Plantation, a few miles west of the Natchez Trace Parkway, are one of Mississippi's most photographed sights.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

Date photographed: April 9, 2015
See location in Google Maps

One of the greatest antebellum plantation houses

One of the greatest antebellum plantation houses

Windsor mansion was completed in 1861 but burned to the ground in 1890. The 40-foot columns are made of stuccoed brick with cast-iron capitals.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

Date photographed: April 9, 2015
See location in Google Maps

Emerald Mound is a prehistoric ceremonial site

Emerald Mound is a prehistoric ceremonial site

At Emerald Mound Native Americans of the Mound Builder period flattened a natural hilltop and carried earth to make a steep conical hill at one end.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

Date photographed: April 9, 2015
See location in Google Maps

On top of the Emerald Mound

On top of the Emerald Mound

The artificial summit cone of Emerald Mound looks down on a large flat hilltop that must have been perfect for mass gatherings.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

Date photographed: April 9, 2015
See location in Google Maps

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