CHICKASAW COUNTY – Of the hundreds of markers and sites on the Natchez Trace, the National Park Service Director picked Bynum Mounds.
Jon Jarvis toured the Trace last week flying into Tupelo where he visited the Natchez Trace Parkway headquarters and then motored on to Mississippi State University to speak with students about how the National Park System and American values intermingle.
“The Natchez Trace shaped this part of our country, and the people who lived along it and used it shaped the Trace,” said Jarvis. “I feel fortunate to be able to see this great parkway.”
Bynum Mounds is a Middle Woodland period burial mound site located at milepost 232.4 in eastern Chickasaw County. The site consisted of six mounds, five of which were excavated in the 1940′s.
Two of the largest mounds have been restored. Interpretive exhibits tell the story of early residents of the Natchez Trace.
Jarvis said while the Trace is not a unique parkway, there will probably never be another parkway built in the United States.
“You have the Blue Ridge Parkway and several smaller routes but nothing as steeped in history as the Natchez Trace,” said Jarvis. “This really is a beautiful park that tell so much about the culture and people is passes through.”
The Trace was completed in 1938 as part of a massive federal work project known as the WPA that helped pull the nation out of the Great Depression.
“With land costs for right-of-way what they are, I don’t see it happening again,” he explained. “It is getting harder and harder to even put together long-distance trails.”
The Trace serves as a vital link between Chickasaw County and Tupelo and Jarvis said maintaining that route – and the Trace’s entire 444 miles of roadway – is not an easy task.
“Funding to repair the Trace is controlled by the federal government and we do have a plan to maintain the Trace,” said Jarvis. “All the national parks have a big maintenance backlog. We need Congress to pass a federal highway bill.”
Jarvis’ trip down the Natchez Trace kicked off the parkway’s 75th anniversary.
The parkway, which spans from Natchez to Nashville, has about 180 employees.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a quiet, clean, limited-access drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history.
Used by American Indians, settlers and future presidents, the Old Trace played an important role in American history. Today, visitors can enjoy a scenic drive and also hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping. All of those activities can be enjoyed on the segment of the Trace passing through Chickasaw County.
Jarvis said he was doing informal inspections of the Trace as he was en route to Tupelo, Houston and then Starkville. He had good reports regarding maintenance, signs, the welcome center and the wayside exhibits.
“The Natchez Trace is probably one of the best kept secrets in the National Park system,” said Jarvis. “This really is an incredible national treasure and more people need to travel it.”
Jarvis also said communities along the Trace need to embrace it and use it to their advantage, both recreationally and economically.
“These mounds are evidence that the Natchez Trace has been used by humans for thousands of years,” said Jarvis. “The trails and paths they used were important to them. The parkway, as it stands now, is still just as important to us today.”