The first recorded European explorer to travel the Trace in its entirety was an unnamed Frenchman in 1742, who wrote of the miserable conditions. Europeans may have traveled the trail earlier, particularly Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto (c 1496-1542). Early European explorers used Native Americans as guides, especially the Chickasaw and Choctaw. These tribes and earlier peoples, collectively known as the Mississippian culture, had long used the Trace for trade, so they likely used it with the Europeans.
In 1801 the United States Army began performing major work to prepare the Trace as a major thoroughfare. By 1809, when Meriweather Lewis died on the Trace, the road was fully navigable by wagon. The success of the Trace as a highway was supported by the development of inns or "stands" which started at the northern terminus in Nashville and moved southward from the head of the trail (Trace).
Today's inns, like Buffalo River Farm, are considered the modernized versions of the old "stands" where weary travelers would rent a room for the night as they made their way up or down the Trace.
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