The Great River Road

From Port Gibson, you can race along the 70-mph US-61 to Natchez or follow a quietly scenic 50-mile detour along kudzu-lined country back roads and the serene Natchez Trace Parkway. The great Mississippi writer Willie Morris said “there is no more haunted, complex terrain in America” than this, and traveling through here you can’t help but be aware of the region’s many ghostly remnants. The looping first part of this route leaves Port Gibson next to the Exxon station, heading west on Rodney Road (Hwy-552) toward the Mississippi River past abandoned homesteads and picturesque old cemeteries rotting in the woods. After about 12 miles, look for a small sign and follow a short gravel road until you spot giant stone columns poking through the treetops. This is the Ruins of Windsor. Once the state’s most lavish Greek Revival mansion and a landmark to river pilots, it was reduced by an 1890 fire to its bare Corinthian ribs.

Another enigmatic ruin is farther south, nearly invisible in the lush growth: Emerald Mound (daily), a prehistoric platform over 400 feet wide and 35 feet tall. The second-largest mound in North America, it was built around AD 1250 and was still in use as a ceremonial center when the first Europeans arrived; Emerald Mound is located on Hwy-553 just west of Natchez Trace Parkway milepost 10.3.