November, 2014 – Here’s info on the attractions I saw in the Mileposts 300 range of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
I decided to stay here for my first few nights on the Trace. Definitely not a fancy resort (which I don’t care about anyway), but it turned out to be a lovely stay and base from which to explore the stops I passed by on the way if I couldn’t easily stop in the motorhome.
Milepost 391.9 – Fall Hollow Waterfall – Right up the road from the campground is an easy trail to this viewing platform for Fall Hollow Waterfall, but it’s not easy to get a clear shot of it due to dense vegetation. Past here the trail continues, but is rougher.
I appreciated being able to get up close and personal with this little one.
Here the sign informs us that “Great care was taken to identify the grave…to make doubly sure the grave was re-opened and the upper portion of the skeleton examined and such evidence found as to leave no doubt of the place of interment.” (Map)
Site and ruins of the Grinder House, where Meriwether Lewis met his death on the night of Oct. 11, 1809.
I thought this was an interesting article in Roadtreking: “The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis Along the Natchez Trace” which says that evidence exists that leads most historians to conclude that Lewis’ wounds were self-inflicted, and many who knew Lewis believed he had committed suicide. But some accounts dated 1848 and later suggest that Lewis may have been murdered. The debate by Lewis and Clark historians continues to this day but there seems to be no consensus.
There are a few Old Trace trails nearby with info:
“This plainly visible, though long deserted road is a section of the Natchez Trace, evolved from buffalo and Indian trails, into the first national highway of the southwest, cut and opened under authority of the United States Government, after treaties negotiated with the Chickasaw and the Choctaw Indians, in 1801.
Designed to meet early necessities of trade between Nashville and the Country of the Lower Mississippi, it is an abiding footprint of the bold, crude commerce of the pioneers; yet it is not without military significance in the history of our country. Over it passed a part of Andrew Jackson’s army in his campaign against the Creek Indians in 1813, and again on his return from the Battlefield of New Orleans in 1815.
But, before Talledega and New Orleans – before the soldiers of Jackson had given renown to the Natchez Trace, it received its immortal touch of melancholy fame when Meriwether Lewis…here met his untimely death on the night of Oct. 11, 1809.”
Milepost 386 – Meriwether Lewis Campground – It was too cold, low on propane and I was too comfortable at Fall Hollow Campground to stay here, but I was pretty impressed with how nice this campground is – very easy to maneuver around with large sites and beautiful trees.
Don’t miss Yoder’s Homestead Market! Just five minutes from this campground is this Amish market a friend told me about and I’ll always be grateful to them for this tip. Amazing homemade bread, cheeses, deli meats, fresh eggs, candies – all kinds of neat stuff from soup to nuts!
Milepost 383 – Metal Ford – Travelers crossed the Buffalo River here; an ironworks and McLish’s stand were nearby. It’s a short 5 minute walk to this beautiful spot, so don’t miss the chance for these little strolls off the main Parkway.
Milepost 375.8 – Old Trace Drive The 2½ mile path follows the original Trace route and you can drive on it in a small car.
Milepost 370 – Shiloh National Military Park (TN) – Site of the bloody April 1862 Civil War battle. Even though this was over 20 miles from the Parkway, I could not resist a detour to visit this Civil War battlefield. I wanted to have plenty enough time to see everything, so I stayed at Pickwick Landing State Park Campground for a few days for this purpose.
I spent 3 days touring this area and still could have used more time. I was incredibly moved and emotional, being teary-eyed a lot of times during my walks among these monuments and now-peaceful trails once booming with cannon and gunfire. See my separate pages Shiloh Battlefield and Shiloh National Cemetery with details and more pics.
Milepost 338 – Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall (AL) – This was my favorite stop along the entire Trace – I was completely enchanted. It is the largest memorial to a Native American woman in the United States and each stone was laid individually and with love by the great-great-grandson of Te-lah-nay, Tom Hendrix. He started this tribute over 30 years ago and it was his intent to lay a stone to honor every step she had to make to return to her beloved Alabama homeland after being removed to Oklahoma during the infamous Trail of Tears.
February 2017 update: I was sad to hear of the death of Tom Hendrix, but rejoice in his reunion with his beloved great-great grandmother. I did this tribute to him on my blog: Wichahpi Washanee. I am more grateful than ever that I was able to meet this remarkable man and get a personal tour of what he created here.
Milepost 330 – Rock Spring Nature Trail (AL) – short 1/2 mile trail to natural spring bubbling from ground:The sign said to allow about 20 minutes for this self guided nature trail, but there is such beauty and benches for resting spots, don’t cheat yourself on time here.
Nearby at Milepost 327 is the site of the old Colbert Ferry (AL) – A ferry operated from 1800 to 1819, famous for charging Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his Tennessee Army across the Tennessee river.
Milepost 320 – Florence – Tuscumbia, AL: For this portion of the Trace, I stayed at McFarland City Park Campground in Florence and I was grateful for the friend who told me about this great city park so convenient to the Trace.
This was a great stop where I truly enjoyed watching the barges traverse the Tennessee River. One morning, I looked outside my bedroom window when the sun was rising and caught this one stopped alongside the campground – a very special treat!
I enjoyed visiting Florence – here are a few stops I made:
The oldest building in town, originally built in the early 1800s, Pope’s Tavern served as a tavern, then a private home, now a museum. At one time during the Civil War, it served as a hospital for wounded from both sides. I heard that it was haunted (Southern Spirit Guide), so that sealed the trip for me. Can’t say I felt anything weird, nor did I catch any orbs in my pictures, but I enjoyed the visit anyway.
Seeing these pictures on the wall there was the first I had heard of the Forks of Cypress ruins, so I had to make a trip out there after hearing just the columns remained standing after it was burned down in 1966. For 150 years before, it was one of the earliest mansions built in Alabama and one of the few in the South with columns surrounding the entire body of the house.
Info sign: The Forks of Cypress plantation was established in 1818 by James and Sarah Jackson. This home, believed the design of William Nichols, was one of Alabama’s great houses, featuring perhaps the earliest peristyle colonnades in America. Built by skilled African-American artisans in slavery, the Forks stood until June 6, 1966, when it was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. Its surrounding brick porch with twenty-three brick columns – once plastered with a mix of lime, horsehair and molasses and topped by cypress ionic capitals – remains on limestone foundations. The site is on private property, but ruins can be seen from the road.
Regions Bank in downtown Florence is an accurate replica of the Forks of Cypress.
Also in Florence is the Indian Mound and Museum. This prehistoric mound was probably built between 100 B.C. and 400 A.D. by a prehistoric people of the ancient Woodland Culture It is the highest domiciliary mound in the Tennessee Valley. Such mounds served as bases for ceremonial temples or chief’s houses. Evidence indicates that nearby there were two smaller mounds, villages and cultivated fields. You’ll see no evidence of that nowadays when you climb to the top – just some rather ugly industrial lots.
Settled in 1816, Helen Keller’s birthplace, but timing never worked out for me to visit there.
This is Cold Water Falls at Spring Park – the world’s largest man-made natural stone waterfall at 80′ wide and 48′ tall.
To the side of the falls is this monument, “Sacred Tears” with the following excerpt:
“Tuscumbia…played an integral part in the ‘Trail of Tears’ – In 1825, the U.S. government formally adopted a removal policy which was carried out extensively in the 1830’s. The result was particularly overwhelming for the Indians of the southwest. While some resisted removal by escaping, each tribe suffered numerous hardships, battles and deaths. In all, some 90,000 Indians were relocated to the West, while thousands died along the trail.
Creek Indians began to pass through Tuscumbia on their way west as early as 1827. Generally, the Indians were treated well in Tuscumbia. The newspaper reported that the citizens felt ‘sympathy and general admiration’ for the Cherokees. A Creek chief, Chilly McIntosh, described their stay here as, ‘The citizens of Tuscumbia have treated us like brothers, and our helpless women were furnished by the good women of the town with clothing…As long as our nation remains upon this earth, we will recollect Tuscumbia.’ Nov. 30, 1827.”
Milepost 317 – Freedom Hills Overlook (AL): Highest point on the Trace at 800′ above sea level. I was pretty disappointed at the end of this paved, all-uphill trek. There was no expansive view to be seen when I was there.
Milepost 304.5 – Tishomingo State Park (MS): I heard good things about this park, but timing didn’t work out for a visit here this time.
When I was here, there was about a 10 mile portion of the Trace that was closed for maintenance, but as far as I could tell, I was still able to see the attractions off side roads.
NPS Website Page with details on attractions for this section through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.