Along the Mississippi and the Natchez Trail

8 May

Leaving New Orleans behind we drove over one of the longest road bridges inP1120995 the US. Crossing Lake Pontachtrain on a grey morning it delivered us to the north shore  and a campground there to take a couple of days rest after our busy days as tourists in the big city.
Recuperated we made our way north following the mighty Mississippi river, we could however only snatch glimpses of it as it is safely tucked away behind the levee’s.

We did stop for lunch at one of the very large locks which allow the P1130010barges to travel down river towards the port of New Orleans. We were lucky enough to be able to see the boat in the lock as we passed over the bridge, you are not allowed to stop on the bridge so this quick shot was taken as we passed by.

We made our way to Vidalia on the Louisiana side of the river, to enable us to visit the town of Natchez on the Mississippi side. We stayed at Riverview RV Park ,a lovely P1130027 campground overlooking the Mississippi and just below the bridge, with easy access to the river walk for an evening stroll. Unfortunately there were rather a lot of insects flying around while we were there so the air conditioning came into its own as the temperature fell little below 75 degrees overnight.

In the years before the Civil War Vidalia was a Cotton farming area, however on the lower bank of the river it regularly flooded, to avoid disaster the well to do farmers built grand homes on the Mississippi bank in Natchez and moved there at times of bad weather. Natchez became an elegant and prosperous City. Many of its beautiful homes still exist, after stopping at the visitor centre we took ourselves on a walking tour of the streets.
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Huge magnolia trees line many of the streets and the scent of white jasmine was constantly in the air, lovely for me….. it made Robert sneeze!

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This three tier fountain in the Memorial Gardens(it stood about 20ft tall) was a pleasant cool spot under the trees not only for us to stop and enjoy but while I waited for Robert to take the pictures I watched as birds flitted in and out of the water catching insects and taking a drink.



P1130085On the outer edge of town the National Park owns Melrose, a beautiful Greek revival style house presently undergoing some major restoration work. In the grounds the slave quarters and other outbuildings were open for viewing giving a view into the life of those who once lived there.

A big part of Mississippi both then and now is Cotton and to get a better understanding of this fibre we know so well, but so little about, we visited the Frogmore Plantation to the west of Vidalia. The original Plantation house is still occupied
by its present day owners who have gathered together from acrossP1130087 the State both buildings and artefacts to display the history of this plantation and cotton too.

This old building houses the cotton gin and press


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Small wooden buildings like this were P1130107the home for 6 to 8 slaves who worked on the farm, the overseer had much grander abode, but called the Dogtrot!!

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Inside were displayed all manner of things from the lives of these people, the P1130103one which fascinated me most being this early washing machine. I am sure I could make use of this if we could just fit it in one of haRVey’s lockers.

We were shown two films narrated by the present owners, the first an excellent P1130102explanation of historical facts about the cotton plantations and the slaves. The second by her husband gave an insight to modern farming of cotton and it uses. In all an informative and entertaining place to visit and learn.

While in the Natchez visitor centre we had discovered information about the Natchez

Trace Parkway. In the mid 1800’s Flat bottom boats would float down the Mississippi river taking all manner of commodities to New Orleans. The strong flow of water prohibited these powerless vessels from returning up P1130137 stream so they would be sold or broken up leaving their owners in need of a  method to return north. Natchez was easily accessible due to goods being delivered there for the cotton farms, from there to Tennessee or Illinois was more difficult, a trail used by Indians became a walkway for their return journey.

Today a tarmac road criss crosses the old pathway, not destroying it but as part of its preservation. No commercial vehicles are allowed on the parkway, leaving the woodland and verges free of signage and pollution. The road runsP1130134 over 400miles from Natchez in the south to Nashville in the north, we decided we could take a ride in that direction. Vicksburg around 70 miles north was the next place we wanted to stop and this would be a good route for us.  Our first 20 miles on the parkway took us to Natchez State Park campground for the night and those twenty miles were enough of an insight into the beauty of the road to get us hooked!

Our first stop next morning was the Emerald Mound, an ancient Indian P1130108ceremonial ‘construction’. A natural hill was developed with earthworks to form a flat topped  mound some 50ft high. We climbed the steps to the top and viewed the smaller mound a short way off and wondered about the ceremonies performed here. We later learned burials were amongst them.

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After this we drove to mile marker 15.5 and stopped to visit the Mount Locust P1130127property. What was once a small farm became a regular stopping place for the increasing travellers on the trace and eventually the family prospered with the development of an Inn and the production of Cotton on the farm. Not like the grand house of Natchez, this was a true working plantation and seemingly quite rustic.
With temperatures around 90degrees Fahrenheit  in the daytime (30 C) , and not dropping much below 75 (24 C) at night, we have been glad of the air conditioning in haRVey to use this however we need a power supply, the National Park Campgrounds do not have have hook ups, but, they are free…

After a lovely mornings driving the very quiet road and lulled by the beauty of the surroundings we made the decision to stay at the Rocky Springs Campground. It was 87 degrees but we were in the shade of the tallest of trees so hoped we would cool down naturally and not miss our air conditioning!

We took a trail from the campground  towards the ruins of the old town site, this would take us along parts of the original trace – this sign got us thinking! we appeared to be the only ones along the wooded walk, it was P1130156serenely quiet, I spotted a great horned owl, spying on us from a branch, he was huge, and myfirst sighting of a real owl. We disturbed a small herd of deer who took off into deeper woodland and all the while the numerous birds chirped and called around us.

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Back at the campground we melted away the evening waiting for the temperature to reduce and as darkness fell were mesmerized watching fireflies dancing in the dusk and on into dark. Like little sparks from a fire they darted all around us and we were pleased we had kept the windows open to view their entertainment.

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2 Responses to “Along the Mississippi and the Natchez Trail”

  1. Susan May 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    nice set up Elaine- I like that I can get notified by email whenever you post a new blog entry. Cool.

  2. Susan May 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Hi there,
    I love the new blog page- the layout is great. I also like the fact that I can subscribe to it so I’ll know when you post something new. Thats pretty cool-
    see you on the road-

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