The Natchez Trace Parkway winds its way 450 miles through Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee -- from Natchez, Mississippi on the Mississippi River up to Nashville, Tennessee on the Cumberland River in central Tennessee, one of the most scenic and often visited national parks in America, the Natchez Trace spans 5 degrees of latitude and cuts its way through 100,000 years of life on earth.

The following is an excerpt from Natchez Trace: A Road Through the Wilderness Introduction and History Tape and THE JOURNEY

How would you like to travel along one of the oldest roads in the world?

It's a long journey -- a journey that reaches back in geologic time where you'll see hundreds of thousands of years of activity during the last ice age as loess the windblown soil carried from far to the west is deposited along the eastern banks of the Mississippi River, and you'll see the beauty of nature springing from its richness.

It's a long journey -- a journey that spans tens of thousands of years following the beasts of the wilderness and well over 10,000 years of human activity. You'll see Indian temple mounds, and Indian village sites that existed as long ago as 8000 BC and used not just for days or weeks or years. Their use spanned far beyond the decades or the centuries; some of theses sites were occupied by human beings long before the building of the ancient pyramids of Egypt and used over thousands of years.

It's a long journey -- a journey that will take you through the struggle of a colony to pull itself out of the wilderness to become a great nation built upon the ruins of great nations -- a journey with ties to Indian tribes, and the French, and the Spanish, and the British -- along a national road that flourished before the time of steamboats and carried settlers and preachers, post riders and travelers, warriors and armies -- a road that linked a new nation with its outpost beyond the long and treacherous wilderness.

It's a long journey -- a journey of pioneers through the woodlands and of pioneers onboard flatboats and keel boats and pioneers onboard the steamboats that ushered in the era of "King Cotton." You'll see this vital road wither and die in the era of riverboat travel. And even as the steamboats themselves begin their historic part of the long journey the flow of the mighty river where they ride is disturbed by other powerful forces of nature, forces so great that church bells in cities over a thousand miles distant rang to announce natures re-awakening, forces great enough to make the mighty river itself run backward to create a huge new lake.

And you'll see it for yourself, not over a television or on a movie screen but on a screen that spans the ages and spans the countryside. And as you look at the land and the historic sites and buildings, you'll begin to find your place in the ever changing world of nature and its peaceful, sometimes violent struggle between the water and the land, between the land and trees and plants and animals -- and man.

I'm inviting you to take a trip with me, to travel on one of America's most amazing and historical roadways stretching 450 miles between Natchez, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee, spanning almost 5 degrees of latitude. It's known today as the Natchez Trace Parkway and is commemorated as a part of our National Park System. I say take this trip with me because I'm a fellow traveler, and I want to show you some of the things that I've seen along the way and that others discovered long before I did. As a vacation trip this will take you from as little as a few days to over a week or more, depending on your pace and how many side excursions you choose to take. If you'll take the journey with me I promise you that it will change the way you view the world around you, forever. It may even change the way that you perceive yourself. This isn't a hype tape or a self help tape. It's a journey: a journey in time.

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[The Journey]

Introduction and History Text
Copyright © 1994 Franklin W. Thomas


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