DE SOTO NATIONAL MEMORIAL is located at the end of 75th Street West in Northwest Bradenton and is situated on the banks of the Manatee River. Created in 1948, the park’s mission is to commemorate the 1539 expedition of the Spanish Conquistador Hernando de Soto and his impact on the American Indian societies of the Southeast. The park is open year-round and offers many seasonal activities. The highlight of the park’s activities includes living history programs and demonstrations at Camp Uzita, a recreation of a 16th Century native village. During the summer the park operates guided kayak tours in the surrounding water and bays. Park Rangers and staff are on hand to assist visitors in their understanding of this important and controversial historical event. The park is open dawn to dusk but the parking lot closes at 5:00 p.m. Since the park is managed by the National Park System, it is closed on all National holidays. There are restrooms in the Visitor Center, which is open 9a – 5p. There are numerous benches and picnic tables along both trails. No admission fee. Dogs on a leash are allowed.
Featured Birds: Over 155 bird species have been reported by eBirders. This is another park that has not been birded extensively and all are encouraged to take advantage of this national treasure. During spring migration, one might encounter vireos, tanagers, orioles, kingbirds, and warblers. Shorebirds and sandpipers may be seen along the shoreline or exposed sand flats. Owls and songbirds may be heard in the heavily wooded areas. Rarities have included American Oystercatcher, Cerulean Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Horned Grebe, and Red Knot.
Insider’s Tip: There are two main trails. The short trail offers views of the Manatee River as you wind through the mangroves. The longer trail takes you past the Holy Eucharist memorial and the De Soto Cross. When you get close to the road, take the trail to the right, which will take you through a hardwood hammock. Here you may see thrushes, Brown Thrasher, tanagers, and warblers. At the next fork veer left to return to the main entrance. Be sure to check the Gumbo Limbo trees near the Visitor Center. The fruit may bring in vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks. A hidden trail behind the chickee hut leads to an opening where one can view the nearby docks for visiting Black Terns. Scan the river for Common Loon, Red-breasted Merganser, and other migratory waterfowl.
Accessibility: The Visitor Center and Restrooms are wheelchair accessible. Trails are sand, crushed shell or boardwalk.
Address: 8300 De Soto Memorial Hwy., Bradenton FL 34209
GPS Coordinates: 27.5235681,-82.6432157