Getting to Know the Chesapeake Bay

Boat owners who are looking for slips, dockage, or a full-service marina near Annapolis may want to know more about the Chesapeake Bay. Rich with history and natural beauty, the Bay is home to a large web of plant and aquatic life, and nearly 18 million people live in its watershed. chesapeake - bay

Chesapeake Bay Basics

The Chesapeake Bay is approximately 200 miles long and stretches from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia. At its narrowest, the Bay is under four miles in width, and its broadest point reaches 35 miles across. The Chesapeake’s depth averages 21 feet, but most of it is quite shallow. Its deepest areas can reach down more than 100 feet, creating vital habitats for aquatic life as well as passageways for ships. Located southeast of Annapolis is the deepest part of the Bay at 174 feet.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Some of the larger tributaries that flow into the Chesapeake include the Potomac, Chester, Choptank, York, James, Patapsco, and Nanticoke rivers. These waterways are fed by more than 100,000 creeks, streams, and rivers running through the Bay’s watershed. At its mouth, the Chesapeake’s water is salty because it’s made mostly of ocean water. As you travel north in the Bay, you’ll find that the water is brackish, a mix of salty and fresh. Bays that contain both salt and fresh water are called estuaries; the Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the United States.

Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem

At the base of the Bay’s food web is plankton, a diverse group of organisms that live in large bodies of water. All fish and shellfish consume plankton for nutrients when they are young, and researches keep a close eye on phytoplankton levels as an indicator of the Bay’s overall health. At the top of the Chesapeake’s food chain are sharks, and the Bay is home to at least 12 species. Sand tiger, sandbar, and spiny and smooth dogfish sharks are a few of the more common varieties, while bonnethead, basking, and bull sharks are seen more rarely. The shark species found in the Bay rarely pose a threat to people.

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