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Just south of Tampa, FL in Bradenton, FL is De Soto National Memorial. The park preserves a piece of Florida coastline to provide visitors the opportunity to experience what the Florida coastline looked like when the conquistadors arrived. When you picture Florida beaches today they are typically filled with a city skyline or sprawling beaches covered with visitors, but the coastline was actually dense and filled with vegetation. The park offers a boardwalk that meanders through the dense maritime forest and, below the vegetation, hundreds of crabs scuttle across the sand. De Soto also provides a variety of activities including a museum, kayak-led tours, a nature trail, picnic area, boating, fishing, bird watching, camping, and a living history camp that visitors can partake in. When we visited, we got there right when the park opened, and there were only a few other people there, so we were able to stroll around leisurely and explore. We started in the museum and watched a short film on the history of the conquistadors in Florida. Next we headed onto the boardwalk and then explored the grounds. By visiting the National Park sites we get a more comprehensive understanding of pieces of American history and, combining them with other national park sites and state parks, we obtain a larger picture of American history and landscapes. A visit to De Soto National Memorial takes only a couple hours, but is definitely worth a trip.

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