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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

Northern Bobwhite
Colinus virginianus

The northern bobwhite is a small, rounded bird that lives in patchworks areas of fields, forests and cropland.

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 fish passageways work?


What affects the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water?


How deep is the Chesapeake Bay?


What is SAV?


What is the Chesapeake Bay's salinity range?


What are the effects of poor water clarity?


How is salt water brought into the Chesapeake Bay?


How does oxygen get into the water?


How many rivers and streams are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


What is the largest estuary in the United States?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Anaerobic

Not containing oxygen or not requiring oxygen.

Chemical contaminants

Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, metals and other toxic substances that can harm the health of both humans and wildlife.

Food chain/web

A food chain is formed as one organism eats another. A food web is a system of interlocking and interdependent food chains, in which each organism supplies energy to another life form.

Fall line

The boundary between the Piedmont Plateau and the Coastal Plain, ranging from 15 to 90 miles west of the Bay. Waterfalls and rapids clearly mark this line, which is close to Interstate 195.

Dead zone

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

Estuarine species

A permanent resident of an estuary. Also called a resident species.

Estuary

A partially enclosed body of water where fresh water from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. It is an area of transition from land to sea.

Erosion

The disruption or movement of soil by wind, water or ice, occurring naturally or as a result of land use practices.

See more bay terms.

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