Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Walking the Delta River Towns: Vicksburg and Natchez

These two major river towns in the Delta have been on the list of places to walk for a while.  Vicksburg and Natchez were the commerce centers of the Delta when cotton was king and slave labor fueled its economic engine.

Before our AVA America's Walking Club event in Vicksburg, we stopped to get our Mississippi Tamale fix. Mississippi is famous for there Tamales stands throughout the state. It is thought that tamales arrived in the Mississippi Delta in the early twentieth century when migrant laborers from Mexico arrived to work the cotton harvest.

Vicksburg probably most famous for the Civil War siege here, which decimated the city. Surrendering on 4 July 1863. The day before Lee was defeated at Gettysburg marked the turning of the civil war against the Confederacy. Vicksburg did not celebrate 4 of July again until 1947. We had been to the military park a few years ago, so we wanted to walk downtown, which is in the midst of a revival. Much of the downtown was destroyed during the siege and then a tornado that went through the downtown in 1953.

Still, the town has that antebellum feel and still has plenty of civil war buildings. What dominates the riverfront is the Lower Mississippi river museum with an actual river tug boat that is part of the museum. This turned out to be a great walk full of history and wonderful architecture. It is a hilly walk; you start next to the Mississippi and ascend the bluff as you walk up Washington Street, where most of the downtown sits.

Our next walk was a few miles to the south in Natchez. It is the oldest city on the Lower Mississippi River, established in 1716. Older than New Orleans. During its history, it has seen Spanish, French, English, and now American Ownership. It was the state capital until 1822 until it was centralized in Jackson, MS. We did the AVA America's Walking Club event here. The city sits on a bluff with a fantastic overlook of the Mississippi River. We had a great meal at a Thai restaurant downtown about halfway through the walk.

Untouched by the Civil War, all of its antebellum character is fully intact. It remains a stately city made rich through Cotton and Sugar Cane. At one time, this was the richest area globally; not paying for labor was a big advantage. Plantation owners from the surrounding area would build their city houses here. As you can see, keeping up with the Jones was on steroids.
The walk along the river bluff is spectacular, with commanding views of the Mississippi River.

These two river towns in the Delta are in a special place. You can feel it down to the core of your soul. You can’t understand it until you’ve been here. When I travel thru the Delta, I like to stop at one of the music heritage sites. If you listen to American music, your listening to the Blues. All American music and the British rock of the ’60s were influenced directly by these cotton fields in Mississippi. This is one upside to these river towns. That the tragedy of slavery has been turned into a triumph that is this music.