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The Natchez Trace is one of the most important historical forest trails in the United States. The Natchez Trace is full of prehistoric North American and modern American history. It is a trail with rich Native American history that goes back for centuries, and it speaks of the history of early American expansion into the Old Southwest. Along the way, one can discover the trail's sunken roads as well as the ancient Native mounds.

The Natchez Trace is one of the top historical attractions in the state of Mississippi (Mississippi is also the cheapest state in the United States to visit). It is also home to the shortest national scenic trail, The Natchez Trace. It is only 64 miles long in different segments (most of the national scenic trails are many hundred or thousands of miles long).

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The Rich Native American History Of The Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace runs from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, and it links the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi Rivers. The trail passes through what are today three states (Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee). It was built by Native Americans who moved and traded throughout this region.

It is a long trail that stretches some 440 miles (or 710 km).

  • Length: 440 Miles (or 710 Km)
  • Route: Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi
  • Links: Cumberland, Tennessee, Mississippi Rivers
  • Make: Hundreds of Years Ago

Some of the most historically significant peoples who lived along the Natchez Trace were the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and the Natchez. These American Indian nations established the trail hundreds of years ago. They used it for travel and trade over a period of centuries.

  • Native American Nations: Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez

The Chickasaw people lived in the northernmost region that the trail ran through, the Choctaw populated the central region, and the Natchez were situated at the southern end.

If one would like to learn about the history, culture, struggles, and more of these American Indian tribes, one can visit the websites of the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation, as well as the people of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Related: Trail of Tears National Historic Trail: Remembering The Dark Days of The Past

European And Settler Era Of The Natchez Trace

As the European Americans started to expand and spread over the North American continent, they were quick to make use of the trail. American explorers, emigrants, and traders used the trail from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries.

  • European American History: Particularly Between The Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries
  • Stands: Inns Along The Natchez Trace

Today one can retrace some of the histories with the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Natchez Trace Trail. One can learn about the various inns (called "stands") that sprung up to serve the American expansion and use of the trail. These stands served food and lodging to travelers along the forest trail.

The trail served as a link to the growing population of the Old Southwest.

  • Decline: By The Rise of Steamboats

Before steamboats, the current of the Mississippi River was so strong that it was difficult to make trips up the river - it was easier to go by land. In time, the rise of steamboats on the Mississippi River eroded the trail's importance as a national road. It became cheaper, easier, and quicker to move goods by river. Additionally, other roads were developed that further took traffic away from the Natchez Trace.

Related: Museum of the Plains Indian & How Horses Transformed Society

Historical Sites Along The Natchez Trace

Today only parts of the original trail are accessible - some of it is located along the Natchez Trace Trail. The National Park Service preserves the trail, including a number of important sites along the way. Some of these important sites are:

  • Emerald Mound: 8 Acres, Built By Hand, 10 Miles From Natchez & Second Largest Mississippian Period Mound In The USA (After Cohakia)
  • Sacred Mound Sites: There Are Six Mound Sites Along The Parkway
  • Gordon House: Dating From 1812 The House of John Gordon Who Went To Fight The Red Stick Creek Indians
  • Meriwether Lewis Site: See The Meriwether Lewis National Monument
  • The Stands: There Are Still A Few Stands (Inns) Built From The 1790s to the 1840s

Next time in the South, take the time to explore the incredible history of one of the country's oldest trails. See the ancient mounds as well (which were built basket by basket).