Our route from Nashville to Natchez was primarily along the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444 mile parkway that follows the Natchez Trace trail. The trail itself was first used thousands of years ago by Native Americans. It later became a highway of sorts for settlers.
An advantage to driving along the Natchez Trace is that there are many opportunities to stop. (A disadvantage is that there are no stops for gas along the parkway, so plan accordingly.) We used the stops as much needed breaks for the kids along the way. We could get out, learn something and let the kids run around a bit.
In the first picture above, the Merriweather Lewis memorial can be seen in the background at the site where he was found dead while traveling along the Trace about three years after the end of his famous expedition. It is a broken pillar to represent a life cut short (his death is a bit of a mystery but most historians think it was likely suicide). The kids were also quite interested in the pioneer cemetery surrounding the memorial.
One of the more interesting things along the parkway are the many Native American burial mounds, dating from about 2000 years ago. We only stopped at two of the sites. The one above shows Pharr Mounds which contains eight different mounds over a site about 90 acres.
We really only scratched the surface of what there was to see along the Natchez Trace. If you find yourself traveling along the Parkway, I’d highly recommend a stop at the Visitor Center near Tupelo. We were able to see a short film about the Trace itself and get a better idea of the overall area. One more interesting thing about the route from our perspective is that we drove across Mississippi for an entire day without seeing any cotton. I had only been to Mississippi once before and I remembered miles and miles of cotton fields lining the highway and not a lot more. Even though I was hoping to show the kids cotton, it was good to see a different side of the state.
We took a few detours off the Parkway, the most enjoyable being in Alabama. We visited Ivy Green (the birthplace and early childhood home of Helen Keller), had ice cream cones that were as big as Ruth’s head at a fantastic 1950’s era diner and stayed with the lovely Amy and her family. We all had a great time. Her girls whisked my boys away and gave them some much needed playtime and H. and I felt like we were visiting with old friends talking to Amy and her husband.