Hernando de Soto was one of the earliest European explorers of North America. He led his men on a five-year, 4,000 mile trek from Florida, across the southeast and into what is now Arkansas. They were the first Europeans to see the Mississippi above its mouth. While the expedition was in one sense a failure, de Soto himself died and the expedition failed to find the treasure they sought, they succeeded in learning more about the interior of the North American continent than any Europeans before them.
The De Soto National Memorial in Florida commemorates the place where de Soto and his men first landed, on the southern edge of Tampa Bay. Attractions include Camp Uzita, where historical re-enactors show the way de Soto and his men lived, De Soto Point Beach, and a nature walk through an unspoiled mangrove swamp. Historical artifacts from the expedition are on display in the museum.
If You Go > >
Camp Uzita and the nature walk are the park's biggest attractions. Here visitors can get a sense of what the Florida coast must have been like when the first explorers from the Old World arrived.
Canoes and kayaks are permitted in the Cove, which has become a popular spot for boating. The park has no facilities for camping.
Did You Know?
Hernando de Soto brought the first herd of pigs to Florida in 1539 to provide food for his expedition. Descendents from that herd still roam wild in Florida today.
The park contains Gumbo Limbo trees, which are called "tourist trees" because they stand in the sun, turn red, and peel.