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ILNP Park Review
Our Visit We visited DeSoto during May as part of a trip to see family in the Tampa, Florida area. I spent many summers in this area of Florida, so DeSoto was a frequent hiking spot for me as a child.
Our Weather Beautiful day. Sunny and 80 degrees.
Overall Impression DeSoto National Memorial is a small place tucked alongside the Manattee River along the Gulf coast. It’s charm lies in its quiet and isolated walking trails through mangroves and along the shoreline. This peace belies the history of the area where a violent expedition led by a driven man began.
Visiting If you just want a short hike, park at the visitors center and look for the trails–they are easy to find and won’t take you long to complete. However, if you are interested in history, take the time to watch the 20-minute video about DeSoto’s expedition. DeSoto, a rich treasure seeker, financed his own expedition to find gold in the new world. He anchored his ships near this spot and began his journey with hundreds of men. Naturally, the Florida natives were not too helpful and either led him on (and out of their territory) with stories of gold farther on or fought him at the cost of many men. DeSoto pressed on despite heavy losses, enslaving and using natives as he went, then releasing them after they had served his needs. His hard journey led him into the Appalachians and across the Mississippi River. After DeSoto died, his men wandered into Texas looking for an overland route to settlements in Mexico, but eventually turned around to float down the Mississippi River while being harassed and killed by natives. Only a handful of the 400 men survived the journey.
The video does a good job of describing the battles and struggles without using anything too graphic for young children. The day we were there, a Park Ranger was explaining to a group of 4th graders how the Indians would use clubs with teeth to disembowel their foes in battle–his descriptions were far more graphic than the video. Near the visitors center, a village has been reconstructed to illustrate the life of the area natives before DeSoto’s arrival.
Nearby Towns Bradenton, Sarasota, St. Petersburg (Florida)
Other Nearby Attractions South Florida Museum
Official NPS Website DeSoto National Memorial
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