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Chesapeake Bay News


Fourteen reasons to love the Chesapeake Bay

February is a month to think about the ones you love, and there’s nothing we love more than the Chesapeake Bay. From the first blue crab of the season to the last day out on the water, the Bay brings us so much joy that we have to share it. Here’s a list of fourteen reasons why we love the Chesapeake Bay.

1. Blue Crabs

Perhaps no species is more closely associated with the Chesapeake Bay than blue crabs. It’s estimated that over one-third of the nation’s blue crab catch comes from the Bay.

No list about the Chesapeake Bay is complete without blue crabs. Not just iconic in commercial and recreational fisheries, blue crabs are a keystone species in the Bay, acting as both predator and prey to many underwater creatures. And while harvest pressure and habitat loss affect the crustacean’s continued health, blue crab populations were on the rise in 2015.

2. Oysters

Oysters have one of the most important jobs in the Bay.

Along with being delicious to eat, oysters deserve our love because they do a great job supporting the Bay. These filter-feeders help improve water quality—and they’re really good at it, too.

3. Smith Island Cake

Smith Island Cake has distinct stripes due to its many thin layers of cake and frosting.

Smith Island, located in the middle of the Bay on the border between Maryland and Virginia, is famous in part for the delicious cake that originated there. Consisting of eight to 15 layers, Smith Island Cake not only looks beautiful but tastes great, too. Want to make your own? The Smith Island Cultural Center has a recipe you can follow. You’ll need a lot of cake pans, but the taste is worth the clean-up!

4. The food

Crab is a main ingredient in many Chesapeake Bay specialties, such as crab cakes. (Image courtesy Gabriel Li/Flickr)

The Bay has too many fantastic food traditions to be bound to only one entry. From oysters and crab cakes to fried chicken and anything you can put Old Bay on, the area has a specialty for every taste. They say the best way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs, right?

5. Natural spaces

A family crosses a bridge in Patapsco Valley State park, located just west of Baltimore.

Did you know the Chesapeake Bay region has over 130 state and national parks? And that number doesn’t even include the many other community parks, trails and nature preserves. No matter if you’re on the Bay itself or elsewhere in the area, there’s somewhere nearby to visit and get in touch with nature.

6. Something for everyone

For those who want a city-vibe, Baltimore is located right on the Bay. (Image by Warren Price Photography/Shutterstock)

One reason to love the Bay is that it has something for everyone—mountains, beaches, countryside and large cities are all nearby. For those who like being outdoors, there are ample hiking paths and public access points. For water-lovers, there’s boating, kayaking and swimming. History buffs can visit the many historical sites dotted throughout the area, while museumgoers have their pick of art, history, science and cultural museums.

7. Year-round activities

Winter is a great time to being birdwatching. Pictured above, a mourning dove rests on a snowy branch.

The Bay doesn’t give you any excuses for not enjoying all it has to offer. Even when it’s too cold for lounging on the beach, there are ample opportunities to love the Bay. When you can brave the elements, there are plenty of hikes to go on and museums to visit—and when it’s just too cold to go outside, there’s birdwatching and virtual tours that make you feel like you’re out on the water. Some might even say winter is a great time for a swim!

8. Boats

Boats rest on the Bay near Annapolis. (Image courtesy Mr. TinDC/Flickr)

The Bay has a long maritime history and is home to boats of all types. For generations, watermen have taken their boats out on the Bay to gather the day’s catch of crabs and oysters. Annapolis—known as “America’s sailing capital”—sits on the Bay’s western shore and is home to the U.S. Naval Academy. The Bay is not just for work, though; each year there are countless boat races, sailing competitions and boat shows where all manner of crafts glide through the water. Outside of official events, people enjoy the Bay in personal boats, canoes and kayaks.

9. The beauty

Dusk on Tangier Island.

You can’t beat waking up early to see the sunrise over the Bay, or watching a fog roll in over the water. They may say that love is blind, but looks are just another reason why we love the Chesapeake Bay.

10. The Atlantic Flyway

Every year Canada geese migrate to the Chesapeake Bay from their breeding grounds in northern Quebec.

One example of the Bay’s rich diversity of wildlife is the Atlantic Flyway, a migration route that many birds follow up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The Bay’s prime location in the middle of the route gives us the chance to see birds at the beginning, middle or end of their migration. Birds such as the Canada goose begin their journeys up north in Canada and make their way south to the Bay-area for winter; other birds, such as the osprey, spend their summer months in the Bay and continue further south for winter.

11. Lighthouses

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, built in 1875, is the last screw-pile lighthouse in its original location and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. (Image courtesy Mark, 8752845@N04/Flickr)

Lighthouses have been a part of the Bay since the first one was built in 1792. But these beautiful structures are more than iconic landmarks: of the 74 lighthouses that originally aided sailors, over 30 are still standing and 23 are still in use. The Bay’s lighthouses stand as a symbol of the area’s maritime history and serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose.

12. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers grow from adorable puppies to helpful, life-long companions. (Image by Zuzule/Shutterstock)

Not only do these dogs make adorable puppies, but they can grow up to be valuable companions. Named for the region in which they were bred, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever—or Chessie—is said to be descended from two Newfoundland dogs that survived a shipwreck off the coast of Maryland and were bred with local retrievers. Perhaps due to their maritime history (but mainly their genetics) these dogs are excellent swimmers. They are prized waterfowl hunters and have been known to retrieve hundreds of birds from icy waters in a single day. These dogs are more than workers, though, and make great family pets.

13. The history

This monument of abolitionist Frederick Douglass stands outside of the Talbot County Courthouse, where Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. (Image courtesy Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr)

The Bay has a rich and full history going back hundreds—even thousands—of years. There is evidence of people living here at least three thousand years ago. Today, historical sites are dotted throughout the region, from the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway to the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. No matter what period of history captures your interest, there is somewhere in the area for you to visit.

14. The people

Representative Steny Hoyer and former State Senator Bernie Fowler wade into the Patuxent River during the 2008 Patuxent River Wade-In. The wade-in, founded by Fowler in 1988, draws attention to the health of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay by having people wade into the water until they can no longer see their feet.

What would the Bay be without the people who live here? The Bay’s prime location and many resources attract people of all types; farmers, artists, fishers and politicians all call the Bay home and make it what it is today. We might not all talk the same, but no matter how you say it: we love the Chesapeake Bay!


Why do you love the Chesapeake? Let us know in the comments!


By the Numbers: 51 billion

Countless creeks, streams and rivers flow into the Chesapeake Bay. For decades, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has measured the flow of the region’s rivers in order to forecast floods, spot low-flow conditions and estimate the amount of pollution running from the land into the water. While annual river flow has remained within its normal range for much of the last decade, our increasingly variable climate has fostered increasingly variable river flow, which has the potential to affect habitats and pollution levels in the Bay.

The U.S. Geological Survey measures river flow in order to forecast floods, spot low-flow conditions and estimate the amount of pollution running from the land into the water. (Image by Xavier Ascanio/Shutterstock)

While river flow is tracked at 300 monitoring stations across the watershed, it is the data that are collected at stations along its three biggest rivers—the Susquehanna, the Potomac and the James—that are used to calculate total flow into the Bay. Data collected at these monitoring stations show that, on average, 51 billion gallons of water flow into the Bay each day.

Annual river flow that falls between 44 and 58 billion gallons per day is considered normal. But the last 15 years have seen extreme flow variability, which can affect the surrounding ecosystem.

Data collected at monitoring stations along the Susquehanna, Potomac and James rivers are used to calculate river flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

While low river flow can dry up stream beds and threaten fish, high river flow has garnered much attention in the region.Excess river flow can damage stream banks, trigger sewage overflows and push pollutants—including nutrients, sediment and toxic contaminants picked up from farm fields, backyards, parking lots and roads—into the Bay. It can also lower salinity levels in the Bay itself, which has a direct impact on underwater grasses, fish and shellfish. Often, high river flow is linked to heavy precipitation, which has become a noted impact of our changing climate.

In 2014, the U.S. Global Change Research Program reported in its National Climate Assessment that heavy downpours have increased across the nation. The Northeast, in particular, has seen a 71 percent rise in the amount of precipitation that falls during heavy downpours: a higher jump than any other region in the United States. In our work to protect the nation’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay Program is taking these and other climate impacts into account.

The Northeast has seen a 71 percent rise in the amount of precipitation that falls during heavy downpours. High precipitation can mean high river flow, which can damage stream banks, trigger sewage overflows and push pollutants into larger bodies of water.

Through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement’s climate resiliency goal, our partners have committed to monitoring climate trends and the effectiveness of our restoration policies, programs and projects under these changing conditions. Our partners have also committed to adjusting our work as needed in order to enhance the resiliency of the watershed against climate change. Because in building the resiliency of the Bay, we can increase the likelihood that its living resources, habitats, public infrastructure and communities will withstand the changes—to temperature, sea level and even river flow—that may come their way.

Learn more about rivers and streams and climate variability.

Catherine Krikstan's avatar
About Catherine Krikstan - Catherine Krikstan is a web writer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. She began writing about the watershed as a reporter in Annapolis, Md., where she covered algae blooms and climate change and interviewed hog farmers and watermen. She lives in Washington, D.C.


Getting the most out of diversity work: Establishing the foundation for success

As part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Chesapeake Bay Program partners committed to a goal of increasing diversity in conservation and restoration activities. Since then, certain diversity-related terms and phrases have been used more frequently. But it’s important to use these words and phrases in the proper context. Defining the meaning of words like “diversity” as they apply to an organization and integrating these principles into restoration work is an invaluable part of achieving diversity goals that last.

In our work, the Bay Program has defined diversity as follows: “Expanding the diversity of the workforce and participants in restoration and conservation activities means to include a wide range of people of all races, income levels, faiths, genders, ages, sexual orientations and disabilities, along with other diverse groups. For this effort to be successful it will require us to honor the culture, history and social concerns of local populations and communities.” Because diversity is such a broad term, it can refer to a multitude of things; when talking about diversity, it’s important to be as intentional and specific as possible about the kind of diversity you’re referring to and why.

Diversity implies balance and harmony, while recognizing the individual differences that bring about that harmony. Our goal is for those who are participating in restoration and conservation efforts to better reflect the kind of diversity that exists in our watershed. But to diversify successfully, we must also consider the meaning of terms like inclusion, cultural competency and environmental justice, and our goals related to these terms should be place-based.

In what ways can your organization include diversity and inclusion into your mission? Who is your target audience, and how can you build a relationship to achieve your mutual goals? How can your organization play a role in achieving environmental justice, and how can you include diversity within your organizational structure? Examine your organization from the inside out, beginning with your mission statement and your board of directors. Does your board represent the diverse perspectives and constituencies of the communities you serve?

When addressing stewardship and engagement opportunities, consider how you can diversify programs and projects to reach a broader audience. The public is looking for more targeted restoration engagement with traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations. And as the Bay Program ventures forward in its diversity initiative, the proper communication of diversity-related terms—and the application of these concepts in a way that responds to the needs of the public—will be critical to success.

One way to get your voice heard right now is by providing feedback on the Chesapeake Bay Program's draft two-year workplans—both for diversity and for other watershed goals—on our Management Strategies & Work Plans Dashboard, now through March 7. 

Written by Shanita Brown, Diversity Communications and Outreach Coordinator at the Chesapeake Bay Program


Chesapeake Bay Program makes measured progress toward restoring the watershed

Our latest look at Chesapeake Bay health reveals early evidence of our progress toward the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. While the restoration of some habitats remains slow, experts report positive observations of pollution loads, underwater grass abundance and some fish and shellfish populations.

Bay Barometer: Health and Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (2014-2015) offers a science-based snapshot of the nation’s largest estuary.

Released today, Bay Barometer: Health and Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (2014-2015) offers a science-based snapshot of the nation’s largest estuary. The data and information it contains help us gauge the success of our work and provide the basis for our path forward in protecting the Bay.

Our most recent assessments of water quality show encouraging nutrient and sediment loads that are below the long-term average and a welcome increase in the attainment of clean water standards. Data related to living resources show an increase in the acres of underwater grasses available to fish and shellfish and in the stream miles open to the movements of migratory fish. Data also show an increase in populations of young striped bass, adult female blue crabs and migrating American shad.

Data in the latest Bay Barometer show an increase in the number of American shad (seen here in this great blue heron’s bill) migrating into some of the region’s rivers to spawn. Image by LorraineHudgins/Shutterstock.

“This year’s Bay Barometer shows many of our indicators are moving in the right direction,” said Chesapeake Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale in a media release. “We are seeing positive results from our efforts to restore balance to an important ecosystem that has suffered decades of damage. We must sustain and step up our efforts if we are going to succeed in the long run in dealing with climate change and other challenges.”

Because of the connections between pollution, water quality, living resources and wildlife habitat, it will take a steady effort from the entire Chesapeake Bay Program partnership to restore watershed health. Changes in one part of the Bay ecosystem can impact countless others. The restoration of coastal wetlands can mean resilience against some impacts of climate change; improvements in water quality can mean healthier fish and shellfish; and engaging the community in environmental protection can mean a rise in the local stewardship of land, rivers and streams.

Learn more.

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