In May 1539 Hernando de Soto landed in Florida with over 600 people, 220 horses and mules, and a herd of swine reserved for famine. Fired by his success in Pizarro's conquest of Peru, De Soto had been granted the rights, by the King of Spain, to explore, then govern, southeastern North America.
After wintering in Tallahassee, the De Soto expedition set out on a quest for gold which eventually spanned four years and crossed portions of nine states. This was the first recorded European exploration of the interior of the Southeast. Over 300 members died on the expedition, including De Soto in 1542. This tremendous effort forever changed the lives of the Indians who were infected with old world diseases, killed in battle, enslaved made destitute and sometimes befriended.
Many scholars believe that the De Soto expedition crossed the Savannah River in this general area, April 17, 1540. The Spanish crossed the swift river where it was divided by an island and moved into South Carolina. Forty foot soldiers tied themselves together and crossed safely in water that reached up to the saddlebags of the cavalry`s horses.