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Discover the Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay - the largest estuary in the United States - is an incredibly complex ecosystem that includes important habitats and food webs. The Bay and its rivers, wetlands and forests provide homes, food and protection for diverse groups of animals and plants. Fish of all types and sizes either live in the Bay and its tributaries year-round or visit its waters as they migrate along the East Coast.

Bay 101

Select a category below to view videos from our Bay Program video library. Prior to using any of these videos, please view our terms of use to learn about usage rights.


Bay 101: Emerald Ash Borer

Learn about efforts to curb the invasive insect that is decimating ash trees

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. Watersheds are sometimes called “basins” or "drainage basins."

We all live in a watershed. Some watersheds, like that of your local stream or creek, are small. Others, like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, are very large. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among living and non-living things. Air, water, soil, sunlight, plants and animals – including humans – make up an ecosystem. Ecosystems can be as tiny as a patch of dirt in your backyard, or as large as the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is an extremely productive and complex ecosystem. The Bay ecosystem consists of the Bay itself, its local rivers and streams, and all the plants and animals it supports. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Critter Of The Month

Inshore lizardfish
Synodus foetens

The inshore lizardfish can be found coastally from Brazil to Massachusetts, but tends to visit the Chesapeake Bay during the summer and fall.

Chesapeake History

2014

2014
  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which contains goals and outcomes that will guide conservation and restoration across the watershed. For the first time, the Bay’s headwater states commit to those goals that reach beyond water quality.

2013

2013
  • A federal judge rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, thus upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that was challenged in court in 2011.

2012

2012
  • Harris Creek becomes the first target of the oyster restoration goals set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order: to restore oyster populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025. In this Choptank River tributary, existing reefs will be studied, new bars will be built and spat-on-shell will be planted.

2011

2011
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit to the District of Columbia. It is the first of its kind to incorporate green infrastructure into its requirements, setting a national model for stormwater management.

2010

2010
  • Maryland, Virginia and New York ban phosphates in dishwasher detergent to lower phosphorous pollution in local waterways.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes the Total Maximum Daily Load to limit the amount of pollutants that can enter the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay Program launches ChesapeakeStat to improve communication about restoration goals, progress and funding.

Bay FAQ


How do storm events impact Conowingo dam?


How do animals depend on underwater grasses?


Are American shad endangered?


What are best management practices?


What is an ecosystem?


Does the amount of oxygen in the water change with depth?


What is a dead zone?


What is the difference between a tidal river and a non-tidal river?


How do grasses grow underwater?


How do people cause underwater grasses to die?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Euryhaline

Used to describe aquatic organisms that tolerate a wide range of salinities.

Macrophyte

An individual alga large enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Angler

Someone who fishes recreationally with a hook, line and rod.

Rootstock

The underground portion of a plant’s stem, also called a rhizome.

Megalops

A second larval form of the blue crab.

Dead zone

A condition where no oxygen is present in the water. Dead zones are often caused by the decomposition of algae blooms.

Mainstem

The region of Chesapeake Bay extending from the Susquehanna River to the mouth of the Bay, not including the tributaries.

Coliform bacteria

A group of bacteria primarily found in human and animal intestines and wastes. Coliform bacteria (such as E. coli) are widely used as an indicator of the presence of such wastes in water.

See more bay terms.

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