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Rivers and Streams

Rivers and Streams- The Chesapeake Bay's freshwater rivers and streams provide natural areas where people can fish, boat and swim. (Chesapeake Bay Program)
Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 11 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 10 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 09 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 08 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 07 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 06 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 04 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 03 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 02 - {description} Watermen hand tonging for oysters on Choptank River 01 - {description} Morgantown Generating Station and Potomac River bridge - {description} Fenced livestock pasture along tributary floodplain 02 - A fenced livestock pasture along the floodplain of a South Branch Potomac River tributary in Pendleton County, W.Va. Fenced livestock pasture along tributary floodplain 01 - A fenced livestock pasture along the floodplain of a South Branch Potomac River tributary in Pendleton County, W.Va. Potomac River at Monongahela National Forest - {description} Tree-lined stream, Savage River, Maryland - {description} Trees along stream bank, Savage River, Maryland - {description} Fast-moving water, Savage River, Maryland - fast-flowing water in Maryland's Savage River Buffered stream, Savage River, Maryland - Forests along Maryland's Savage River forest lined stream, Savage River, Maryland - Maryland's Savage River Clear water, Savage River - Clear water in Maryland's Savage River Buffered river _ Jeff Vanuga, NRCS - A river buffered by forest. (Jeff Vanuga/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service) Potomac River West Virginia in winter - The Potomac River in West Virginia in winter Potomac River West Virginia in autumn - The Potomac River in West Virginia in autumn Potomac River West Virginia in autumn - {description} Potomac River West Virginia in winter 1 - {description} People near Potomac River, West Virginia - {description} Potomac River flowing in West Virginia - {description} Nassawango Creek - Nassawango Creek, a tributary of the Pocomoke River on Maryland's Eastern Shore Aerial river - {description} Stream through wetland, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary 3 - {description} Stream through wetland, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary - {description} Stream through wetland, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary - {description} River lined with thick forest - {description} Eroding river with fallen trees - {description} Eroding stream with fallen trees - {description} Eroding stream - {description} Muddy water in river - {description} Bloedes Dam, Patapsco Valley State Park - {description} Patapsco River in spring, Patapsco Valley State Park - {description} Father and son flyfishing, Patapsco Valley State Park - A father and sun flyfishing in the Patapsco River Patapsco River in spring, Patapsco Valley State Park - {description} Bicyclist over bridge, Patapsco Valley State Park - A bicyclist rides over a bridge at Patapsco Valley State Park Bicyclists over bridge, Patapsco Valley State Park - {description} Children playing by river, Patapsco Valley State Park - {description} Bloedes Dam, Patapsco Valley State Park - {description} Bloedes Dam with spring flowers, Patapsco Valley State Park - {description} Aerial rural creek - {description} Aerial wetland river farmland - {description} Aerial river and streams through wetland 2 - {description} Aerial view of tidal river and farmland - An aerial view of a tidal river bordered by wetlands and farmland. Aerial large river with farmland - An aerial view of a large river lined by trees, wetlands and farms Aerial river and streams through wetland - An aerial view of a stream snaking through a wetland to meet a river Occoquan River through trees - {description} Child looks at algae in river - A child looks at an algae-covered river Tributary interpretive sign, Adkins Arboretum - An interpretive sign explaining streams and tributaries at Adkins Arboretum on Maryland's Eastern shore Aerial river runs through a wetland - {description} Aerial small tributary through forest and wetlands - {description} Snow-covered trees by river - Snow covers trees along a river River flooded over banks - The Potomac River floods over its banks after a storm Stream running through a wetland - A freshwater tributary of the Chesapeake Bay running through a wildlife sanctuary leaves on water - Fallen leaves resting on top of a freshwater tributary of the Chesapeake Bay Streambank erosion - Trees collapse over a stream due to streambank erosion along a freshwater tributary of the Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay's freshwater rivers and streams provide natural areas where people can fish, boat and swim. (Chesapeake Bay Program)

Overview

Within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, five major rivers — the Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, York and James — provide almost 90 percent of the fresh water to the Bay. These and other rivers, along with the hundreds of thousands of creeks and streams that feed them, provide vital habitat for many aquatic species. The streams and rivers that flow into the Bay are also called tributaries.

How are rivers and streams important?

The Chesapeake Bay watershed's streams and rivers are home to a diverse population of fish, invertebrates, amphibians and other types of wildlife.

  • The Bay's anadromous fish species — such as shad and sturgeon — spend their adult lives in the Bay or the ocean, but must spawn in freshwater tributaries. Semi-anadromous fish such as white perch live in tidal tributaries but also need fresh water to spawn.
  • Catfish and sunfish are just two of many fish species that only live in freshwater rivers and streams.
  • Frogs, turtles and salamanders also live in freshwater tributaries during some part of their lives.
  • Freshwater tributaries support thriving, diverse benthic communities of worms, bacteria, crustaceans and insect larvae. All of these are necessary for a healthy stream ecosystem.
  • In spring, hatching aquatic insects are an important food source for fish, birds and amphibians.
  • Aquatic plants in freshwater tributaries include algae and mosses, as well as many species of underwater bay grasses.

Photos



 

Chesapeake Bay News


Health of Freshwater Streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Between 2000-2010, more than 14,005 sites were sampled and rated for biological integrity.  The average stream health scores in a subset (10,492) of these of these sampling locations indicated that:

  • 4,537 (43 percent) were in fair, good or excellent condition
  • 5,955 (57 percent) were in very poor or poor condition

Phosphorus in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Long-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Seventy-three percent of long-term stream monitoring sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed have improving flow-adjusted concentrations of phosphorus. Between 1985 and 2012:

  • 22 out of 30 sites show improving flow-adjusted trends for phosphorus concentrations
  • 4 sites show degrading trends
  • 4 sites show small changes that are not statistically significant

For more information go to the U.S. Geological Survey's webpage, Summary of Trends and Yields Measured at the Chesapeake Bay Nontidal Network Sites: Water Year 2012 Update

Sediment in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Long-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Twenty-eight percent of long-term stream monitoring sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed have improving flow-adjusted concentrations of sediment.  Between 1985 and 2012:

  • 8 out of 29 sites show improving flow-adjusted trends for sediment concentrations
  • 8 sites show degrading trends
  • 13 sites show small changes that are not statistically significant

For more information go to the U.S. Geological Survey's webpage, Summary of Trends and Yields Measured at the Chesapeake Bay Nontidal Network Sites: Water Year 2012 Update

Nitrogen in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Long-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Seventy percent of long-term stream monitoring sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed have improving flow-adjusted concentrations of nitrogen. Between 1985 and 2012:

  • 21 out of 30 sites show improving flow-adjusted trends for nitrogen concentrations
  • 3 sites show degrading trends
  • 6 sites show small changes that are not statistically significant

For more information go to the U.S. Geological Survey's webpage, Summary of Trends and Yields Measured at the Chesapeake Bay Nontidal Network Sites: Water Year 2012 Update

Publications

Restoring Migratory Fish Passage in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Publication date: February 23, 2004 | Type of document: Backgrounder | Download: Electronic Version

Over the past two centuries numerous mill dams, hydroelectric dams and small blockages were constructed, which prevented fish throughout the Bay watershed from reaching their natal rivers. Migratory fish populations consequently suffered…

Forested Riparian Zones and their Benefit to Anadromous Fish in Chesapeake Bay

Publication date: November 11, 2001 | Type of document: Backgrounder | Download: Electronic Version

Riparian forests are essential interfaces between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They intercept surface runoff, subsurface flow and deeper ground water flows for purposes of removing or buffering effects from nutrients, pesticides or…




Maps




From Around the Web

Bay FAQs

  • How many rivers and streams are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?
  • How is fresh water brought into the Chesapeake Bay?
  • What is the difference between an estuary and a river?
  • How do fish passageways work?
  • What is the effect of dams?
  • What is fish passage?

 

Bay Terms

  • Amphibian
  • Anadromous fish
  • Benthic
  • Crustaceans
  • Impervious
  • Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV)
  • Tributary

 

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