Historic Markers Across Alabama

The De Soto Trail

Marker ID:  
Location: I-20, WB, mile post 1, Cleburne Welcome Centee, AL
County: Cleburne
Coordinates: N 33° 40.154    W 085° 22.272
  33.66923333    -85.3712
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: WMV4BT


The De Soto Trail

   1492 - Columbus visits Caribbean islands

   1519 - Pineda visits Mobile area

   1528 - Narváez reaches Mobile area

   1540 - De Soto explores Alabama

   1559 - De Luna retraces De Soto's route in Alabama

   1702 - French establish first permanent colony at Dauphin Island

Today, after 450 years of searching, the exact route of Hernando de Soto through the southeastern United States remains the foremost historical mystery of the South. Despite the work of professional and amateur archaeologists and historians, and a national commission, there are still several alternate routes that have their defenders.

The problem is that even with a large army, De Soto left very little physical evidence along the route and neglected to record accurate latitude and mileage measurements.

A major study in the search for the De Soto route was in the 1939 (400th anniversary) United States De Soto Commission report. This report presented an"official” route that was intended to combine the best features of the various hypotheses developed at that time. Since then a great deal of archaeological work has been done (over 300 Indian sites have been studied in Alabama alone).

The route that now has the widest acceptance is that of Dr. Charles Hudson of the University of Georgia and his associates. Most scholars in Alabama agree with that route from the point where it enters northeastern Alabama near Piedmont, down the Coosa River Valley and into the Montgomery-Selma area. There are those who believe that from there De Soto went south to the forks of the Alabama-Tombigbee rivers. This route tends to follow that of the 1939 United States Commission. Other scholars think De Soto may have gone west from Selma. Hudson thinks he went northwest.

The route that has been marked as the Alabama Highway Route of the De Soto Trail is primarily that of Charles Hudson. It has been approved by the Alabama De Soto Commission as being based on the best currently available evidence. Only further archaeological exploration is likely to settle this question definitely.

End of The De Soto Trail