Seagull at pier, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, December 2002. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
For ocean-going ships, the Bay is navigable with two outlets to the Atlantic Ocean: north through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in Cecil County, and south through the mouth of the Bay between the Virginia capes.
Native Americans living along its shores gave the Bay an Algonquin name. Chesepiook, meaning "great shellfish bay," was used to signify the abundance of Bay crabs, oysters, and clams. The Bay was the site of the first English settlement in Maryland and later saw the Civil War confrontation between the iron-clad Confederate Merrimac and the Union's Monitor in 1862. Generations of watermen have made their living harvesting the bounty of the Bay, while recreational fishing, hunting, and boating attract millions of people each year and contribute significantly to Maryland's economy. Major annual seafood harvests include millions of bushels of crabs, oysters, clams, and eels.
Skipjacks under sail. Photo by Chuck Prahl.
Three Maryland agencies bear particular responsibility for Bay matters. The Department of Agriculture directs the Office of Resource Conservation which oversees Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Programs. The Department of the Environment works on behalf of the Bay through its Science Services Administration. The Department of Natural Resources supports the work of the Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays (formerly Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission) and oversees Aquatic Resources.
Information about the Bay, including its history and effect on regional culture, may be found at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
July 6, 2007
1,726 square miles
1,511 square miles
(widest near Cape Charles, Virginia)
(narrowest at Annapolis)
greatest (southeast of Annapolis)
18 trillion gallons
(parts per thousand)
midway to head
above fall line
surface to bottom
Chesapeake Bay Commission
Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission
Chesapeake Bay Trust
Maryland State Crustacean
Maryland State Fish
Maryland State Reptile
Maryland Constitutional Offices & Agencies
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Maryland Executive Commissions, Committees, Task Forces, & Advisory Boards
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Maryland at a Glance
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Maryland Manual On-Line, 2007
Note: In this past edition of Maryland Manual, some links are to external sites. View the current Manual
July 6, 2007