De Soto Winter Encampment Site Historic State Park


1001 Desoto Park Dr, Tallahassee, FL 32301



(FPAN North Central)



Daily 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
(Call for exhibit hours)


Division of Historical Resources, Archaeology


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.

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.

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, enslaved people, craftsmen, 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.



Artifacts from Hernando de Soto Winter Encampment archaeological site excavations are displayed inside the Martin House, which is located on the property. The house was built in 1934 by John Wellborn Martin, the 24th governor of Florida (1925-1929). The Georgian Revival style house, called "Apalachee," was originally on 27 acres. In 1941, Martin sold the property to local developers who incorporated all but approximately six acres into a new subdivision called Governor's Park. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.

The house currently serves as offices for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research (B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology at the Governor Martin House). The Bureau is entrusted with the maintenance, preservation and protection of over 12,000 years of Florida heritage. Archaeological and historical resources on state-owned and state-controlled lands, including sovereignty submerged lands, are the direct responsibility of the Bureau. The Bureau is divided into areas of responsibility, including Collections and Conservation, Education and Research, Public Lands Archaeology (PLA) program, and Underwater Archaeology. The five sections work together to ensure that Florida archaeological heritage will endure for future generations.

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