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Chesapeake Bay
Estuary
The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo
Name origin: Chesepiooc, Algonquian for village "at a big river"
Country United States
States Maryland, Virginia
Tributaries
 - left Chester River, Choptank River, Nanticoke River, Pocomoke River
 - right Patapsco River, Patuxent River, Potomac River, Rappahannock River, York River, James River
Source Susquehanna River
 - location Havre de Grace, MD
 - elevation ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 39°32′35″N 76°04′32″W / 39.54306°N 76.07556°W / 39.54306; -76.07556
Mouth Atlantic Ocean
 - location Virginia Beach, VA
 - elevation ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 36°59′45″N 75°57′34″W / 36.99583°N 75.95944°W / 36.99583; -75.95944
Length 200 mi (322 km)
Width 30 mi (48 km)
Depth 46 ft (14 m)
Basin 64,299 sq mi (166,534 km2)
Area 4,479 sq mi (11,601 km2)
Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Chesapeake Bay (pronounced /ˈtʃɛsəpiːk/, CHESS-ə-peek) is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers 64,299 square miles (166,534 km2) in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.[1] More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is approximately 200 miles (300 km) long, from the Susquehanna River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. At its narrowest point between Kent County's Plum Point (near Newtown) and the Harford County shore near Romney Creek, the Bay is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) wide; at its widest point, just south of the mouth of the Potomac River, it is 30 miles (50 km) wide. Total shoreline for the Bay and its tributaries is 11,684 miles (18,804 km), and the surface area of the bay and its major tributaries is 4,479 square miles (11,601 km2). Depth of the bay is 46 feet (14 m) and maximum depth of bay is 208 feet (63 m).

The bay is spanned in two places. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge crosses the bay in Maryland from Sandy Point (near Annapolis) to Kent Island; the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia connects Virginia Beach to Cape Charles.

The word Chesepiooc is an Algonquian word referring to a village "at a big river." It is the seventh oldest surviving English place-name in the U.S., first applied as "Chesepiook" by explorers heading north from the Roanoke Colony into a Chesapeake tributary in 1585 or 1586.[2] In 2005, Algonquian linguist Blair Rudes "helped to dispel one of the area's most widely held beliefs: that 'Chesapeake' means something like 'Great Shellfish Bay.' It doesn't, Rudes said. The name might actually mean something like 'Great Water,' or it might have been just a village at the bay's mouth."[3] In contrast with many similar bodies of water, such as Delaware Bay or San Francisco Bay, the Chesapeake Bay is almost always preceded by the article the in usage.

Contents

Geology

The Chesapeake Bay is the ria, or drowned valley, of the Susquehanna, meaning that it was where the river flowed when the sea level was lower. It is not a fjord, as the Laurentide Ice Sheet never reached as far south as the northernmost point on the bay.

The Bay's geology, its present form, and its very location were created by a bolide impact event at the end of the Eocene (about 35.5 million years ago), forming the Chesapeake Bay impact crater and the Susquehanna river valley much later. The Bay itself was formed starting about 10,000 years ago when rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age flooded the Susquehanna river valley.[1] Parts of the bay, especially the Calvert County, Maryland coastline, are lined by cliffs composed of deposits from receding waters millions of years ago. These cliffs, generally known as Calvert Cliffs, are famous for their fossils, especially fossilized shark teeth, which are commonly found washed up on the beaches next to the cliffs. Scientists' Cliffs is a beach community in Calvert County named for the desire to create a retreat for scientists when the community was founded in 1935.[4]

Much of the bay is quite shallow. At the point where the Susquehanna River flows into the bay, the average depth is 30 feet (9 m), although this soon diminishes to an average of 10 feet (3 m) from the city of Havre de Grace for about 35 miles (56 km), to just north of Annapolis. On average, the depth of the bay is 21 feet (7 meters), including tributaries;[5] over 24% of the bay is less than 6 ft (2 m) deep.[citation needed]

The climate of the area surrounding the bay is primarily humid subtropical, with hot, very humid summers and cold to mild winters. Only the area around the mouth of the Susquehanna River is continental in nature, and the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the Susquehanna flats often freeze in winter. It is exceedingly rare for the surface of the bay to freeze in winter, as happened most recently in the winter of 1976-1977.[6]

Since the bay is an estuary, it has fresh water, salt water and brackish water. Brackish water has three salinity zones — oligohaline, mesohaline, and polyhaline. The fresh water zone runs from the mouth of the Susquehanna River to north Baltimore. The oligohaline zone has very little salt. Salinity varies from 0.5 ppt to 10 ppt and freshwater species can survive there. The north end of the oligohaline zone is north Baltimore and the south end is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The mesohaline zone has a medium amount of salt and runs from the Bay Bridge to the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Salinity there ranges from 10.7 ppt to 18 ppt. The polyhaline zone is the saltiest zone and some of the water can be as salty as sea water. It runs from the mouth of the Rappahannock River to the mouth of the bay. The salinity ranges from 18.7 ppt to 36 ppt. (36 ppt is as salty as the ocean.)

History

Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón sent an expedition out from Hispaniola in 1525, led by Captain Pedro de Quejo, which reached the mouth of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays and may have been the first European expedition to explore parts of the Chesapeake Bay. De Ayllón established a short-lived Spanish mission settlement, "San Miguel de Gualdape", in 1526 along the Atlantic coast. Many scholars doubt the assertion that it was as far north as the Chesapeake; most place it in present-day Georgia's Sapelo Island.[7]

Captain John Smith of England explored and mapped the bay between 1607 and 1609. The "Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail", the United States' first-ever all-water National Historic Trail, was created in July 2006. The bill passed by voice vote in the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate.[8]

The Chesapeake Bay was the site of the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, during which the French fleet defeated the Royal Navy in the decisive naval battle of the American Revolutionary War.

Today, the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant uses water from the bay to cool its reactor.

The bay is also known for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a dog breed developed in this area.

Watershed

The largest rivers flowing directly into the bay, from north to south, are:

Flora and Fauna

The Chesapeake Bay is home to numerous fauna that either migrate to the Bay at some point during the year or live there year round. There are over 300 species of fish and numerous shellfish and crab species. Some of these include the Atlantic menhaden, Striped bass, American eel, Eastern oyster, and the Blue crab. The Bay also houses various reptiles along with waterfowl like the American Osprey and the Bald Eagle. Numerous flora also make the Chesapeake Bay their home both on land and underwater. Common submerged aquatic vegetation includes eelgrass and widgeon grass. Other vegetation that makes its home in other parts of the Bay are wild rice, various trees like the red maple and bald cypress, and spartina grass and phragmites.[9]

Fishing industry

A skipjack, part of the oystering fleet in Maryland
A charter fishing boat on the Chesapeake Bay

The bay was once known for its great seafood production, especially blue crabs, clams and oysters. The plentiful oyster harvests led to the development of the skipjack, the state boat of Maryland, which is the only remaining working boat type in the United States still under sail power. Other characteristic bay area workboats include:[10]

Today, the body of water is less productive than it used to be, because of runoff from urban areas (mostly on the Western Shore) and farms (especially on the Eastern Shore), over harvesting, and invasion of foreign species. The bay still yields more fish and shellfish (about 45,000 short tons or 40,000 tonnes yearly) than any other estuary in the United States.

The bay is famous for its rockfish, also known as striped bass. Once on the verge of extinction, rockfish have made a significant comeback due to legislative action that put a moratorium on rockfishing, which allowed the species to repopulate. Rockfish are now able to be fished in strictly controlled and limited quantities.

Oyster farming is a growing industry for the bay to help maintain the bay's productivity as well as a natural effort for filtering impurities in the bay in an effort to reduce the disastrous effects of man-made pollution.

In 2005, local governments began debate on the introduction to certain parts of the bay of a species of Asian oyster, to revive the lagging shellfish industry.

Deteriorating environmental conditions

Tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay

In the 1970s, the Chesapeake Bay was discovered to contain one of the planet's first identified marine dead zones, where hypoxic waters were so depleted of oxygen they were unable to support life, resulting in massive fish kills. Today the bay's dead zones are estimated to kill 75,000 tons of bottom-dwelling clams and worms each year, weakening the base of the estuary's food chain and robbing the blue crab in particular of a primary food source. Crabs themselves are sometimes observed to amass on shore to escape pockets of oxygen-poor water, a behavior known as a "crab jubilee". Hypoxia results in part from large algal blooms, which are nourished by the runoff of farm and industrial waste throughout the watershed. The runoff and pollution have many components that help contribute to the algal blooms which is mainly fed by phosphorus and nitrogen.[11] This algae prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the bay while alive and deoxygenates the bay's water when it dies and rots. The erosion and runoff of sediment into the bay, exacerbated by devegetation, construction and the prevalence of pavement in urban and suburban areas, also blocks vital sunlight. The resulting loss of aquatic vegetation has depleted the habitat for much of the bay's animal life. Beds of eelgrass, the dominant variety in the southern bay, have shrunk by more than half there since the early 1970s. Overharvesting, pollution, sedimentation and disease has turned much of the bay's bottom into a muddy wasteland.[12]

One particularly harmful algae is Pfiesteria piscicida, which can affect both fish and humans. Pfiesteria caused a small regional panic in the late 1990's when a series of large blooms started killing large numbers of fish while giving swimmers mysterious rashes, and nutrient runoff from chicken farms was blamed for the growth.[citation needed]

Depletion of oysters

While the bay's salinity is ideal for oysters, and the oyster fishery was at one time the bay's most commercially viable,[13] the population has in the last fifty years been devastated. Maryland once had roughly 200,000 acres of oyster reefs. Today it has about 36,000.[13] It has been estimated that in pre-colonial times, oysters could filter the entirety of the Bay in about 3.3 days; by 1988 this time had increased to 325 days.[14] The harvest's gross value decreased 88% from 1982 to 2007.[15]

The primary problem is overharvesting. Lax government regulations allow anyone with a license to remove oysters from state-owned beds, and although limits are set they are not strongly enforced.[13] The overharvesting of oysters has made it difficult for them to reproduce, which requires close proximity to one another. A second cause for the oyster depletion is that the drastic increase in human population caused a sharp increase in pollution flowing into the bay.[13]

The bay's oyster industry has also suffered from two diseases: MSX and Dermo.[16]

Oyster recovery attempts

The depletion of oysters due to overharvesting and damaged habitat has had a particularly harmful effect on the quality of the bay. Oysters serve as natural water filters, and their decline has further reduced the water quality of the bay. Water that was once clear for meters is now so turbid that a wader may lose sight of their feet before their knees are wet.

Efforts of federal, state and local governments, working in partnership through the Chesapeake Bay Program, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other nonprofit environmental groups, to restore or at least maintain the current water quality have had mixed results. One particular obstacle to cleaning up the bay is that much of the polluting substances arise far upstream in tributaries lying within states far removed from the bay itself. Despite the state of Maryland spending over $100 million to restore the bay, conditions have continued to grow worse. Twenty years ago, the bay supported over six thousand oystermen. There are now fewer than 500.[17]

Efforts to repopulate the bay with via hatcheries have been carried out by a group called the Oyster Recovery Partnership, with some success. They recently placed 6 million oysters on eight acres of the Trent Hall sanctuary.[18] Scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary claim that experimental reefs created in 2004 now house 180 million native oysters, Crassostrea virginica, which is far less than the billions that once existed.[19]

Tourism

The Chesapeake Bay is a main feature for tourists who visit Maryland and Virginia each year. Fishing, crabbing, swimming, boating, and sailing are extremely popular activities enjoyed on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. As a result, tourism has a notable impact on Maryland's economy.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Fact Sheet 102-98 - The Chesapeake Bay: Geologic Product of Rising Sea Level". U. S. Geological Survey. 1998-11-18. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs102-98/. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  2. ^ Also shown as "Chisupioc" (by John Smith) and "Chisapeack", in Algonquian "Che" means "big" or "great", "sepi" means river, and the "oc" or "ok" ending indicated something (a village, in this case) "at" that feature. "Sepi" is also found in another placename of Algonquian origin, Mississippi. The name was soon transferred by the English from the big river at that site to the big bay. Stewart, George (1945). Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House. p. 23. 
  3. ^ Farenthold, David A. (2006-12-12). "A Dead Indian Language Is Brought Back to Life". The Washington Post: p. A1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/11/AR2006121101474_2.html?nav=rss_email/components. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  4. ^ "FAQ". Scientists Cliffs community. http://www.scientistscliffs.org/HTML/FAQs/FAQs.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  5. ^ "Geography". Chesapeake Bay Foundation. http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=exp_sub_watershed_geography. Retrieved 2008-04-21.  Other sources give values of 25 feet (e.g. "Charting the Chesapeake 1590-1990". Maryland State Archives. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/speccol/sc2200/sc2269/html/chartfront.html. Retrieved 2008-04-21. ) or 30 feet deep ("Healthy Chesapeake Waterways" (PDF). University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. http://ian.umces.edu/pdfs/iannewsletter1.pdf. Retrieved 2008-04-21. )
  6. ^ "The Big Freeze", Time, 1977-01-31, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,918620-2,00.html, retrieved 2007-03-19 
  7. ^ Weber, David (1994). The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp. 36, 37. 
  8. ^ "H.R. 5466 [109th] Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail Designation Act". GovTrack.us. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-5466. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  9. ^ Domes S., Lewis M., Moran R., Nyman D.. “Chesapeake Bay Wetlands”. Emporia State University. May 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  10. ^ "Chesapeake Bay Workboats". Chesapeake Bay Gateway Network. http://www.baygateways.net/workboats.cfm. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  11. ^ Dennen, R. (2009-10-30). “Is it time we put the ailing Bay on diet?”. The Free Lance Star. Retrieved 2010-02-17
  12. ^ "Bad Water and the Decline of Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay". Chesapeake Bay Foundation. 2008-12. http://www.cbf.org/Document.Doc?id=172. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  13. ^ a b c d Oysters: Gem of the Ocean, The Economist, December 8, 2008; accessed September 2, 2009.
  14. ^ "Oyster Reefs: Ecological importance". US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. http://habitat.noaa.gov/restorationtechniques/public/habitat.cfm?HabitatID=2&HabitatTopicID=11. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  15. ^ "Estimating Net Present Value in the Northern Chesapeake Bay Oyster Fishery". NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. 2008-11-07. http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/OysterEIS/PeerReviews/ResearchDocs/OysterNPV1107_rev_1.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  16. ^ "Research – Shellfish Diseases". Virginia Institute of Marine Science. 2007-03-16. http://www.vims.edu/env/research/shellfish/. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  17. ^ Urbina, Ian (November 29, 2008), In Maryland, Focus on Poultry Industry Pollution, The New York Times, p. A14, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/us/29poultry.html?partner=rss&emc=rss 
  18. ^ Program turns pork into oysters, Jesse Yeatman, South Maryland Newspapers Online, August 12, 2009.
  19. ^ Oysters Are on the Rebound in the Chesapeake Bay, Henry Fountain, The New York Times, August 3, 2009; accessed September 8, 2009.

Further reading

  • Cleaves, E.T. et al. (2006). Quaternary geologic map of the Chesapeake Bay 4º x 6º quadrangle, United States [Miscellaneous Investigations Series; Map I-1420 (NJ-18)]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Phillips, S.W., ed. (2007). Synthesis of U.S. Geological Survey science for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and implications for environmental management [U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1316]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

Bay area publications

External links


Chesapeake Bay
Estuary
Name origin: Chesepiooc, Algonquian for village "at a big river"
Country United States
States Maryland, Virginia
Tributaries
 - left Chester River, Choptank River, Nanticoke River, Pocomoke River
 - right Patapsco River, Patuxent River, Potomac River, Rappahannock River, York River, James River
Source Susquehanna River
 - location Havre de Grace, MD
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 39°32′35″N 76°04′32″W / 39.54306°N 76.07556°W / 39.54306; -76.07556
Mouth Atlantic Ocean
 - location Virginia Beach, VA
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 36°59′45″N 75°57′34″W / 36.99583°N 75.95944°W / 36.99583; -75.95944
Length 200 mi (322 km)
Width 30 mi (48 km)
Depth 46 ft (14 m)
Basin 64,299 sq mi (166,534 km²)
Area 4,479 sq mi (11,601 km²)
Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Chesapeake Bay (pronounced /ˈtʃɛsəpiːk/, CHESS-ə-peek) is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers 64,299 square miles (166,534 km2) in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.[1] More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is approximately 200 miles (300 km) long, from the Susquehanna River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. At its narrowest point between Kent County's Plum Point (near Newtown) and the Harford County shore near Romney Creek, the Bay is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) wide; at its widest point, just south of the mouth of the Potomac River, it is 30 miles (50 km) wide. Total shoreline for the Bay and its tributaries is 11,684 miles (18,804 km), and the surface area of the bay and its major tributaries is 4,479 square miles (11,601 km2). Average depth of the bay is 46 feet (14 m) and the maximum depth is 208 feet (63 m).

The bay is spanned in two places. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge crosses the bay in Maryland from Sandy Point (near Annapolis) to Kent Island; the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia connects Virginia Beach to Cape Charles.

The word Chesepiooc is an Algonquian word referring to a village "at a big river." It is the seventh oldest surviving English place-name in the U.S., first applied as "Chesepiook" by explorers heading north from the Roanoke Colony into a Chesapeake tributary in 1585 or 1586.[2] In 2005, Algonquian linguist Blair Rudes "helped to dispel one of the area's most widely held beliefs: that 'Chesapeake' means something like 'Great Shellfish Bay.' It doesn't, Rudes said. The name might actually mean something like 'Great Water,' or it might have been just a village at the bay's mouth."[3] In contrast with many similar bodies of water, such as Delaware Bay or San Francisco Bay, the Chesapeake Bay is almost always preceded by the article the in usage by people living in the area.[citation needed]

Contents

Geology

The Chesapeake Bay is the ria, or drowned valley, of the Susquehanna, meaning that it was where the river flowed when the sea level was lower. It is not a fjord, as the Laurentide Ice Sheet never reached as far south as the northernmost point on the bay.

The Bay's geology, its present form, and its very location were created by a bolide impact event at the end of the Eocene (about 35.5 million years ago), forming the Chesapeake Bay impact crater and the Susquehanna river valley much later. The Bay itself was formed starting about 10,000 years ago when rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age flooded the Susquehanna river valley.[1] Parts of the bay, especially the Calvert County, Maryland coastline, are lined by cliffs composed of deposits from receding waters millions of years ago. These cliffs, generally known as Calvert Cliffs, are famous for their fossils, especially fossilized shark teeth, which are commonly found washed up on the beaches next to the cliffs. Scientists' Cliffs is a beach community in Calvert County named for the desire to create a retreat for scientists when the community was founded in 1935.[4]

Much of the bay is quite shallow. At the point where the Susquehanna River flows into the bay, the average depth is 30 feet (9 m), although this soon diminishes to an average of 10 feet (3 m) from the city of Havre de Grace for about 35 miles (56 km), to just north of Annapolis. On average, the depth of the bay is 21 feet (7 m), including tributaries;[5] over 24% of the bay is less than 6 ft (2 m) deep.[citation needed]

The climate of the area surrounding the bay is primarily humid subtropical, with hot, very humid summers and cold to mild winters. Only the area around the mouth of the Susquehanna River is continental in nature, and the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the Susquehanna flats often freeze in winter. It is exceedingly rare for the surface of the bay to freeze in winter, as happened most recently in the winter of 1976-1977.[6]

]] Since the bay is an estuary, it has fresh water, salt water and brackish water. Brackish water has three salinity zones — oligohaline, mesohaline, and polyhaline. The fresh water zone runs from the mouth of the Susquehanna River to north Baltimore. The oligohaline zone has very little salt. Salinity varies from 0.5 ppt to 10 ppt and freshwater species can survive there. The north end of the oligohaline zone is north Baltimore and the south end is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The mesohaline zone has a medium amount of salt and runs from the Bay Bridge to the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Salinity there ranges from 10.7 ppt to 18 ppt. The polyhaline zone is the saltiest zone and some of the water can be as salty as sea water. It runs from the mouth of the Rappahannock River to the mouth of the bay. The salinity ranges from 18.7 ppt to 36 ppt. (36 ppt is as salty as the ocean.)

History

Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón sent an expedition out from Hispaniola in 1525, led by Captain Pedro de Quejo,[citation needed] which reached the mouth of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. It may have been the first European expedition to explore parts of the Chesapeake Bay, which the Spaniards called "Bahía de Santa María" at the time.[7] De Ayllón established a short-lived Spanish mission settlement, San Miguel de Gualdape, in 1526 along the Atlantic coast. Many scholars doubt the assertion that it was as far north as the Chesapeake; most place it in present-day Georgia's Sapelo Island.[8]

Captain John Smith of England explored and mapped the bay between 1607 and 1609. There was a mass migration of southern English cavaliers and their Irish and Scottish servants to the Chesapeake Bay Region between 1640 and 1675. The "Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail", the United States' first-ever all-water National Historic Trail, was created in July 2006. The bill passed by voice vote in the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate.[9]

The Chesapeake Bay was the site of the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, during which the French fleet defeated the Royal Navy in the decisive naval battle of the American Revolutionary War.

Today, the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant uses water from the bay to cool its reactor.

The bay is also known for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a dog breed developed in this area.

Watershed

The largest rivers flowing directly into the bay, from north to south, are:

Flora and fauna

File:Chesapeake Waterbird Food
Food chain diagram for waterbirds of the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is home to numerous fauna that either migrate to the Bay at some point during the year or live there year round. There are over 300 species of fish and numerous shellfish and crab species. Some of these include the Atlantic menhaden, Striped bass, American eel, Eastern oyster, and the Blue crab. The Bay also houses various reptiles along with waterfowl like the American Osprey and the Bald Eagle.

Numerous flora also make the Chesapeake Bay their home both on land and underwater. Common submerged aquatic vegetation includes eelgrass and widgeon grass. Other vegetation that makes its home in other parts of the Bay are wild rice, various trees like the red maple and bald cypress, and spartina grass and phragmites.[10]

Fishing industry

, part of the oystering fleet in Maryland]]

The bay is mostly known for its great seafood production, especially blue crabs, clams and oysters. The plentiful oyster harvests led to the development of the skipjack, the state boat of Maryland, which is the only remaining working boat type in the United States still under sail power. Other characteristic bay area workboats include:[11]

Today, the body of water is less productive than it used to be, because of runoff from urban areas (mostly on the Western Shore) and farms (especially on the Eastern Shore), over harvesting, and invasion of foreign species. The bay still yields more fish and shellfish (about 45,000 short tons or 40,000 tonnes yearly) than any other estuary in the United States.

The bay is famous for its rockfish, a regional name for striped bass. Once on the verge of extinction, rockfish have made a significant comeback due to legislative action that put a moratorium on rockfishing, which allowed the species to repopulate. Rockfish are now able to be fished in strictly controlled and limited quantities.

Oyster farming is a growing industry for the bay to help maintain the bay's productivity as well as a natural effort for filtering impurities in the bay in an effort to reduce the disastrous effects of man-made pollution.

In 2005, local governments began debate on the introduction to certain parts of the bay of a species of Asian oyster, to revive the lagging shellfish industry.

Deteriorating environmental conditions

of the Chesapeake Bay]]

In the 1970s, the Chesapeake Bay was discovered to contain one of the planet's first identified marine dead zones, where hypoxic waters were so depleted of oxygen they were unable to support life, resulting in massive fish kills. Today the bay's dead zones are estimated to kill 75,000 tons of bottom-dwelling clams and worms each year, weakening the base of the estuary's food chain and robbing the blue crab in particular of a primary food source. Crabs themselves are sometimes observed to amass on shore to escape pockets of oxygen-poor water, a behavior known as a "crab jubilee". Hypoxia results in part from large algal blooms, which are nourished by the runoff of farm and industrial waste throughout the watershed. The runoff and pollution have many components that help contribute to the algal blooms which is mainly fed by phosphorus and nitrogen.[12] This algae prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the bay while alive and deoxygenates the bay's water when it dies and rots. The erosion and runoff of sediment into the bay, exacerbated by devegetation, construction and the prevalence of pavement in urban and suburban areas, also blocks vital sunlight. The resulting loss of aquatic vegetation has depleted the habitat for much of the bay's animal life. Beds of eelgrass, the dominant variety in the southern bay, have shrunk by more than half there since the early 1970s. Overharvesting, pollution, sedimentation and disease has turned much of the bay's bottom into a muddy wasteland.[13]

One particularly harmful source of toxicity is Pfiesteria piscicida, which can affect both fish and humans. Pfiesteria caused a small regional panic in the late 1990s when a series of large blooms started killing large numbers of fish while giving swimmers mysterious rashes, and nutrient runoff from chicken farms was blamed for the growth.[14]

Depletion of oysters

While the bay's salinity is ideal for oysters, and the oyster fishery was at one time the bay's most commercially viable,[15] the population has in the last fifty years been devastated. Maryland once had roughly 200,000 acres (810 km2) of oyster reefs. Today it has about 36,000.[15] It has been estimated that in pre-colonial times, oysters could filter the entirety of the Bay in about 3.3 days; by 1988 this time had increased to 325 days.[16] The harvest's gross value decreased 88% from 1982 to 2007.[17]

The primary problem is overharvesting. Lax government regulations allow anyone with a license to remove oysters from state-owned beds, and although limits are set, they are not strongly enforced.[15] The overharvesting of oysters has made it difficult for them to reproduce, which requires close proximity to one another. A second cause for the oyster depletion is that the drastic increase in human population caused a sharp increase in pollution flowing into the bay.[15]

The bay's oyster industry has also suffered from two diseases: MSX and Dermo.[18]

Oyster recovery attempts

The depletion of oysters due to overharvesting and damaged habitat has had a particularly harmful effect on the quality of the bay. Oysters serve as natural water filters, and their decline has further reduced the water quality of the bay. Water that was once clear for meters is now so turbid that a wader may lose sight of their feet before their knees are wet.

Efforts of federal, state and local governments, working in partnership through the Chesapeake Bay Program, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other nonprofit environmental groups, to restore or at least maintain the current water quality have had mixed results. One particular obstacle to cleaning up the bay is that much of the polluting substances arise far upstream in tributaries lying within states far removed from the bay itself. Despite the state of Maryland spending over $100 million to restore the bay, conditions have continued to grow worse. Twenty years ago, the bay supported over six thousand oystermen. There are now fewer than 500.[19]

Efforts to repopulate the bay with via hatcheries have been carried out by a group called the Oyster Recovery Partnership, with some success. They recently placed 6 million oysters on 8 acres (32,000 m2) of the Trent Hall sanctuary.[20] Scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary claim that experimental reefs created in 2004 now house 180 million native oysters, Crassostrea virginica, which is far less than the billions that once existed.[21]

Tourism

The Chesapeake Bay is a main feature for tourists who visit Maryland and Virginia each year. Fishing, crabbing, swimming, boating, and sailing are extremely popular activities enjoyed on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. As a result, tourism has a notable impact on Maryland's economy.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Fact Sheet 102-98 - The Chesapeake Bay: Geologic Product of Rising Sea Level". U. S. Geological Survey. 1998-11-18. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs102-98/. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  2. ^ Also shown as "Chisupioc" (by John Smith) and "Chisapeack", in Algonquian "Che" means "big" or "great", "sepi" means river, and the "oc" or "ok" ending indicated something (a village, in this case) "at" that feature. "Sepi" is also found in another placename of Algonquian origin, Mississippi. The name was soon transferred by the English from the big river at that site to the big bay. Stewart, George (1945). Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House. p. 23. 
  3. ^ Farenthold, David A. (2006-12-12). "A Dead Indian Language Is Brought Back to Life". The Washington Post: p. A1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/11/AR2006121101474_2.html?nav=rss_email/components. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  4. ^ "FAQ". Scientists Cliffs community. http://www.scientistscliffs.org/HTML/FAQs/FAQs.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-08. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Geography". Chesapeake Bay Foundation. http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=exp_sub_watershed_geography. Retrieved 2008-04-21. [dead link] Other sources give values of 25 feet (e.g. "Charting the Chesapeake 1590-1990". Maryland State Archives. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/speccol/sc2200/sc2269/html/chartfront.html. Retrieved 2008-04-21. ) or 30 feet deep ("Healthy Chesapeake Waterways" (PDF). University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. http://ian.umces.edu/pdfs/iannewsletter1.pdf. Retrieved 2008-04-21. )
  6. ^ "The Big Freeze". Time. 1977-01-31. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,918620-2,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-19 
  7. ^ Grymes, Charles A. "Spanish in the Chesapeake". http://www.virginiaplaces.org/settleland/spanish.html. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  8. ^ Weber, David (1994). The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp. 36, 37. 
  9. ^ "H.R. 5466 [109th] Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail Designation Act". GovTrack.us. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-5466. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  10. ^ Domes S., Lewis M., Moran R., Nyman D.. “Chesapeake Bay Wetlands”. Emporia State University. May 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  11. ^ "Chesapeake Bay Workboats". Chesapeake Bay Gateway Network. http://www.baygateways.net/workboats.cfm. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  12. ^ Dennen, R. (2009-10-30). “Is it time we put the ailing Bay on diet?”. The Free Lance Star. Retrieved 2010-02-17
  13. ^ "Bad Water and the Decline of Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay". Chesapeake Bay Foundation. 2008-12. http://www.cbf.org/Document.Doc?id=172. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  14. ^ Fahrenthold, David A. (2008-09-12). "Md. Gets Tough on Chicken Farmers". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/11/AR2008091103841.html. 
  15. ^ a b c d Oysters: Gem of the Ocean, The Economist, December 8, 2008; accessed September 2, 2009.
  16. ^ "Oyster Reefs: Ecological importance". US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. http://habitat.noaa.gov/restorationtechniques/public/habitat.cfm?HabitatID=2&HabitatTopicID=11. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  17. ^ "Estimating Net Present Value in the Northern Chesapeake Bay Oyster Fishery". NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. 2008-11-07. http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/OysterEIS/PeerReviews/ResearchDocs/OysterNPV1107_rev_1.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  18. ^ "Research – Shellfish Diseases". Virginia Institute of Marine Science. 2007-03-16. http://www.vims.edu/env/research/shellfish/. Retrieved 2008-02-22. [dead link]
  19. ^ Urbina, Ian (November 29, 2008). In Maryland, Focus on Poultry Industry Pollution. The New York Times. p. A14. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/us/29poultry.html?partner=rss&emc=rss 
  20. ^ Program turns pork into oysters, Jesse Yeatman, South Maryland Newspapers Online, August 12, 2009.
  21. ^ Oysters Are on the Rebound in the Chesapeake Bay, Henry Fountain, The New York Times, August 3, 2009; accessed September 8, 2009.

Further reading

  • Cleaves, E.T. et al. (2006). Quaternary geologic map of the Chesapeake Bay 4º x 6º quadrangle, United States [Miscellaneous Investigations Series; Map I-1420 (NJ-18)]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Phillips, S.W., ed. (2007). Synthesis of U.S. Geological Survey science for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and implications for environmental management [U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1316]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

Bay area publications

  • The Capital Newspaper – The news of the Chesapeake's western shore and Annapolis.
  • Chesapeake Bay Magazine – Lifestyle magazine concerning the Chesapeake Bay region; focusing on sailing and powerboating.
  • PropTalk – Chesapeake Bay powerboating magazine.
  • SpinSheet – Chesapeake Bay sailing magazine.

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Thomas Point Lighthouse
Thomas Point Lighthouse

The Chesapeake Bay [1] is one of the world's largest estuaries, with waters extending through the states of Maryland and Virginia out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Central Maryland

Eastern Shore

Southern Maryland

Virginia

Sandy Point and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Sandy Point and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Maryland

  • Calvert Cliffs State Park [2]
  • Deal Island
  • Elk Neck State Park [3]
  • Hart Miller Island State Park [4]
  • Hooper's Island — one of Maryland's oldest inhabited places, a charming island known for sport fishing, crabbing, and the Hooper's Island Lighthouse
  • Janes Island State Park [5]
  • North Point State Park [6]
  • Point Lookout [7]
  • Sandy Point State Park [8] — one of the biggest beaches on the bay, right next to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
  • Smith Island — a tight knit island Methodist community, who speak an isolated dialect reminiscent of Victorian-era England
  • Tilghman Island
  • Wye Island [9]

Virginia

  • First Landing State Park [10]
  • Kiptopeke State Park [11]
  • Tangier Island
Holland's Island, now eaten away by erosion and rising tides
Holland's Island, now eaten away by erosion and rising tides

The "Great Shellfish Bay," as it was known to Algonquins, is the largest estuary in the United States, at a full 200 miles long, and as wide as 30 miles. A good 10,000 years ago, this region was a valley lying along the Susquehanna River on its way to the Atlantic, but was flooded as the end of the last ice age led to rising oceans.

The Bay is one of the most naturally productive bodies of water in the world, in terms of aquatic life, because of its brackish salt-freshwater mix, and its shallow depth. The average depth of the bay is a mere 30 feet! These attributes combined to make the Bay an extraordinarily attractive for fishing, especially for shellfish like blue crabs, oysters, and mussels. Given the nature of the Bay, a famous Japanese fish farmer once boasted that, were the U.S. government to hand the Bay over to him, he could feed the entire world from farming just the Chesapeake alone.

Given its extraordinary productivity, the Bay has throughout its human history always been a major population center in the region. Before European settlers arrived, the shores were populated by Algonquian tribes, such as the Powhatan Confederation, Piscataway, and Nanticoke, as well as the Iroquoian Susquehannock in the north. Early British settlers gravitated towards the Bay for much the same reasons of easy fishing, and the communities surrounding the Bay such as Jamestown and St. Mary's City are some of the oldest European settlements in North America.

Today, however, the Great Shellfish Bay has been in a state of long-term decline for decades. Over fishing has been a problem, but may not have been possible if it were not for pollution. The Bay is plagued by agricultural and residential run-off of fertilizers into the Bay's tributaries, which causes enormous algae growth, which in turn chokes off the natural plant life of the bay upon which the fish rely for food. Environmental reforms have been enacted to protect the Bay (most strictly in Maryland, where the Save the Bay movement originated) but they differ state-to-state, and the tributaries of the Bay run through six states, making coordination difficult. This all has been a disaster for the fishing communities (especially the small island communities) around the Bay, who relied on hauls for almost their entire livelihood. Fishing is now tightly regulated, and the regulations have a good deal of support even from the fishermen, who realize that their way of life is threatened by the diminishing fish stocks.

Chesapeake tidal wetlands
Chesapeake tidal wetlands

Get in

If traveling from far away, the best way to get in is probably BWI Airport. It is close to the major ports of Baltimore and Annapolis. BWI Airport is served by many major airlines and passenger rail service via Amtrak.

Route 50 is the most iconic Chesapeake Bay road, as it goes over the spectacularly large Chesapeake Bay Bridge [12] (US Hwy 50/301), crossing from Central Maryland to the Eastern Shore; it also takes you right by Annapolis and Sandy Point State Park. On the east side of the bay, Route 301 is the main north-south road. On the northwest section above Baltimore it's Route 40, while Route 4 is the most useful road for Southern Maryland.

In Virginia, you can get around the southwest portion of the Bay on Route 360. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel [13] is on US Route 13, and has a hefty toll of $12 each way, or $5 return within 24 hours (higher for trailers and large commercial vehicles). The bridge connects the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area with the Eastern Shore peninsula. If coming from the northeastern states, you can access the Eastern Shore by going south on US Route 13 through Delaware with no bridge crossing (Delaware I-95 South Exit 4A).

These are the only two bridges which cross Chesapeake Bay, and their web sites can easily be confused with each other for those unfamiliar with the region.

Out on the water
Out on the water

The best way to access the sights mentioned in this article is to use a boat. Getting access to a boat is sometimes a bit tricky, but here are some suggestions:

  • Cruise ships offer Chesapeake Bay cruises from Baltimore. These week-long voyages visit many of the historic and charming ports on the Bay.
  • Find a boat operator who will take you along. Many such operators exist in the major ports (Baltimore, Rock Hall, Annapolis, Crisfield, Norfolk) of the Chesapeake who will take you.
  • Charter a boat. To do this, you need to prove to the owner of the boat that you are competent to operate it. Again, several charter providers exist in the major ports.
  • Own a boat. If you own a boat, you are all set.

Some people prefer boats powered by the wind, others prefer those powered by motors.

By car

If you are using the aforementioned wheeled conveyance to visit these sights, there are a fine collection of roads, but only three crossing points in the 120 mile length of the bay. This makes some itineraries inconvenient.

  • Wye River
  • LaTrapp Creek on the Choptank River
  • Little Choptank River
  • One week sail from Annapolis
  • One week sail from Crisfield
  • There are many small eateries on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Many serve the signature dish: Maryland Blue Crabs. You should definitely try some of them.
  • The cities listed above have many good choices listed.
  • With proper permit and patience, you can catch your own dinner!
This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Simple English

Chesapeake Bay
Estuary
Name origin: Chesepiooc, Algonquian for village "at a big river"
Country United States
States Maryland, Virginia
Tributaries
 - left Chester River, Choptank River, Nanticoke River, Pocomoke River
 - right Patapsco River, Patuxent River, Potomac River, Rappahannock River, York River, James River
Source Susquehanna River
 - location Havre de Grace, MD
 - elevation ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 39°32′35″N 76°04′32″W / 39.54306°N 76.07556°W / 39.54306; -76.07556 extra parameters (dms format) in {{Coord}}
Mouth Atlantic Ocean
 - location Virginia Beach, VA
 - elevation ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 36°59′45″N 75°57′34″W / 36.99583°N 75.95944°W / 36.99583; -75.95944 extra parameters (dms format) in {{Coord}}
Length 200 mi (322 km)
Width 30 mi (48 km)
Depth 46 ft (14 m)
Basin 64,299 sq mi (166,534 km²)
Area 4,479 sq mi (11,601 km²)

The Chesapeake Bay (pronounced /'tʃɛsəpi:k/) is the largest estuary in the United States.[1] It lies off the Atlantic Ocean and is surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The bay's watershed covers 64,299 square miles (166,534 km2) in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.[1] More than 150 rivers and streams drain into it.

The Chesapeake Bay is about 200 miles (300 km) long, from the Susquehanna River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean. At its narrowest point between Kent County's Plum Point (near Newtown) and the Harford County shore near Romney Creek, the bay isabout 2.8 miles (4.5 km) wide. At the widest location, it is 30 miles (50 km) wide. The bay is 46 feet (14 m) deep on average.

The bay has two bridges over it. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge crosses the bay in Maryland from Sandy Point (near Annapolis) to Kent Island. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia connects Virginia Beach to Cape Charles.

References

Other websites

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