Most residents and visitors to the American Southwest and California are familiar with the term Camino Real. Translated from the Spanish as “royal road” or “King’s Highway,” it refers to the trails and roads that connected colonial Spanish presidios (or areas of control) and missions within various regions of the New World. In the western United States, the arid climate, durable architecture, and descendant populations have all contributed to the high profile of Native American and Spanish colonial heritage. Today, many missions in the western United States are owned by the Catholic Church and remain active parishes.
In contrast, Spanish Florida’s Camino Real was developed in a subtropical environment, and the missions were constructed of impermanent materials. By 1706, all of the Florida missions were abandoned or destroyed due to attacks by English forces and their native allies. As a result, in Florida today there are no standing mission remains, few living descendants of mission Indian populations, and scant remnants of the trails and roads that connected the colony’s missions and settlements. The best evidence of La Florida’s historic Camino Real comes from the study of Spanish colonial documents, combined with mission archaeology.