DeSoto National Memorial is one of my favorite parks so far. The trail was pretty short, but gorgeous. It was a nice day out, which helped, but most of the trail was near the river so you could see the beautiful water, feel the breeze, and look at the surrounding scenery- we spent about an hour touring the grounds.
There is no admission fee. For a few months, the Memorial offers ranger-led kayak tours, and a living history camp. They also offer guided walking tours but were not doing it the day that we came. We were disappointed, but honestly, after walking the trail, we didn't need it. It's always nice to get historical information but the trail was short and sweet, and had plaques along the way for us to read about it instead.
In 1539, Hernando de Soto and his men landed at this spot in Bradenton, FL, where the indigenous people had been living, and they guarded their land fervently. De Soto and his men then explored some more of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, then Louisiana, where he died.
After I stamped my passport book, Chris and I ended up speaking with one of the park rangers who told us some stories about amazing wildlife he's seen here- like alligators, and eagles with prey in their mouths, circling overhead.
Overall, I visited 3 national parks in December before the centennial anniversary of the park system ended. The national parks did so many awesome things with this anniversary that I wish I knew about all of them before the last month of the year...
I still haven't been able to venture out to see others yet, but I WILL reach my goal of visiting all 413 of them!
Have you been to this national memorial before? It's dog friendly, and they even do an annual event for dogs in March!
Hurricane Matthew came through a few months before we visited Fort Matanzas in December 2016, which caused quite a bit of damage to this park- both beach boardwalks, and the ferry dock at the visitor's center. Unfortunately, because we weren't able to actually get over to the monument, I only have these two pictures.
Also, because of time constraints, we couldn't walk around the national park grounds that were available to us, so no pictures from that either. However, I would definitely recommend going to the park once the ferry service is reopened so you can get to see the entire park grounds. (The ferry service is completely free, and there is no charge for admission!) If you visit and decide to walk around the grounds via their nature trail, make sure you bring bug repellant... I got bit like 10 times just standing around for 5 minutes.
The fort was built to guard St. Augustine's southern river approach, constructed roughly around 1765 and it was neat to see Castillo de San Marcos and then come over to the other side of St. Augustine and learn a bit about this monument as well, since they worked in tandem.
While we were there, we got 2 stamps for our passport book, spoke with the Park Rangers for a bit, and watched their 10 minute video about the park. My biggest takeaway was that 'Matanzas' means slaughters in Spanish. After bringing that up to the Park Ranger, she told me that they have a ton of businesses and things named after it... like Matanzas High School.
Have you ever been to the monument or hiked the trail? What did you think of it?
I absolutely love this national monument. I've been here a few times before (while growing up, and about 5 years prior) but this trip was the best one. Chris and I walked through every inch of the fort and read and watched all the information available- it's fascinating. The massive fort was built to protect the city of St. Augustine, sitting alongside the gorgeous Matanzas river. The original construction started in 1672, finishing in 1695.
There are all sorts of rooms to go into once inside the fort, including a very tiny storage room that you have to literally crawl to get inside. It's lit, but still dark, damp, and creepy. You can almost feel the weight of the heavy coquina construction above you. My favorite part was the live demonstration they did with the cannon and period-guns. They do the reinactment a few times a day (on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) with a few park volunteers in super hot, wool costumes, and a park ranger who gives great background information.
Admission is $10 per adult (anyone over 16), but the reciept is good for a few days, so you can come back another day if you missed anything. We were there for about 2 hours total. I would definitely recommend visiting the fort while you're in St. Augustine. It's right next to the beautiful, clear-blue water.
The gift shop inside is where I found out about the passport program and was instantly excited by the idea of it. I bought a collector's edition passport, stamped about 6 stamps in my book from this location alone because they had some fun, extra stamps (usually parks only have one- two for 2016 because it's the centenial year) and then had the dream of visiting all 413 entities of the National Park system.