The Road Through the Old SouthwestPeople have walked the Natchez Trace for thousands of years. Choctaw, Chickasaw, Natchez and other American Indians traveled long distances through the southern pine and hardwood forests via a network of northeast/southwest trails.
In the Late 1700s, the Trace gained a new importance among the American settlers of the Ohio River Valley. Farmers, known as Kaintucks, transported products to market on wooden flatboats. The men floated down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to the ports of Natchez and New Orleans. There the Kaintucks sold the farm goods and, because they couldn't float back upriver, sold the flatboats for lumber. Then they set out on the Natchez Trace on foot or horseback, covering hundreds of miles on the journey home.
The Trace was not a single path, but many interconnected paths within a wide corridor. You can still see places where the old route is obvious--deeply sunken portions of the trail tramped down by millions of footsteps home. It was a dangerous journey; extreme weather conditions, disease, or accidents could incapacitate of kill you. If you had enough money, you could get food, drink and crude lodging at stand, or inn. By the mid-1820s steamboats made travel upriver a far quicker way home than traveling by foot on the Natchez Trace. The Natchez Trace soon became obsolete.
To learn more about the history of the Natchez Trace area check out the History and Culture page on the Natchez Trace Parkway website.
Please remember, it is a violation of federal law to disturb or remove any artifact from park lands. Learn what to do if you find an artifact!
Last updated: January 13, 2021