Native Americans living along its shores gave the Bay an Algonquin name. Chesepiook, meaning "great shellfish bay," was used to signify the abundance of Bay crabs, oysters, and clams. The Bay was the site of the first English settlement in Maryland and later saw the Civil War confrontation between the iron-clad Confederate Merrimac and the Union's Monitor in 1862. Generations of watermen have made their living harvesting the bounty of the Bay, while recreational fishing, hunting, and boating attract millions of people each year and contribute significantly to Maryland's economy. Major annual seafood harvests include millions of bushels of crabs, oysters, clams, and eels.
For ocean-going ships, the Bay is navigable with two outlets to the Atlantic Ocean: north through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in Cecil County, and south through the mouth of the Bay between the Virginia capes.
Three Maryland agencies bear particular responsibility for Bay matters. The Department of Agriculture directs Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Programs. The Department of the Environment works on behalf of the Bay through its Technical and Regulatory Services Administration. The Department of Natural Resources supports the work of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission and oversees the Regional Chesapeake Bay Program and Chesapeake Bay and Watershed Programs.
Information about the Bay, including its history and effect on regional culture, may be found at the Chesapeake Bay Information Center, maintained by the Department of Natural Resources, and at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
April 1, 2001
1,726 square miles
1,511 square miles
(widest near Cape Charles, Virginia)
(narrowest at Annapolis)
greatest (southeast of Annapolis)
18 trillion gallons
(parts per thousand)
midway to head
above fall line
surface to bottom
Chesapeake Bay Commission
Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission
Chesapeake Bay Trust
Maryland State Crustacean
Maryland State Fish
Maryland State Reptile
Maryland Department of the Environment
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Maryland Universities & Colleges
Maryland at a Glance
Maryland Manual On-Line
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Maryland Manual On-Line, 2001
Note: In this past edition of Maryland Manual, some links are to external sites. View the current Manual
April 1, 2001