De Soto Winter Encampment Site Historic State Park

This 6-acre archaeological site is located in Tallahassee a mile east of the state capitol. It is the only place that the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, is confirmed to have visited during his 1539-1540 expedition of the Southeastern United States.

De Soto had come to conquer and establish a colony in La Florida, which at that time a territory covering most of the southeastern United States. To accomplish his goals, he brought a wide array of people including soldiers, slaves, craftspeople, and bureaucrats. A veteran of campaigns in Central and South America, De Soto was a ruthless and skilled soldier. After landing in the Tampa Bay region in May of 1539, and after months of exploring central Florida, De Soto had failed to find great sources of wealth, such as gold and silver. The indigenous tribes he encountered, like the Tocobaga and central Timucua, each told tales of chiefdoms further inland or north which were wealthier. De Soto was lured north to the Apalachee territory following reports by other tribes that the Apalachee were rich and powerful.

The conquistadors blazed a trail northward up the peninsula, fighting battles with resisting indigenous tribes, enslaving men and women, raiding stocks of food, and burning villages along the way. After fighting their way up the state and across the Suwannee River, the army entered the territory of the Apalachee. These people, like the other tribes to the south, resisted the invasion with attacks by the fierce warriors, and by burning their own fields. The Apalachee abandoned their towns in anticipation of the Spaniards' arrival. From October 1539 through March 1540, the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto and his expedition of more than 600 people occupied the Apalachee capital of Anhaica, located in present-day Tallahassee.

Hernando de Soto's first winter was a turning point in his expedition. While at Anhaica, De Soto altered his expedition plans and decided to explore further north. He moved supply lines and gathered intelligence on possible routes. He used the Apalachee's extensive food stores and semi-permanent buildings to feed and house his expedition. After leaving Anhaica, his violent excursion into the southeastern United States forever changed the region and the native inhabitants.



Today three Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research programs are headquartered at the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology- Florida Public Lands Archaeology, Archaeological Resource Management Training and Underwater Archaeology. The property is home to the North Central Regional office of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. An exhibit, featuring artifacts from the Hernando de Soto Winter Encampment Site excavation, is open to the public at the Governor Martin House, B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology.

ADDRESS: 1001 Desoto Park Dr, Tallahassee, FL 32301

PHONE: 850-877-2206 (FPAN North Central)

HOURS: Outside park open 24 hours with display panels. Inside exhibits 9am to 4pm Monday - Friday. 

page information credit: Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida State Parks, Historical Markers Project, Mark Hilton, Wikipedia
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors