Text Size: A  A  A

Facts & Figures

Learn all about the Chesapeake Bay's geography, watershed, flora and fauna with this list of interesting facts and figures.


  • The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary: a body of water where fresh and salt water mix. It is the largest of more than 100 estuaries in the United States.
  • The Bay is about 200 miles long, stretching from Havre de Grace, Maryland, to Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  • The Bay's width ranges from 4 miles near Aberdeen, Maryland, to 30 miles near Cape Charles, Virginia.
  • The Bay is surprisingly shallow. Its average depth, including all tidal tributaries, is about 21 feet. A person who is 6 feet tall could wade through more than 700,000 acres of the Bay and never get his or her hat wet.
  • A few deep troughs run along much of the Bay's length. Some of these troughs are as much as 174 feet deep. The troughs are believed to be remnants of the ancient Susquehanna River.
  • The Bay and its tidal tributaries have 11,684 miles of shoreline – more than the entire U.S. west coast.
  • The surface area of the Bay and its tidal tributaries is approximately 4,480 square miles.
  • Two of the United States’ five major North Atlantic ports – Baltimore and Hampton Roads – are on the Bay.

Water and Watershed

  • The Chesapeake Bay holds more than 18 trillion gallons of water.
  • The Bay receives about half its water volume from the Atlantic Ocean. The rest drains into the Bay from an enormous 64,000-square-mile watershed.
  • The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes parts of six states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – and the entire District of Columbia.
  • About 150 streams, creeks and rivers drain to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • Approximately 51 billion gallons of water flow into the Bay each day from its freshwater tributaries.
  • Collectively, the Chesapeake’s three largest rivers – the Susquehanna, Potomac and James rivers – provide more than 80 percent of the fresh water to the Bay.
  • The Susquehanna River is the Bay’s largest river. It provides nearly 50 percent of the fresh water coming into the Bay – an average of 19 million gallons of water per minute.
  • The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to more than 17 million people. About 150,000 new people move into the Bay watershed each year.
  • More than 100,000 streams, creeks and rivers thread through the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Everyone in the watershed lives within a few miles of one of these tributaries, which are like pipelines from our communities to the Bay.
  • There are nearly 1,800 local governments in the Bay watershed, including towns, cities, counties and townships.
  • The Chesapeake Bay watershed contains three distinct geologic regions: the Atlantic coastal plain, the Piedmont plateau and the Appalachian province.
  • Approximately 8 million acres of land in the Bay watershed are permanently protected from development.
  • There are more than 700 public access points on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
  • The Chesapeake Bay was the first estuary in the nation to be targeted for restoration as an integrated watershed and ecosystem.

Flora and Fauna

  • The Bay supports more than 2,700 species of plants and animals, including 348 species of finfish and 173 species of shellfish.
  • The Bay produces about 500 million pounds of seafood per year.
  • The Chesapeake region is home to at least 29 species of waterfowl. Nearly one million waterfowl winter on the Bay – approximately one-third of the Atlantic coast’s migratory population. The birds stop to feed and rest on the Bay during their annual migration along the Atlantic Flyway.
  • Nearly 80,000 acres of bay grasses grow in the shallows of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Young and molting blue crabs rely on bay grass beds for protection from predators.
  • Approximately 284,000 acres of tidal wetlands grow the Chesapeake Bay region. Wetlands provide critical habitat for fish, birds, crabs and many other species.
  • Forests cover 58 percent of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The region loses about 100 acres of forest each day to development.

From Around the Web

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved