Vicksburg to Natchez, Mississippi February 13-16

We rolled in to River Town Campground (a Good Sams Campground at $24.61/night) in Vicksburg around 1:30 PM on February 13th. This campground is nicely laid out and all the sites are pull though, which helps in getting the RV set up quickly. 10 minutes tops.

After set up we headed to the visitor’s center. While traveling in the past I often bypassed the visitor’s centers. This is a big mistake if you want to take advantage of the best places to visit in a limited amount of time. Note to self: always stop by for an orientation of the area and some very helpful advice.

Leaving the visitor’s center we headed down to the historic downtown drive. This is a quaint area of eclectic shops and riverfront murals, casinos, and restaurants. Beautiful area! Pre-civil war buildings are in short supply as during the Siege of Vicksburg the town was hit by barrages of artillery from May 29 through July 4, 1863, when Lt. Major John Pemberton surrendered to the Union army of Ulysses Grant. Vicksburg was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The buildings that did survive mostly did not survive the great fire of 1910.

Early on the 14th we toured the Vicksburg Military Memorial Park which is part of the US Parks Service. This park was magnificent, with 1800 acres, demarcation of the red and blue battle lines and monuments for each state and regiment that fought there. The restored ironclad gunboat, USS Cairo, is also on the grounds. It was a marvel built in 1861 for the war effort. Seven of these gunboats were built in 100 days. I was very moved by what I learned there. https://www.historynet.com/battle-of-vicksburg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicksburg_National_Military_Park https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cairo.

After about 4.5 hours we were overwhelmed and left for a late lunch/early dinner of soul food. LDs at the riverfront was excellent! One meat, 3 veggies, bread, dessert and water for $8.50 each. The staff was as great as the food. We even had pink angel food cake with pink icing for Valentines Day. It tasted like pure sugar! This place is a locals’ favorite and we would eat there again!

We headed to Natchez on the 15th, down the Natchez Trace. This is an old Indian trail that is now kept up by the National Parks Service. It reminds me of a more southern version of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Natchez is the ancestral language of the Natchez people who historically inhabited Mississippi and Louisiana They now live among the Creek and Cherokee peoples in Oklahoma because they were removed from their native lands by the US Government. Natchez was discovered by French traders in 1716. They started the first European Settlement in Mississippi, named Fort Rosalie. The First American Flag was raised on the highest ridge in 1797 to claim all Spanish lands east of the Mississippi.

The French explorers left and went further south and founded New Orleans. New Orleans became known as the Big Easy and Natchez was known as the Little Easy. I found that very interesting. The architecture in both cities have a lot of similarities from the French influence.

Many of the historic homes in Natchez survived the Civil War and many are now bed and breakfast inns that allow tours of these treasures. The Historic Spanish Promenade that was built on the bluffs in 1790 is still being enjoyed today. That is where we started in the historic district of this alluring town.

Under the Hill was up next. It was the original Natchez which was a river port in 1730. At that time the area was home to gamblers, river pirates, highwaymen, and prostitutes. Around the time of the Revolutionary war the more respectable folks coming to the area built their fine homes on the bluffs above. Under the Hill is now home to eclectic shops and cafe’s. I did not see any current day prostitutes nor gamblers but I was there in the early after noon! Pictures below.

The following pictures are from the historic district, also full of eclectic shops. I really loved visiting this place.

Saint Mary’s Basilica was an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture and was built in 1842. Wonderful!

Our last stop was the Melrose Estate, an 1800’s Greek revival-style mansion that reflects the height of Southern prosperity and “King Cotton.” It was built by the John T. McMurran family and has 21 guest rooms, original full bathroom and contains 80% of the original furnishings of the home. It is maintained by the National Parks Service and our guide Barnie was the best tour guide I’ve had. He knew his history and made it a fun and entertaining tour. I consider this place a must see. Pictures follow:

We thanked Barnie, our guide and headed back to camp. We were leaving for Beaumont, Texas at 6AM on 2/16/19. Another adventure on our trip of a lifetime. More to come.

Ocmulgee National Monument / Hay House

February 4th day trip to Ocmulgee memorial to the peoples of antiquity. 17,000 year record of human life on the Macon Plateau. This place felt sacred and the artifacts and mounds of these people were breathtaking. This is a 702 acre site with Temple, ceremonial earth lodge, and funeral mounds. Most artifacts are from the years 900-1200.

These people were known as Creeks and are from the Mississippian period. We spent hours exploring these wonderful artifacts.

Me at the entrance to the Ceremonial Earth Lodge Mound.


View of Ceremonial Earth Lodge



Inside Ceremonial Lodge. The floor is 1000 years old.
Chieftains seat inside ceremonial lodge. Eagle effigy carved in floor in front. Once a year the sun shines through the door and highlighted where the chief sat. Truly this meant that he was THE Chief!
Ray going up to the Temple Mound.
Ray on steps to the Temple Mound.
View of Macon from the Temple Mound.
Enjoying the weather and the top of the Temple Mound.
The funeral mound with more than 100 graves. Much of this mound was lost when the railway went through in the 1830s.

After hours learning about human history, we moved on to tour the Hay House historic site in Macon. They Hay House is a beautiful 17,000 square foot marvel, built from 1855 to 1859 in the Italian Renaissance Revival Style, with all the modern conveniences. It was built by William Butler Johnston. He also became the keeper of the Confederate Treasury. There are rumors that Confederate gold is hidden in the walls and secret places of this home. To date, no one has found it. Johnston married at the age of 40 and took his bride on a 3 year honeymoon (called a grand tour) in Europe. The design for the house and the furnishings came from those travels.

Back of Hay House 1.
Back of Hay House 2.
Bryon Stained Glass in Stairwell.

Formal Dining Room.
Pantry Door from dining room.

Ball Room.
Double Living Room.
Sitting Room.

This ended our day. One of the takeaways from our two days in Macon: The people are the some of the most friendly and gracious that I have encountered in a very long time. Looking forward to what our tours tomorrow will bring.