De Soto National Memorial, Bradenton
De Soto National Memorial
North end of 75th st W
This is a place where you can imagine yourself back in the 16th century among conquistadors in heavy armor trying to survive among irate Native Americans, mosquitoes, and sweltering heat.
In May of 1539, more than 600 Spanish conquistadors, under the command of Don Hernando de Soto, sailed into Tampa Bay with dreams of wealth and conquering “La Florida”. De Soto National Memorial preserves the memory of the expedition.
From late December to early April, uniformed park rangers portray life during those days in Tampa Bay base camp. Four times daily these rangers present programs that include demonstrations of 16 century Spanish weaponry.
A nature trail takes visitors on a half-mile loop through mangroves and along the beach, giving them idea of the hardships the explorers faced when they first landed. A visitors’ center holds artifacts and shells, and video presentation is available. Open 9 AM to 5 PM. Admission is free.
The De Soto National Memorial marks the approximate location where Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto first set foot in what is now the U.S. on May 1539. Over the next four years De Soto's expedition, which began with 600-700 soldiers and over 200 horses, explored the southeast U.S. from modern-day Florida through North Carolina to Texas. De Soto searched in vain for great riches and a trade route to China, eventually dying along the Mississippi River in 1542. When the expedition finally returned to Mexico, after travelling 4,000 miles, only 311 men remained.
The De Soto Memorial is located about 5 miles west of downtown Bradenton. It was authorized on March 11, 1948 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The small park has a visitor center, a living history camp, nature trails and guided trail walks, fishing, bird watching, kayak tours, and picnicking.
Admission to the park and Visitor Center is free.