Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meriwether Lewis on the Natchez Trace

One of the nicest drives to see fall color near Nashville is along the Natchez Trace Parkway.  The Parkway is operated by the National Park Service and consists of a two-lane scenic byway connecting Nashville to Natchez Mississippi, a distance of 444 miles.      This stretch of “road” is not new.  Originally, it was hunting paths for local Indians.  Later, the French and Spanish used the paths as they explored into the interior of the continent.  Andrew Jackson used the old trace road to move his troops to New Orleans during the War of 1812.  We probably best associate the Natchez Trace with the farmers who floated there crops down the Mississippi River to Natchez.  Since they sold everything they brought, included the flatboat, they had to walk or ride a horse back north.  This was their “road”.

Along the length of the Parkway are numerous turnouts to overlooks and scenic vistas, historic landmarks, campgrounds, and trailheads for hikers and horses.  The Meriwether Lewis Site is one of these features and is located at mile marker 385.9, about 60 miles south of the northern terminus at Nashville.  That was our destination for today.

Meriwether Lewis, in 1809, was on his way to Washington, DC when he stopped over for the night at Grinder’s Stand.  The Grinder family ran a small inn for trace travelers.  During the night, Lewis was shot.  There is much controversy, and the case is still a mystery, as to who fired the shot that killed Lewis.  He was buried near the Grinder Stand.  Near the middle of the 1800s, a monument was placed at the gravesite to commemorate this great man of American history.  The Grinder’s inn no longer exists, but a small 2-room cabin similar to other cabins of the period along the Trace has been erected and houses a small museum.

The Meriwether Lewis site also has a campground.  We did the grand tour and are pleased to report that it will accommodate large rigs.  There are several back-in sites and several of the semi-circular pull-thru sites.  It is a campground of the National Park type--lots of trees and no hook-ups.  However, it is free, as are the other campgrounds located along the Parkway.

We were not disappointed in our drive along the parkway.  The fall color, though past its peak, was still fabulous on this overcast day.

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