From Nashville to Tupelo on the Natchez Trace Parkway: An Old-Timers’ Guide and Touring Tips
For a long time, Natchez Trace Parkway in southern Mississippi was the most important highway in the South. In the late 1800s, it cut through the heart of a growing, and sometimes violent, cotton-farming community. Though it carried no more than 60,000 cars a day in the early 1900s, it was the hub of what was then called “the Mississippi trade.” After the Civil War, steam power provided a new supply of travelers, and the last-mile drive for goods from far-off markets to the Mississippi Delta became a much shorter and more convenient trip.
Today’s highway is a lot older and wider, but as in any place built with the use of heavy machinery, it was a long time coming. First, it had to pass the Mississippi River, a navigable waterway now known as a river. The railroad and the canal were soon added, and the first Natchez Trace Parkway was begun.
The road wasn’t called the Natchez Trace Parkway until the early 1960s, when it was built as another route for highways under construction around the state. It was named for the Natchez Trace, in the southern part of the modern Mississippi Delta. The highway started at a bridge over the Pearl River, and it followed the river south through a valley at about the same time that the Mississippi was made into a federal highway. Today, the state highway carries more than 300,000 cars a day.
The only reason this story of roads has been told so often is because it’s a story that’s as old as the nation itself. A lot has happened since the story was written in the early 1900s — in part because there were so many people in the world at the time. But, because so many people live in this country now, and because they have traveled widely, there are bound to be many more stories like this one.
The Mississippi River
Before it became a highway, the Natchez Trace Parkway was a little more than a