Authorized in 1988, Natchez National Historical Park occupies 82 acres in the riverside town of Natchez, Mississippi. The town started as Fort Rosalie, a French trading post built on the Mississippi River in the early 1700s, now the site of the Visitor Reception Center. National Park Service (NPS) rangers or volunteers are always on location at the William Johnson House and Melrose Estate. Although it is not part of the NPS unit, we also recommend a stop at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians State Historic Site for its free museum, film, historic mounds, and air conditioning (which is important in the humid summer).
Melrose Estate, William Johnson House, Fort Rosalie
The museum in the William Johnson House tells the story of a slave freed at age 11 by his owner, also named William Johnson and presumed to be his father. The boy apprenticed to a barber, eventually becoming a successful businessman and slave owner himself. A diary he kept for 16 years provides insight into antebellum Natchez, including the May 7, 1840 tornado that destroyed downtown, which had about 5,000 inhabitants at the time. Inside the NPS museum you will learn the strange story of William Johnson’s murder in 1851 that ended in three mistrials.
Naturally, Natchez is one terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which also preserves its share of history starting at the Elizabeth Female Academy Site (Milepost 5.1) just outside town. There are a few portions of the Old Trace that you can still follow along on the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail.
The Melrose Estate recalls the antebellum period when slaves grew cotton in the rich soil of the Mississippi River floodplains.
Spring and fall
The NPS museum at the William Johnson House is closed daily for lunch.
None for Fort Rosalie, William Johnson House, and Melrose Estate grounds, but $10 per person for mansion interior tours (no discount for America the Beautiful pass)
All roads paved
Rocky Springs is the furthest south campground managed by the NPS on the Natchez Trace Parkway (Milepost 54.8) and it has no fees for camping.
Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)
Cane River Creole National Historical Park (Louisiana)
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (Mississippi-Alabama-Tennessee)
Explore More – In 1839 a fire burned through Natchez destroying the William Johnson House, but the family was living in the country at the time to avoid an epidemic of what disease?