Thursday, March 20, 2014

Natchez Trace–a rural mail route not for sissies

Sometimes when we point our van toward home, it is hard to slow up enough to visit anyplace else.  With the Natchez Trace, we could just keep on driving north and learn  about history as well.

It was the early 1800’s and the Mississippi Valley settlements were isolated from the east coast.  It was a long tedious process getting mail to the area.  To speed mail delivery and to bind the areas together, President Jefferson ordered the Army to clear a trail first used by animals and Native Americans. 

This “road” was called the Natchez Trace.  One of the informational signs said, “This early interstate road building venture produced a snake-infested, mosquito-beset, robber-haunted, Indian traveled forest path.” Besides mail carriers and Indians, traders, soldiers, settlers, slaves, circuit rider preachers, outlaws and adventurers used the trail.  Also there was a group called “Kaintucks” who floated their commodities down the rivers to Natchez or New Orleans, sold their boats for scrap wood and walked home.  Despite his great adventure, Meriwether Lewis was killed on the Trace.  Unbelievably,  the postriders could carry mail between Nashville and Natchez in ten days.  It took 30 to 35 to walk.  In 1820 steamboats made the trip much faster and easier.  The Natchez Trace lasted only 20 years.

Now the entire length of the Trace from Natchez to Nashville is a National Park.  It is a well maintained two lane road, free of any commercial traffic or signs with a 55 mph speed limit.  We hopped on the road for ten miles or so south on our way to New Orleans.  Then we picked it up again headed north after our family visit.  We didn’t go all the way to the end, but felt we experienced what it might be like to be on the road in times past.

This is how the road looks now.

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There are numerous areas where we could walk the old Trace.  Here is one.

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There are Indian mounds in various places.  These were places for the chiefs to place a house on top and it is thought they were used in ceremonies.

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There is a first come, first serve,  no charge campground along the Trace—a beautiful location in the trees.  It was easy to imagine this might have been the place a traveler might have camped 200 years ago.

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