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Rocky Springs and the Natchez Trace Parkway

                                                        By Skipper Anding                                          Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail   

                                                                                                          Natchez As a Destination

Owens Creek Waterfall near Rocky Springs - Photos S Anding

INTRODUCTION

Rocky Springs is a major point on the Natchez Trace from Jackson, but there is much more to explore along the Natchez Trace! This 444 mile parkway connects Natchez, MS with Nashville, TN just as it did for the Indians hundreds of years ago. Indian Mounds remain along the way. This is a very senic route for birders, campers, bicyclist, motorcyclists, horse riders, and hikers.

Begun in 1938, the Natchez Trace roadway was completed in 2005. Celebrations locally included 67 antique cars traveling from the new Clinton Visitor Center at Mile 93 to Natchez (Mile 0). That's one car for each year.

The Natchez Trace is the sister of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the most visited unit in the National Park System. They bear the same design right down to bridges and signposts. Its 469 miles connects the Great Smokey Mountains NP with Shenandoah NP (Virginia).

Watch for Wild Turkeys on the Trace near dusk and listen for Chuck-wills-widows after dark (breeding season). You may even hear a Whip-poor-will. After dark you may see raccoons, armadillos, o'possums, coyotes, or foxes and in winter quite a few deer grazing along the shoulders of the road. Right: Prothonotary Warbler at the Cypress Swamp

THE TRACE FROM NATCHEZ

Mile 10 Emerald Mound - The second largest Indian Mound in North America is only a couple of miles off the Trace and also a part of the National Park System. Take the trail up and watch for Hawks, Eagles, Mississippi Kite, E. Kingbird, and E. Bluebird. The mound is 8 acres - you could have a football field on top!  The smaller rise is visible in the distance.

Mile 17-19 Coles Creek Picnic Areas - There are several creeks along here with good birding and scenic picnic opportunities. Listen for Yellow-billed Cuckoos and watch for Summer Tanagers.

Mile 46 Grindstone Ford / Mangum Mound This is a double stop on the Trace so don't miss one! Grindstone Ford has a trail to the site of an old crossing on Bayou Pierre. The trail is a good place for Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Vireos. You will cross the Bayou Pierre and Little Bayou Pierre along the Natchez Trace. Mangum Mound makes a nice overlook, so take the walk to the top and watch for hawks. To reach the mound take the road that loops back underneath the roadway from Grindstone Ford.

 

Climbing Magnum Mound, Mile 46.

Rocky Springs

Mile 55 - A scenic place in the spring or fall and good for migration. The Old Methodist Church is still in use here at Rocky Springs. Watch for the old safe along the trail nearby. Owens Creek is two and a half miles south at Mile 52. Here are two waterfalls. One near the parking area and the other just up the trail toward Rocky Springs. The trail to Owens Creek is in a picnic area shown on the map. Trail begins near the restrooms. Little Sand Creek is so pretty - be sure to go wading in the creek! At Owens Creek (Mile 52.4) the trail crosses the creek on stepping stones (pictured above) a short distance from the parking area.

EXPECTED BIRDS

Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, N. Parula Warbler, Black & White Warbler, N. Waterthrush, Summer Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat, Indigo Bunting, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Acadian Flycatcher, Gray Catbird, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Great Crested Flycatcher, E. Kingbird, E. Phoebe, E. Towhee, Carolina Wren, C. Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, White-Breasted Nuthatch, N. Cardinal, Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Blue Jay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downey Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpecker, Chimney Swift, Barn Swallow, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Vireo.  The Old Methodist Church below - still in use today.

Other Birds                                            

Mississippi Kite, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Orchard Oriole, Wood Duck, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Red-tail Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawks, other hawks. In winter see River Bend below.

Spring Migration on the Trace

in addition to the expected birds (the tropical migrants) watch for American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. This will be late March - May 1 and the birds will be in the best colors!

Fall Migration on the Trace

Fall migration is usually better here than spring. Birds are loading up with fruits and berries before they make the big flight across or around the gulf. Watch for American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler,Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue-wing Warbler. Nashville Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, and Golden-Wing Warbler are possible. This will be early September thru mid October.

                  

Mile 106 - Reservoir Overlook - A scenic place all year that is a good place to see Wood Ducks, Mallards, Ring-bill Gulls, Mississippi Kites, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, American Coot, Belted Kingfisher, Canada Goose, Barn Swallow, Chimney Swift, and Pied-bill Grebes. You could see the Bald Eagle, American White Pelican, or Brown Pelican.

In winter you can also expect Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Ring-neck ducks, Scaup, Blue-wing and Green-wing Teal, N. Shoveler,Gadwall, American Widgeon, Common Loon, Forster's Tern, Bonapart's Gull, Horned Grebes, White Pelican, Anhinga, and Double-crested Cormorant. Bring a scope or large binoculars if possible.

Near the Reservoir Overlook

Mile 115 - Pearl River Waterfowl Refuge (See separate description under Places to go Birding). This is the exit to take for the Observation Area at Turcotte Lab and Pipeline Rd.

Mile 122 - Cypress Swamp - Trail winds through a beautiful cypress swamp. Expected birds: Look for Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded Warbler, N. Parula Warbler, Black & White Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Summer Tanager, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and Great Blue Heron. Other Birds: Yellow Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Creasted Flycatcher, E. Kingbird, Pine Warbler, Wood Duck, Belted Kingfisher and in migration Least Flycatcher. In winter Ruby-crowned and Golden Kinglets, Winter Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler and White-throated Sparrow. You may see small or even medium sized alligators any time of year.

Mile 123 - River Bend - Any birds mentioned for the Cypress Swamp above. Look for Pileated and other woodpeckers, Pine Warbler, Pied-bill Grebe, Anhinga, Red-wing Blackbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Great Egret, Snowey Egret, and Great Blue Heron. Black and Turkey Vultures may roost across the river and be seen gathering before dusk, especially in winter. In winter White-Throated Sparrow, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Golden-crowned Kinglets are possible. You may see alligators in the water any time.

Fall at River Bend

Mile 193 - Jeff Busby - Trails, campground, and the only store on the Natchez Trace. Trails can be very good in migration.

Mile 305 - Tishomingo State Park - Driving past the Pioneer Cabin is the Swinging Bridge.  Cross it for trails to outcroppings of really big rocks along the Bear Creek Trail! 

Remember:  It's a parkway, not a highway!  Watch for hikers and bicycles.  Pull over where you like, but well off the road for safety.  Enjoy!

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail  

Jackson Audubon Society

 

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