Category Archives: Florida

De Soto National Memorial

Overview

Why create a memorial to a genocidal Conquistador when he was not the first Spaniard to land in Florida?  Good question.  Juan Pónce de León and Pánfilo de Narváez had both already met their demise in this region, but that did not deter Hernando de Soto from trying again in 1539.  He did not die until three years later, after he led his soldiers all the way to the Mississippi River leaving a path of destruction in their wake.

Highlights

Camp Ucita, film, Memorial Trail, Holy Eucharist Monument

Must-Do Activity

De Soto made landfall in Florida somewhere in the vicinity of modern-day Bradenton, Florida where the Manatee River reaches Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.  He left behind 100 men there in Camp Ucita, a replica of which was built on the site of the 27-acre De Soto National Memorial.  In the winter (a.k.a. touristy) months, costumed interpreters work at the replica Camp Ucita.

Best Trail

Hike the half-mile Memorial Trail through the mangroves to the Holy Eucharist Monument.  Then cool off in the air-conditioned visitor center to watch a 22-minute film on the Spanish expedition. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you visit around Halloween, a scary skeleton Conquistador atop a skeleton horse will greet you at the entrance to the National Park Service visitor center.

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/deso/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

A paved road leads through a residential neighborhood to the visitor center, so watch out for dog walkers and joggers on the road and trail.

Camping

Myakka River State Park is southeast of Bradenton (where private campgrounds are also available).

Explore More – The Spaniards brought many diseases to the indigenous peoples, but the introduction of which domesticated animal had the longest lasting ecological impact?

Dry Tortugas National Park

Overview

Only accessible by boat or floatplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote paradise 70 miles west of Key West and home to a diverse array of birds and sea life.  Fort Jefferson was built on Garden Key starting in 1846 and was never completed before it was abandoned in 1874.  Today birders come from all over to see the rookery of 100,000 sooty terns on Bush Key, and also get the joy of watching the acrobatic dives of brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and magnificent frigatebirds with their seven-foot wingspan.

Echo was bringing the CHAOS to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Highlights

Fort Jefferson, snorkeling, birding, overnight camping

Must-Do Activity

Turquoise blue water is home to amazing coral reefs right offshore from Garden Key, with some coral and sea fans growing on Fort Jefferson’s brick moat wall and old dock pylons.  Snorkeling among the historic debris feels like exploring an ancient shipwreck.  The daily ferry ship provides free snorkeling gear for day-trippers.

Best Trail

Walk the sea wall that circles Fort Jefferson for great views and a chance to see the endangered American crocodile that sometimes resides in the moat.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Walking the archways of Fort Jefferson in the rays of the rising sun or watching a sunset from atop its ramparts is a great reason to spend the night here.

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Peak Season

Weather permitting, the Yankee Freedom ferry boat runs daily all year, but you may want to be cautious during hurricane season.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/drto/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

A park entrance fee is collected by the Yankee Freedom ferry service when you purchase your tickets, but is refundable at check-in if you have an America The Beautiful Pass.  A nominal camping fee is charged to stay on Garden Key.

Road Conditions

A parking deck (fee) is located right near the docks and check-in for the Yankee Freedom ferry boat.

Camping

Primitive camping is allowed on Garden Key for a small fee.  Campers must bring all of their own water and the only way to cook is with charcoal since fires and stoves are prohibited.

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Scott walking on the moat

The lighthouse with Majestic Frigatebirds

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A view of the ferry boat from atop Fort Jefferson.
Yankee Freedom ferry boat docked outside Fort Jefferson.
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When snorkeling only ten feet from shore, this stingray swam right past us.
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Our original logo is for sale on a variety of products on Amazon and Cafe Press

Explore More – Why were the islands of the Tortugas labeled “Dry” on early maps?

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WONDON WAS HERE

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