Seventy miles south of Vicksburg – at the end of the pretty Natchez Trace Parkway, the old Native American path that ran from here to Nashville – the river town of NATCHEZ is the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River. By the time it first flew the Stars and Stripes in 1798, it had already been home to the Natchez people and their predecessors, as well as French, British and Spanish colonists. Unlike its great rival, Vicksburg, Natchez was spared significant damage during the Civil War, ensuring that its abundant Greek Revival antebellum mansions remained intact, complete with meticulous gardens. Interspersed among them are countless simpler but similarly attractive white clapboard homes, set along broad leafy avenues of majestic oaks, making Natchez one of the prettiest towns in the South. Horse and carriagetours explore downtown, while a number of individual mansions are open for tours.
Though Natchez proper perches well above the river, a small stretch of riverfront at the foot of the bluff constitutes Natchez Under-the-Hill. Once known as the “Sodom of the Mississippi”, it now houses a handful of bars and restaurants, plus the 24-hour Isle of Capri riverboat casino.
Natchez’s history of slavery is chronicled with a rather pitiful display at the Forks of the Road monument, a mile east of downtown on Liberty Road at St Catherine, on the site of the second largest slave market in the South.