February 7, 2012

On the Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile scenic byway that extends northward from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee.  The Natchez Trace, which is administered by the National Park Service, parallels a historic road that linked the Mississippi River with the valley of the Tennessee River.  The modern Natchez Trace Parkway was begun in the 1930s, although a few sections were not completed until 2005.  

We picked up the parkway just south of its northern terminus near Nashville, and enjoyed our drive through the countryside.  The lack of traffic was especially appealing after the rush of Nashville.  A number of sections of the original trace are visible along the way, and one can just imagine the Ohio River valley farmers who turned an early Native American trail into a clearly-marked path.

Sites of Interest on the Natchez Trace Are Marked
Original Segments of the Natchez Trace Are Visible
We were able to see a few remaining vestiges of the historic trace, including the Gordon House.  The Gordons ran a ferry across the Duck River from 1801 until traffic on the trace declined after the steamboat became the preferred method of travel.

The Gordon House
The grave of Meriwether Lewis, one of the two co-captains of Lewis and Clark Expedition, is located along the trace.  Lewis died here in 1809 of two gunshot wounds, and it has never been determined who inflicted the wounds.  The State of Tennessee erected a monument in 1848 to commemorate Lewis’ life.  The design is a broken column, representing a life cut short.

Meriwether Lewis Monument
My favorite contemporary element of the Natchez Trace Parkway is a dramatic, double-arched bridge that was completed in 1994.  It’s a beautiful, soaring structure and one of only two post-tensioned, segmental concrete arch bridges in the world.  The bridge received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1995 and was the first thing we saw when we turned onto the parkway.

Double Arch Bridge


  1. Wow great sites. Love A

    1. A, The Natchez Trace Parkway was such a nice way to work our way south. The sites were an added bonus. Sarah