De Soto National Memorial marks the area on Florida’s western coast where Hernando De Soto landed in 1539. The National Park Service-managed site, located just west of Bradenton, details the Spanish conquistador and his party, who were the first Europeans to extensively explore the southern U.S.
During a visit to the memorial, travelers can see displays of armor and weaponry dating back to the 16th century and other related historical items. The visitor center also shows the short film “Hernando De Soto in America,” which details the trials and adventures of the Spaniards as they explored the region.
De Soto National Memorial’s main nature trail winds along the shoreline into multiple Florida ecosystems, as well as through a mangrove forest similar to what De Soto’s party saw more than 500 years ago. Whether they hike it as part of a ranger-led tour or on their own, visitors can learn more about the historical and natural significance of the area.
The park also offers a number of special events and seasonal programs throughout the year, ranging from living-history demonstrations and re-enactments to boat tours and night-sky-viewing parties. The Camp Uzita site has programs from December through April that focus on daily life for both the Spanish explorers and the native tribes living in the area.
A popular option for students is the De Soto Ranchero Fishing Clinics. These free sessions, offered limited dates from October to March, allow participants to try their hand at fishing.
For more information on De Soto National Memorial, call +1.941.792.0458 (ext. 105) or go to nps.gov/deso.
Top photo by CC Wikimedia Commons/Ebyabe: bit.ly/2UrriQX