Welcome to La Florida
In 1539, Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando De Soto landed near present-day Tampa Bay with about 600 soldiers with the blessing of the King of Spain. They named the area ” La Florida “. The De Soto National Memorial marks an early event in the modern day discovery of the Americas by European seafaring nations, here the Spanish.
Cannon at De Soto Fort in St. Petersburg – Florida
The behavior of the conquistadors towards the native people was extremely inglorious, but it is part of US history. Many found death by the sword. later due to diseases. The De Soto National Memorial has existed since 1948 and was added to the US National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Mangrove swamps instead of El Dorado
According to Acronymmonster, Hernando De Soto wanted to explore the wealth of Florida, he was looking for El Dorado, the land of gold. He did not find El Dorado in Florida, but instead found tropical, humid mangrove forests that killed many of his soldiers. During his conquest, De Soto dealt with the local Native Americans very harshly and ruthlessly. Some Indian tribes initially greeted him in a friendly manner, while others were immediately ready to fight and aggressive. De Soto’s soldiers roamed the southeastern United States for about four years. In doing so, they covered approx. 6,400 km. Hernando De Soto died after four hard years of a long expedition. He could not found a permanent settlement or colony in Florida.
Nature trail – back in time
You can also go on a nature trail that shows a Florida coastal landscape as it was 500 years ago. You walk along the coast and get to know different ecosystems of Florida. You cross a mangrove forest, just as De Soto did with his soldiers almost 500 years ago. Amateur actors offer performances in which scenes from that time are faithfully re-enacted. Along the nature trail you come across settlement ruins from that time. Cycling along the nature trail is not permitted.
De Soto Park – not big but beautiful
De Soto National Memorial Park is not very big. It is only minutes away from Anna Maria Island and the Palma Sola Causeway. There is a good view of the Manatee River from the park. A large number of rare birds live in this area with beautiful white sandy beaches and pristine nature. Reptiles can be found there as well as colorful butterflies. Observing migratory birds that rest or overwinter here is interesting for ornithologists. There are docks for canoes and kayaks at Memorial Park. Fishing is a popular pastime.
Heron hunting in De Soto Park
De Soto – how to get there
Arrivals can be made by plane via Sarasota Airport in Bradenton (distance approx. 30 km) or Tampa Bay International Airport (distance approx. 50 km). The De Soto National Memorial can be reached by car via 75th Street, Interstate-75 or Interstate-275. De Soto National Memorial Park is about 5 miles from Bradenton. Learn about American history and De Soto’s expedition at De Soto National Memorial Park. By the way, you stay in a beautiful, partly original natural landscape in Florida.
Visitor center with information options
The Visitor Center at the National Memorial is open daily from 9am to 5pm. It is only closed on Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving. In the Visitor Center there is a small museum with armaments, helmets and weapons of the Spanish conquerors of the time. Handicrafts of the indigenous peoples who lived there at the time can also be seen. There is a small bookshop at the visitor center. A map shows De Soto’s path in detail. You can get a picture of the conqueror De Soto with the help of a 20-minute film screening.
Camping and RV parks outside only
There is a picnic area next to the visitor center parking lot. There are no camping facilities within De Soto National Memorial Park. Outside of the park there are a few campgrounds and RV parks to stay overnight.