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6 Surprising Facts about The Natchez Trace Parkway

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The Natchez Trace is much older than the state of Mississippi and the United States even. Hang around as long as the Trace has and you’re bound to have some interesting facts in the background.

1. It’s believed the Trace was originally formed by bison.

It’s true. Historians believe that thousands of years ago the trace was formed by herds of bison and other large animals traveling from watering holes like the Mississippi River in Natchez to the salt licks found in the Nashville area. The large animal herds were able to blaze a trail by breaking up the undergrowth long before Native Americans used it for travel.

buffalo in the field

A bison at the local Tupelo Buffalo Park & Zoo.

2. You won’t see a single 18-wheeler, dump truck, or other commercial vehicle.

As opposed to other major thoroughfares and highways, the Natchez Trace Parkway doesn’t allow any commercial traffic on the road. That means no 18-wheelers hogging up a lane or dump trucks spilling rocks or debris. You may not notice how much better the driving experience can be until you drive it yourself.

 

3. You also won’t find any stop signs or stoplights. 

The Trace stretches 444-miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, TN, and you don’t have to stop a single time along the way. All incoming and outgoing traffic along the Parkway is through on and off-ramps, so it’s smooth sailing the whole way through.

 

4. The entire Trace is also designated as a bike route.

You don’t have to be in a car or on a motorcycle to enjoy the beauty of the Natchez Trace Parkway. After all, the entire Parkway is technically one large bike route as well. The Trace is one of the most beautiful and bike-friendly roads you’ll ever find, with signage throughout alerting drivers to share the road with those who would rather peddle than push the gas.

elderly man riding bicycle

 

5. If something seems a bit off when you’re driving, it’s probably the lack of advertisements.

When you live in a world that’s constantly flooding you with advertisements, whether it’s on your morning commute to work or any time you open up your phone, the Trace can be a bit strange at first. You might not be able to put your finger on just what exactly is different about this road, aside from all the gorgeous scenery, until it hits you that no one is trying to sell you a burger at the next exit or get you to retain their services as your next attorney.

In short, no ads, period. No billboards. No utility poles. No one spinning a sign at the side of the road to get you to come do your taxes. You’ll see an occasional small sign for the Trace alerting you to restrooms or where the next scenic overlook is, but otherwise it’s just fresh air, open views, the occasional deer or fox, and a nice break from the day-to-day ad-barrage.

 

6. Some of the historical sites on the Trace are thousands of years old.

Long before the United States of America was formed, Native American tribes used the Natchez Trace as a path and established many settlements along the way. Tupelo was home to the Chickasaw tribe, and the Choctaw and Natchez tribes used the Trace as well.

The Pharr Mounds, located near Tupelo, is a complex of eight dome shaped burial mounds believed to have been made between the years 1-200 A.D.

native american mounds

Pictured here are the Pharr Mounds. (Photo from the National Parks Service/Natchez Trace Parkway)

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