The Chesapeake Bay
is the largest estuary
in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean
surrounded by Virginia
. The Chesapeake Bay's watershed
, covers 64,000 square miles, in the District of Columbia
and parts of six states: New York
, and West Virginia
. More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the Bay. The Bay itself is about 189 miles long, from the Susquehanna River
in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. (Geologically, the Bay is the drowned valley
of the Susquehanna, meaning that was where the river flowed when sea level was lower.) At its narrowest point, near Annapolis, Maryland
, it is only 4.3 miles wide and is spanned by the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge
, commonly termed the "Bay Bridge". Near its mouth, it is spanned by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Much of the bay is quite shallow. A person six foot tall could not only walk across the mouth of the Susquehannah at the upper bay, but could also traverse some 700,000 acres of the bay without being entirely submerged.
The word Chesepiooc is an Algonquin word meaning "Great Shellfish Bay".
Cheaspeake Bay was the site of the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781 during which the French fleet defeated the Royal Navy allowing the United States to become independent.
The largest rivers flowing into the Bay are:
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, and the only remaining working boat in the United States
still under sail power. Today, the body of water is less productive than it used to be, perhaps because of agricultural development (and runoff) on the Eastern Shore, urbanization, particularly on its western shore, and overharvesting. The bay, though, still yields more fish
than any other estuary in the United States