A blue crab is caught along with oysters harvested using a power dredge in the waters north of Deal Island, Md. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

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

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.

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!

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Comments

Nick Rulli

Visited my American cousins there and every word is true actually 100 times over. Thanks for the experience
“We’ll be back!”

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