De Soto National Memorial
Bradenton FL DeSoto Natl Mem01.jpg
De Soto National Memorial is located in Florida
De Soto National Memorial
De Soto National Memorial is located in the United States
De Soto National Memorial
LocationManatee County, Florida, United States
Nearest cityBradenton
Coordinates27°31′26″N 82°38′40″W / 27.52389°N 82.64444°W / 27.52389; -82.64444Coordinates: 27°31′26″N 82°38′40″W / 27.52389°N 82.64444°W / 27.52389; -82.64444
Area26.84 acres (10.86 ha)
Visitation240,172 (2005)
WebsiteDe Soto National Memorial
NRHP reference No.66000078
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[1]
Designated NMEMMarch 11, 1948

De Soto National Memorial, in Manatee County 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Bradenton, Florida, commemorates the 1539 landing of Hernando de Soto and the first extensive organized exploration by Europeans of what is now the southern United States.

The memorial includes 26 acres (11 ha), where the Manatee River joins Tampa Bay. It has 3,000 feet (910 m) of coastline; eighty percent of the area is mangrove swamp.[2]

De Soto expedition

Main article: Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto

In May 1539, Hernando de Soto and an army of over 600 soldiers landed in the Tampa Bay area. They arrived in nine ships laden with supplies: two hundred and twenty horses, a herd of pigs, war dogs, cannon, matchlock muskets, armor, tools, and rations. They were executing the order of King Charles V to sail to La Florida and "conquer, populate, and pacify" the land.

The expedition did not yield the gold and treasure these men sought. Instead, they marched from one village to the next, taking food and enslaving the native peoples to use as guides and porters. Hundreds of lives were lost on this calamitous four year, 4,000 miles (6,400 km) journey. The de Soto expedition would change the face of the American Southeast forever, and cause Spain to reevaluate her role in the New World. Ultimately, it was the first hand accounts of survivors, describing the native cultures and the richness of the land, which became the journey's enduring legacy.

Historic recognition

Reconstructed Camp Ucita.
Reconstructed Camp Ucita.

The national memorial was authorized on March 11, 1948. As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966, with the name Shaw's Point Archeological District.

The mission of De Soto National Memorial is to preserve the controversial story of this exploration and interpret its significance in American history. Visitors can attend living history demonstrations, try on a piece of armor, or walk the nature trail through a Florida coastal landscape similar to the one encountered by conquistadors almost five hundred years ago.[3]


Junior Ranger Activity Book
Junior Ranger Activity Book

Exhibits at the visitor center include historic armor, 16th-century weapons, and period artifacts. A theater displays the movie Hernando de Soto in America, about the DeSoto Expedition and the area's Native American population. A bookstore is also available.

During the cooler months, visitors can observe Camp Uzita, a living history camp which runs from December through April. The season ends with a re-enactment of DeSoto's landing on the beaches of Tampa Bay.

Other park activities include nature trails and guided trail walks, fishing, bird watching, and picnicking. Park admission is free.

See also


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ "De Soto National Memorial: Nature". National Park Service. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  3. ^ "De Soto National Memorial". National Park Service. with photos