More De Soto National Memorial
Bushnell, FL - Events of Friday, February 21, 2014
After we watched the video about De Soto and his expedition at the De Soto National Memorial visitor center and watched a presentation by a costumed interpreter, we headed down the nature trail. The trail starts out as a boardwalk through the mangroves.
The boardwalk ends at the Manatee River. There are openings in the dense mangroves where visitors can walk along the water, fish and even swim.
De Soto National Monument is only a few hundred yards from where the Manatee River empties into Tampa Bay. Consequently, we saw a good many boats on the river heading out into the bay.
We rounded the tip of the peninsula on which the national monument is located and headed around the other side and back toward the visitor center. The tip of the peninsula is called De Soto Point.
We thought we might at least see some shore birds along the nature trail, but we didn't see any wildlife at all. However, we did see some interesting plants. Although there are red mangroves in the area, we saw mostly black mangroves, which are characterized by hundreds spiky projections that stick up out of the water to allow the roots to breathe.
In contrast, red mangroves have prop roots extending out from the main stalks extending down into the water.
There were also some attractive brown-eyed Susans. Note the colorful wasp on the leaf below the flower.
And there were several sharp, spiky plants that appeared to be some type of yucca. The bright green color was attractive, but the tips of the leaves were very, very sharp.
The De Soto National Memorial isn't a spectacular attraction, but it is definitely worth a stop. We found it very interesting, and we learned a lot. De Soto made it all the way into the Carolinas and into Tennessee and Arkansas. We had no idea Spanish explorers ventured that far north in the eastern half of North America. Although the De Soto expedition didn't find any riches and it didn't find a suitable place to establish a colony, it did have a profound effect on North America.
- The brutal treatment of the Indians by the De Soto expedition contributed greatly to the hostile attitude of the Indians toward Europeans going forward.
- Pigs that escaped from the De Soto expedition are the ancestors of many of the wild razorback hogs in the southeastern United States.
- Diseases carried by the animals and members of the De Soto and other expeditions decimated the populations of the indigenous people of the Americas.
- Although De Soto claimed large parts of the eastern part of North America for Spain, his lack of success led Spain to re-think their exploration of the New World. Subsequent exploration north of Mexico was limited to Florida and the southwest.
- On the positive side, De Soto contributed greatly to the knowledge of the geography, biology and ethnicity of North America.
In addition to all the things we learned about early Spanish exploration of North America, we loved, loved, LOVED the nature trail. We'd like to go back with lawn chairs some day and spend the afternoon just sitting at the water's edge watching the boats go by.
From the national memorial, we headed west and took a short drive along Anna Maria Island, which is one of the barrier islands out in the Gulf. Traffic was heavy leading to the island, so we didn't go far once we got out there because it was starting to get late and we were hungry. After driving south on the island a short distance, we headed back east to the mainland and stopped for lupper at Anna Maria Oyster Bar where we stopped last year on our way back from visiting Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Lunches at Anna Maria Oyster Bar are around $8 to $12. We both had fried clam strips with two sides for $8.99. Margery had cole slaw and onion straws ($1.99 upcharge), and Paul had cole slaw and red potatoes. Portions are generous. The breading on the clams is nice and light and crisp on the outside, and the clams are sweet and tender on the inside. The clam strips at Anna Maria are second only to those at the Ipswitch Clambake Co. in Ipswitch, MA.
With our bellies full, we headed back to Blueberry Hill. There were several days of rain in the forecast, but we plan to get back out for more sightseeing when the sun reappears. Stay tuned.