Chesapeake Bay In Maryland

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The Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland is the largest and most productive estuary in the United States, is an integral part of our natural and national history. The Chesapeake Bay watershed, home to more than 18 million people and 3,600 species of plants and animals, is truly an extraordinary place. Stretching across six states and the District of Columbia, with its rich history, vital economic importance, and amazing beauty, the Bay watershed never ceases to amaze.

Facts About The Bay of the Chesapeake

  • The Susquehanna River 2The Chesapeake Bay is essentially the valley floor of the Susquehanna River. It is the Susquehanna’s tidal portion. Two integral parts of a single ecosystem are the river and the bay. During the last Ice Age, twenty thousand years ago, the sea level was about 330 ft. lower than it is today. The Susquehanna flowed from the edge of the polar ice cap (now northern central Pennsylvania) down to the Atlantic at that time. All of the rivers in what is now the drainage basin of the Chesapeake flowed into it. The Atlantic backed up into the Susquehanna’s valley floor as the earth warmed up and sea level rose, forming the Chesapeake Bay and the tidal portions of rivers like the Potomac and the Nanticoke. valley was formed nearly 12,000 years ago when glaciers melted and flooded;
  • Named after the Algonquin word chesepiooc, meaning “great shellfish bay;” most historians think;
  • It is about 200 miles long and extends from Havre de Grace, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia.
  • The Hole, located off Bloody Point, southeast of Annapolis, Maryland, is 174 feet deep and has an average depth of 21 feet (the deepest part of the Bay, a.k.a. ‘The Hole,’
  • Ranges from a width of 3.4 to 35 miles;
  • Holds water in excess of 15 trillion gallons;
  • Support for 348 finfish species and 173 shellfish species;
  • Supports more than 3,600 plant and animal species, including 2,700 plant species and more than 16 underwater grass species;
  • The Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James are the largest of these; they are fed by 50 major tributaries (or streams and rivers) every day.
  • It produces an annual harvest of more than 500 million pounds of seafood. – Chesapeake Bay Watershed


Chesapeake Bay History

Chesapeake Bay, the largest inlet on the eastern U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain. It is 193 miles (311 km) long and 3 to 25 miles (5 to 40 km) wide, created by the submergence of the lower courses of the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. Virginia borders the southern part of the bay, and Maryland borders its northern portion. Its entrance from the Atlantic is flanked to the north by Cape Charles and to the south by Cape Henry. In addition to the Susquehanna, the western James, York, Rappahannock, Potomac, and Patuxent and the eastern Wicomico, Nanticoke, Choptank, and Chester are major rivers emptying into the bay. Most of the irregular eastern shore of the bay is low and marshy, whereas the straighter west shore consists of cliffs for long distances.


The bay area’s first European settlement, Jamestown, was founded in 1607. One year later, Captain John Smith, the English colonist, explored and mapped the bay and its estuaries, and soon after, settlers came to the easily accessible, well-protected shores of the bay.


The British invaded the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. Near Annapolis, Maryland, the William Preston Lane, Jr., Memorial Bridge spans the upper bay. It was opened in 1952 to traffic and is 6.4 km (4 miles) long.

20th Century

The Bridge-Tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay was completed in 1964 across the lower bay. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway forms part of the bay. The sheltered, nutrient-rich waters of the Chesapeake Bay supported vast populations of fish, shellfish and other marine life until the latter half of the 20th century. There was an abundance of commercial fishing and recreational activities. However by the 1970s, the surrounding land’s residential and industrial development had led to significant pollution of the bay by sewage, industrial waste, and sediment. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, commercial fishing dropped sharply, as did recreational use of the bay. In an effort to reverse the environmental damage that the bay has suffered, various projects have been undertaken. – Chesapeake Bay

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