November, 2014 – Here’s what I saw in the Mileposts 200 range of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Milepost 286 – Pharr Mounds: The largest and most important archeological site in northern Mississippi. Eight large, dome-shaped burial mounds are scattered over 90 acres. They were built and used about 1-200 A.D. by nomadic Indian hunters and gatherers who returned to this site at times to bury the dead with their possessions.
Milepost 283 – Donivan Slough: I welcomed every chance to walk the trails so easily accessible from the pull-offs, a nice break and chance to stretch my legs and feast my eyes. This is an easy 20 minute woodland trail through a lowland where bald cypress thrive in swampy backwaters and you can visit with other beautiful trees like the black oak and tulip poplar.
Milepost 275 – Dogwood Valley: This easy 15 minute stroll passes through a small valley with an unusual stand of large dogwood trees. It was beautiful in fall, but I sure would love to see this when they’re blooming! You will also tred on a part of the Old Trace here where many years of foot, horse and wagon travel have been worn into the Sunken Trace, as well as on old logging road.
Definitely do not miss this 5 minute walk down a portion of the Old Trace that takes you to the gravesites of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers. It’s a beautiful path and even though I knew what was coming, I still caught my breath when I came upon this sight:
From info sign:
Were they some of Shiloh’s wounded who retreated here in 1862 to die beside the Natchez Trace? Did they serve under the daring General Nathan Forest who passed this way in 1864? Or were they guarding the Tupelo headquarters of J.B. Hood’s Army of Tennessee near the end of the Civil War? We may never know. Tradition holds that the unknown graves in front of you belong to Confederate soldiers who marched and camped along this stretch of the Old Trace. Perhaps they died of wounds, or the lingering hunger, poverty and sickness in the army camps. Their simple grave markers face backwards – toward the Trace – so travelers might read and remember. The original grave markers may have borne names, but they disappeared long ago. In 1940 Senator Theodore Bilbo arranged for marble headstones, but they were stolen. The National Park Service erected the headstones now in place.
Milepost 259.7 – Tupelo, MS: Exit the Trace here onto Mississippi Highway 6 (Main Street). I actually passed this exit and went 20 miles further up to stay at Davis Lake Campground in Tombigbee National Forest. Maybe a bit more inconvenient to come back to explore Tupelo, but it turned out to be one of my favorite campgrounds ever.
The Tupelo National Battlefield is here on Main Street, but it’s a pretty small park on Main Street and not much to see here.
Elvis Presley Birthplace: Here you can tour the two-room shotgun house built by his father where Elvis was born in 1935, attend a Pentecostal church service where Elvis fell in love with gospel music, review important milestones in his life, read memories from people who knew him then and go through the museum with other memorabilia.
Elvis Presley Lake Campground – When I was here in November, 2014, it was just getting ready to open again after being closed since April 28, 2014 when an EF-3 tornado severely damaged the lake, buildings and campground. I had an interesting visit with the rangers and got some good before and after pictures.
Milepost 266 – Tupelo Visitors Center: This is the main headquarters and visitors center for the Natchez Trace. Let the short film and exhibits introduce you to the people who lived around or traveled the Old Trace, its interesting history and uses up to present day.
Milepost 232 – Bynum Mounds: A short stroll will take you past sites and signs with information on the Indians who inhabited this area, the trade route and the varied objects found here.
There are a couple of other spots where you can pull over and walk parts of the Old Trace and learn more about its history and uses. Here they tell about how Congress established a postal route road from Nashville to Natchez in 1800 along what had been a series of Indian trails. By the mid 1830’s, steamboats replaced the Trace of its use as a main post road.