Lesson Plan

Something Old and Something New

Map of the Natchez Trace Parkway
NPS Photo


On seven maps from 1816 to the present, small groups of students will compare and contrast the areas surrounding the Natchez Trace Parkway and answer questions about the maps. The students will compare and contrast maps of varying age, detail and accuracy. They will draw on the maps to locate features. They will compare and contrast the growth of an area, using different maps. Review how to locate features on a map prior to the lesson.


Enduring Understanding: Maps can help us understand how a society has changed over time.

Essential Question: How does the Trace differ today form how it was 200 years ago?

The students will be able to:

1) Use a variety of maps to compare and contrast the development of a trade route.

2) Use maps to compare and contrast the changes in populated areas.


The Natchez Trace has existed for a very long time. It is widely believed that its beginnings lay with the formation of prehistoric animal trails. Naturally, when American Indians entered the area, they found it easier to hunt and move about on established trails. As Europeans entered the area, they utilized the trails established by the American Indians. The Natchez Trace was an important route for the return of traders who had carried their goods via river to sell in the Old Southwest capital of Natchez. Their return route was actually a network of trails that followed a general direction along a fairly centralized route. As time wore on, the soils along the trails compacted thus creating areas of "sunken trace". The Natchez Trace became a federal postal route in 1800. After the steamboat came into popular usage in about 1820, the popularity of the Natchez Trace declined as a northward return pathway. In the early 1900s the Natchez Trace was recognized as an important historic feature of our country. The Daughters of the American Revolution pushed for public recognition and erected markers in each county of Mississippi commemorating the most important trade route of the Old Southwest. In 1934, the U.S. Congress legislated investigating the establishment of the Natchez Trace Parkway as a National Parkway. Established as a unit of the National Park Service, construction began in 1938. The roadway was completed in 2005.


1.) Instructions

2.) Worksheet

3.) Answer to Challenge Activity

4.) Maps

5.) Green, red, and purple colored pencils


Student Task: Divide the students into groups and hand them the instruction sheet, copies of the maps and the worksheet. Be sure that they understand that the brown lines on the topography map indicate levels of elevation, the roads are in red and black (often dashes), and the red shaded areas are the city boundaries and that the small black squares indicate buildings.

Student Instruction:

1. Locate the Natchez Trace on each of your maps. Use a green colored pencil to "trace" the Natchez Trace.

2. Locate Jackson, Mississippi on the 1873 map and using a red colored pencil draw a small circle around the city of Jackson. Do the same for the 1852 map, the 1842 map, and the 1822 map. Jackson is not on the 1816 map. Using the 1822 map for comparison, look for the Pearl River and the Big Black River. Look for the 32nd parallel. Using your best judgment, draw a circle where you think Jackson should be.

3. Now look at the modern map of the Natchez Trace Parkway and locate Clinton, MS on the south west side of Jackson. Please be sure you note the compass rose so you know which direction is north.

4. Now look at the Clinton, MS topography map from 1980. Draw a rectangle on the Natchez Trace map that represents the area covered by the Clinton topography map.

5. Using the 2009 aerial photography map, compare the area growth in the Clinton area along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Using a purple colored pencil, indicate areas of new city growth in the Clinton area.

6. Answer the questions on the worksheet

Teacher Closure: Review the correct answers. Ask the students what they could imagine mapping and maps could be like 100 years from now.


Correct completion of the activity.

Park Connections

Shows the students how the Natchez Trace has changed throughout history.


1.) Visit the Natchez Trace Parkway to see a portion of what they were mapping.

2.) Have the students write to their local, state or national archives or historic society and find out if they can find additional maps that represent other periods of history.


Horizontal, diagonal, vertical