Bradenton – The De Soto National Memorial was created in 1948 to commemorate the 1539 expedition of Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto. This memorial also reminds us of the impact he made on southeast American Indian societies. Open all year long, the Park offers many different outdoor activities. You’ll also find educational opportunities to learn about the controversial history of the area.
Canoe and Boat
The park is located in Bradenton on a 26 acre plot of land. This is where the Manatee River meets Tampa Bay. De Soto National Memorial offers fabulous kayak and canoeing along the 3000 feet of shoreline. Launch your kayak, canoe or paddle board from the northwest shore of the park. You could also leave from Riverview Point Preserve located just south of De Soto Memorial. Paddle north across the river to explore Emerson Point Nature preserve, or head west through shallow grass flats to Anna Maria Island. De Soto Memorial does not offer a boat launch, however, does offer a temporary anchorage area in the small cove east of De Soto Point.
De Soto National Memorial trails and beaches
The nature trails at De Soto Memorial offer different Florida ecosystems including Mangrove wetlands. Walking trails have signage explaining both the natural history of the area along with information about the 1539 expedition. Pets are welcome on the trails, however bicycles are not.
There are several areas for enjoying the beach at the Memorial with areas located west and south of De Soto Point. Beach goers are urged to swim with caution as there are no lifeguard stations. The beaches south of De Soto Point are more popular as they don’t experience the strong currents sometimes found on the western beaches.
A picnic shelter can be found near the parking lot on a first come first serve basis. Grills and alcohol are not permitted in the park or picnic area.
The Memorial offers seasonal events great for the entire family.
December through April the parks living history area “Camp Uzita” is open. The Camp is an example of a 16th century Native village. It’s complete with living history reenactments and educational information.
In the winter the park offers several special events including a Halloween themed event called “Desoween”. This is for adults and kids 7 years and older. In December luminaries light the trials for one night. Also, information is available describing how people from the 16th century celebrated the winter. February brings a music festival to the park. March offers a five centuries of history event. Additionally, April brings a live reenactment of the Landing of the De Soto expedition.
May through October the park offers Ranger led kayak tours. learn how early settlers utilized the bay and estuary along with an explanation of Florida’s unique ecological systems.
In June and July a kids Junior Ranger program is also available. This teaches kids 6-10 about the history, ecology and conservation of the park.
The visitor center is open daily 9am-5pm, and the parking lot also closes at 5pm. However, the park is open dawn to dusk. Any cars left in the parking lot after 5pm will remain locked in the lot until the next morning. Cars are subject to ticketing. New Years day, Thanksgiving and Christmas the park closes. Entrance into the park is always free, but donations are welcome. Groups may visit the park registering ahead of time. For additional information about the park call 941-792-0458 or visit online.
De Soto National Memorial:
8300 De Soto Memorial Hwy
Bradenton, Florida 34209
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