The First Americans Tour
DAY 1 NATCHEZ
Natchez is best known for its collection of antebellum homes, but the city’s history reaches further back than the Old South. The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians served as the center of civilization for the Natchez tribe from AD 1200 to 1729. The Natchez Indians vanished following hostile encounters with French settlers in the 1730s. Excavated nearly two centuries later, the Grand Village encompasses a ceremonial plaza, burial mounds and museum. Before leaving Natchez, take time to tour some of the city’s antebellum homes and enjoy Natchez Under the Hill, a colorful area of shops, restaurants and casino gaming.
DAY 2 NATCHEZ TO JACKSON 103 miles
Travel northeast on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic route first “traced out” by buffalo, then followed by Indians, traders and early pioneers. Historic markers along the way recount the Trace’s romantic history. First stop is Emerald Mound, the second largest Indian mound in the United States. This eight-acre, ceremonial earthen structure was built around 1400 by ancestors of the Creek, Choctaw and Natchez Indians. The Emerald Mound is truly a site to behold. Artifacts found at nearby Mangum Mound offer a glimpse into the daily life of the first Mississippians. Follow the Parkway to Jackson, Mississippi’s capital city, and enjoy a tour of the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry/National Agricultural Aviation Museum, a tribute to Mississippi’s agricultural heritage. The Fitzgerald Collection Building near the gallery houses a large display of ancient arrowheads. Your next stop is the Old Capitol State Historical Museum, where exhibits recount the history of government in the state.
DAY 3 JACKSON TO RIDGELAND 5 miles
RIDGELAND TO PHILADELPHIA 72 miles
PHILADELPHIA TO TUPELO 123 miles
Total - 200 miles
Pick up the Natchez Trace north of Jackson and stop by the Mississippi Crafts Center, which displays work by the members of the Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild, including Choctaw Indian baskets, jewelry, moccasins and clothing. Follow the scenic Trace as it hugs an eight-mile section of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, then leave the Parkway headed east for Philadelphia. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians have made their home here since before recorded time. According to Indian legend, the entire Choctaw nation was born at the Nanih Waiya Historic Site, an ancient area marked by ceremonial mounds and a sacred cave 20 miles north of Philadelphia. The 35,000-acre Choctaw Indian reservation is a self-contained city, with schools, hospital and industries. The reservation’s Museum of the Southern Choctaw details the tribe’s history. July’s annual Choctaw Indian Fair showcases Choctaw culture, with traditional dancing, crafts, food and stickball games. The Choctaw’s most spectacular venue, the Pearl River Resort, offers two casinos and luxury hotels, gourmet dining, award-winning golf courses, and the beaches, waves and waterfalls of Geyser Falls Water Theme Park. Return to the Trace via Louisville, exploring historical sites en route to Tupelo, which is headquarters for the Natchez Trace Parkway, but best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
DAY 4 TUPELO TO HOLLY SPRINGS 60 miles
HOLLY SPRINGS TO GREENWOOD 110 miles
Total - 170 miles
Today, head west to Holly Springs, home to more than 60 antebellum homes and churches. Enjoy a driving tour of the architecture on your way to the Marshall County Historical Museum, where exhibits include Chickasaw artifacts and prehistoric fossils. Onward to Greenwood—the Delta city named in honor of Greenwood Leflore, principal mediator for the Choctaws in the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit.
DAY 5 GREENWOOD TO GREENVILLE 53 miles
GREENVILLE TO CLEVELAND 36 miles
Total - 89 miles
Begin your day with a tour of Cottonlandia Museum, which recounts the history of the Mississippi Delta from the Ice Age to today and includes exhibits on Native American pottery and prehistoric fossils. Next stop is the Winterville Indian Mounds State Park and Museum near Greenville, which encompasses 15 earthen structures, including a six-story ceremonial temple mound. Native American women built these enormous earthen structures one basketful of earth at a time. Wrap up your journey with a visit to Delta State University in Cleveland. The campus’ Museum of Natural History displays fossils, skeletal remains and other Native American artifacts.