HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) – What many know as old Highway 61 or Highway 161, others know as the “Great River Road.”
New signs will be appearing along the route as part of the Mississippi Mound Trail project.
The Mound Trail project is expected to raise awareness of the numerous Native American mounds and earthworks in Mississippi. The driving trail will include up to 30 selected mound areas that are visible from the road and clearly marked by signs with information about each location.
“The signs will be within a mile of where the mounds are located,” said Larry Jarrett, DeSoto Greenways coordinator. “We can’t put them exactly where the mounds are because we want to keep them intact. We don’t want to risk people disturbing them.”
According to historians, the earliest major earthen mound construction began about 2,100 years ago and continued to be constructed for the next 1,800 years. Of the mounds that remain today, some were built to bury important members of local Native American tribal groups.
“There are a lot of artifacts from these mounds at the Chucalissa Museum in Memphis,” Jarrett said. “What we have done is use the mounds’ locations as markers to make a trail, and at each location we give information about what the land was like pre-European civilization.”
Some mounds in lower Mississippi counties are set up for public viewing, such as those in Winterville.
Jarrett said the land in Mississippi was very different before the Europeans came.
“There was no farm land, and the animals that roamed were very different. Some of the wildlife that lived here are extinct today,” he said.
The first signs on the driving trail will be installed on Highway 161 over the next three months. The northern most point of the trail is in the city of Walls. The trail is also a part of the Great River Road Bike Trail, which begins in Walls and follows Old Highway 61/Highway 161 passing through Lake Cormorant to the Tunica County line near Harrah’s Casino.
Along the way, it passes the site of what will be Bass Landing Park and directs people to Tunica Main Street and Mhoon Landing and back.
The route has been recognized as a National Scenic Byways based on archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.
The Mississippi Mounds project incorporates previous research from the 1999 project “Historical and Archaeological Inventory of Mississippi’s Great River Road.” That project was designed as a resource for communities to preserve their local histories.
The project has also been aided by the efforts of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s Environmental Division, the Mississippi Lower Delta Partnership and representatives of local Native American tribes.
Signs in DeSoto County already in place mark where Hernando DeSoto discovered the Mississippi River. People might be surprised how far inland the sign is because the Mississippi river extended into DeSoto County much farther at that time, Jarrett said.
Historic trails in Mississippi