- SPEED AND SIGHT DISTANCE. As you enter the parkway, keep in mind that you are entering a park and that you share the road with other park visitors. Though the roadway provides access to sites within the park, and some communities use the roadway as a commuter road, the pavement is designed for leisurely travel. The lanes are narrower than lanes on modern highways, and there are no paved shoulders. The park pavement is often shared with cyclists, hikers, deer, turkey, and other wildlife. Because the road was designed with numerous curves to improve the scenic beauty, there is limited sight distance to know whether another park visitor just around a curve is using the pavement at a slower speed than you are traveling. Low angles of sunlight can also make it difficult to spot obstacles in the road. The speed limit is therefore lowered to 50 m.p.h. for most of the park, and it is 40 m.p.h. in some areas. The road is patrolled by U.S. Park Rangers. One ranger frequently told speeding motorists as he handed them a ticket, “Come back when you can slow down and enjoy the sites.” If speed is your only objective, you should choose another route.
- DRIVING AFTER SUNSET AND DURING INCLEMENT WEATHER. The parkway runs through several remote areas. Traveling the parkway during severe winter conditions and during thunderstorms is discouraged. Trees overhanging the roadway can present a hazard during storms. Deer and other wildlife can present hazards at night.
- GASOLINE. There are no gas stations located on the parkway. Plan ahead for gas stops and monitor your gas gauge. Gas stations are often located not far from most exits; however, it is recommended that you check your smart phone or map stops prior to traveling on the parkway.
- NO TEXTING. Texting while driving is prohibited by state law in most states along the parkway, and it has proven to be a dangerous practice for travel on the parkway.
- ANTICIPATE FREQUENT STOPS FOR SLOWER VISITORS. Cyclists are not required to yield to motor traffic. If you approach a cyclist traveling at a slower speed, you should anticipate slowing or stopping until you can pass safely in the opposite lane just as you would pass a motor vehicle. State law requires that motorists maintain at least a three-foot distance from cyclists when passing. You may encounter several cyclists traveling within a short distance. Remember, the parkway was designed for leisurely travel. Anticipate the need to slow or stop frequently.
- PLAN FREQUENT STOPS. Stay alert by taking advantage of the numerous wayside exhibits, pull off areas, and trails.
FOOD, SUPPLIES, AND LODGING The parkway landscape is designed to help shield the view of development in nearby towns. Many park visitors often get the wrong impression that they are miles from restaurants and stores, when good food and friendly service are often available just beyond the tree line at an exit. Other park visitors enjoy taking time to visit the towns along the parkway. For more information on sites and services in several towns along the parkway, visit the Natchez Trace Compact site at www.scenictrace.com.
ORIGINAL NATCHEZ TRACE SITES AND TOWNS
Seeing towns along the parkway is also often a way to learn more about the old Natchez Trace. When the Natchez Trace was the main thoroughfare between Natchez and Nashville, towns sprang up along the road, and several those towns such as Leiper’s Fork, Collinwood, Cherokee, Tishomingo, Pontotoc, French Camp, Kosciusko, and Port Gibson still exist. Most of the old Natchez Trace military road continues to be used as county highways, and sometimes, the old Natchez Trace is one of the main roads through the towns. Original Natchez Trace sites can often be found just off the parkway. The association is currently developing a map of original sites that are open for visiting.