The fortresses were built to protect against pirates, hostile native Americans, and colonists from enemy nations. Later in western North America, with independence, the Mexicans garrisoned the Spanish presidios on the northern frontier and followed the same pattern in unsettled frontier regions like the Presidio de Sonoma, at Sonoma, California and the Presidio de Calabasas, in Arizona.
In western North America, a rancho del rey or king 's ranch would be established a short distance outside a presidio. This was a tract of land assigned to the presidio to furnish pasturage to the horses and other beasts of burden of the garrison. Mexico called this facility "rancho nacional".
- The Presidio Santa Elena, founded in 1566 on Parris Island, destroyed by Native Americans in 1576, re-established in 1577, abandoned in 1587
- The Presidio Guale, founded in 1566, abandoned three months later
- The Presidio San Pedro de Tacatacuru, founded in 1569 on Cumberland Island, abandoned in 1573
- The Presidio San Augustin, founded in 1565, which developed into the city of St. Augustine, ceded to Great Britain in 1763
- The Presidio San Mateo, founded in 1565 on the ruins of Fort Caroline, captured and destroyed by the French in 1568
- The Presidio Ais, founded in 1565 on the Indian River Lagoon, abandoned after one month
- The Presidio Santa Lucia, founded in 1565 near Cape Canaveral, abandoned four months later
- The Presidio San Antonio de Padua, founded in 1566 at Calos, capital of the Calusa, abandoned in 1569
- The Presidio Tocobago, founded in 1567 on Tampa Bay, destroyed by Tocobagos within ten months
- The Presidio Tequesta, founded in 1567 on the site of what is now Miami, abandoned in 1568
- The Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, founded in 1696, near Fort Barrancas at Naval Air Station Pensacola, captured by French in 1719
- The Presidio Bahía San José de Valladares, founded in 1701 on St. Joseph Bay, captured by French in 1718
- The Presidio San Marcos de Apalachee, founded in 1718 at the existing port of San Marcos, which developed into the town of St. Marks, ceded to Great Britain in 1763
- The Presidio Bahía San José de Nueva Asturias, founded in 1719 on St. Joseph Point, abandoned in 1722
- The Presidio Isla Santa Rosa Punta de Siguenza, founded in 1722 on Santa Rosa Island, abandoned in 1755
- The Presidio San Miguel de Panzacola, founded in 1755, which developed into the city of Pensacola, ceded to Great Britain in 1763
- The Presidio Fuerte de Santa Cruz del Cibolo, founded in 1734 and re-established in 1771 near Cestohowa, Texas in Karnes County, Texas, (between San Antonio and Goliad).
- The Presidio San Antonio de Bexar, founded in 1718 in San Antonio
- The Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto, founded in 1721, near Lavaca Bay, now in Goliad
- The Presidio of San Carlos de Cerro Gordo, founded in 1772 in Big Bend Country
- The Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas San Saba, founded in 1772 near the present day Menard
- The Presidio de la Junta de los Ríos Norte y Conchos, founded in 1760 just southwest of present day Presidio
- The Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac, founded in 1752 in Tubac
- The Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, founded in 1775 in Tucson
- The Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate, founded in 1775 near the present day Tombstone
- The Presidio de San Bernardino, founded in 1776 near the present day Douglas
- The Presidio de Calabasas, founded in 1837 near the present day Tumacacori
- The Presidio Real de San Carlos de Monterey, founded in 1770. Its rancho del rey was what became Rancho Nacional. It is currently housing the Defense Language Institute, in Monterey
- The Presidio Real de San Diego, founded in 1769 in San Diego, its rancho del rey was what became Rancho de la Nación.
- The Presidio Real de San Francisco, founded in 1776 and now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco. Its rancho del rey was what became Rancho Buri Buri.
- The Presidio Real de Santa Bárbara, founded in 1782 in Santa Barbara. Its rancho del rey was what became Rancho San Julian.
- The Presidio de Sonoma, founded by Mexico in 1836 in Sonoma. Its rancho naciónal was what became Rancho Suscol.
- The Presidio de San Felipe y Santiago de Janos, founded in 1685 in Janos, Sonora
- The Presidio del Pitic, founded in 1726 in Hermosillo, Sonora
- The Presidio Santa Gertrudis del Altar, founded in 1755 in Altar, Sonora
- The Presidio de Santa Rosa de Corodéguachi, founded in 1692, near the Sonora/Arizona border and later moved to Fronteras, Sonora
- The Presidio de Santa Catalina de Tepehuanes (1620 - 1690's?), in Tepehuanes.
- The Presidio del Pasaje (1685), on Rio Nazas northwest of Cuencamé.
- The Presidio de San Pedro del Gallo (1690's), in San Pedro del Gallo.
- The Presidio de Santiago de Mapimí (1715), in Mapimí.
- The Presidio de San Miguel de Cerrogordo (1648-1767) in Villa Hidalgo.
- The Presidio de El Paso del Río Grande del Norte (1683 - 1773), at Ciudad Juárez, across the river from El Paso, Texas. Later relocated south in 1773 to Carrizal.
- The Presidio de San Felipe y Santiago de Janos (1691-?), in Janos.
- The Presidio de Casas Grandes (1686), was relocated to Janos in 1691.
- The Presidio de San Francisco de Conchos, founded in 1685 at San Francisco de Conchos.
- The Presidio de San Bartolomé (? - 1710), located 20km east of Parral. Replaced by flying squadron operating from the Post of Valle de San Bartolomé (1710 - ?).
- The Presidio de Nuestra Señora de las Caldas de Guajoquilla, founded in 1752 in Jiménez
- The Presidio de San Fernando de Carrizal (1758 - ?)
- The Presidio del Santísimo Sacramento del Valle de Santa Rosa, founded in 1780 in Melcho Muzquiz, Coahuila
- The Presidio San Juan Bautista del Río Grande, founded around 1703 in San Juan Bautista, now the present day Guerrero, Coahuila
- The Presidio San Antonio Bucareli de la Babia, founded in 1774 in present day La Babia, Coahuila
- The Presidio San Gregorio de Cerralvo, founded in 1626 in Nuevo Leon, Mexico
- Ranchos of California: Extracts from: Grants of land in California made by Spanish or Mexican authorities, by Cris Perez Boundary Determination Office State Lands Commission Boundary Investigation Unit August 23, 1982. Berkeley Library website.
- Childers, Ronald Wayne (2004). "The Presidio System in Spanish Florida 1565-1763". Historical Archaeology 38 (3): 24–32. Retrieved 8 October 2013.