Each June during the Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, counties across Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania take nine days to celebrate the cultures, history, and natural beauty of the nation’s largest estuary.
The week was originally created by the Chesapeake Bay Commission in 2016 and is now celebrated across the watershed; residents are encouraged to celebrate the week with events, activities, and educational programs to acknowledge the significance of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The 2023 theme, “Chesapeake Journeys” represents the many types of transformative journeys that take place in the watershed. From the development of restoration projects to the many-traveled waterways and trails, the Chesapeake is a place of growth. Each of the nine days will focus on a different kind of journey including wildlife migrations, the movement of water from the headwaters to the Bay, the traversing of trails that cross the watershed, the drive to preserve cultural sites, the path to becoming a steward and many more.
A Brief History
The Chesapeake Bay was formed about 10,000 years ago when glaciers melted and flooded the Susquehanna River valley. Since then, the Chesapeake Bay and the land surrounding it have been the stage for great moments in history, transformations, and growth. It is a diverse landscape with a population of more than 18 million residents. From June 3-11, we’ll be celebrating “Chesapeake Journeys” to honor the transformative changes that happen in the watershed.
What journeys are possible and what changes have taken place in the Chesapeake region? Take a look at this list of standout feats, firsts, records, and facts from across the 64,000-square-mile watershed:
- The Chesapeake Bay is the largest of more than 100 estuaries in the United States and the third largest in the world.
- In 2020, Mr. Trash Wheel was awarded the Guinness World Record for “Most Floating Debris Removed by a Trash Interceptor in One Month” for removing 63.3 tons of debris from the mouth of the Jones Falls in April 2017.
- In 2021, the largest oyster restoration project in the world was completed in Virginia’s Piankatank River.
- The 110-mile-long Patuxent River is the longest river to flow exclusively within the borders of Maryland. The Patuxent River Water Trail provides opportunities for visitors to explore this unique river with paddling, camping, and wildlife viewing.
- The 195-mile-long Rappahannock River is the longest free-flowing river in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It starts in Chester Gap in the Shenandoah National Park and ends at Stingray Point in the Chesapeake Bay. Visitors can use the Rappahannock River Water Trail to explore the waterway.
- The 444-mile-long Susquehanna River is the longest river on the east coast. The Susquehanna River flows through New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. It is one of the major tributaries of the Bay and provides half of the Bay’s freshwater inflow. Visitors can use the Susquehanna River Trail Guide to explore the waterway.
- The Mid State Trail is Pennsylvania’s longest trail. The 327-mile-long trail goes through the center of the watershed from Maryland to New York and includes some of Pennsylvania’s most remote and scenic areas.
- In 2017, Catch the King received a Guinness World Record for gathering the most contributions to an environmental survey in history. The event took place in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and collected 59,718 data point submissions. Catch the King is a community volunteer initiative to collect data that helps predict coastal flooding. The event takes place annually and is still the largest community science survey event in the world.
- In 2019, Virginia Beach’s Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana Air Show was the site of one of the largest field trips ever with more than 8,000 students attending the show.
- To raise awareness for the Chesapeake Bay, environmental advocate Jody Couser visited 32 beaches along the Bay in only five days, marking a total of 67 Bay beaches visited over two years.
- The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim is an annual 4.4-mile open water race along the length of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. Up to 650 swimmers participate each year. It has been running for 30 years and has raised $3,000,000 for local organizations.
- The Clinton Canoe Regatta is the world’s longest single-day flat-water canoe race. Hundreds of participants join the annual event to paddle from Cooperstown, New York to Bainbridge, Pennsylvania.
- In 2020, Chris Hopkinson became the first person to stand-up paddleboard the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay. It took him nine days to finish the 200-mile journey. His trip evolved into the annual Bay Paddle event which brings attention to the Chesapeake Bay and supports restoration efforts.
In 2019, sailors Peter Patnaude and Rob Perera took one of the longest recorded doublehanded dinghy distance sailing trips. They traveled up the Chesapeake Bay from Hampton to Baltimore and back for a total of 419 miles.
- In 2021, Jack Limroth took the IGFA All-Tackle Length World Record for a 1277-centimeter red drum he caught on the Chesapeake Bay.
- In 2009, Richard Keatley took the IGFA Men’s 10 kg (20 lb) Tippet Class World Record by catching a 51-pound 5-ounce striped bass near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
- A handful of Chesapeake enthusiasts have paddled all 444 miles of the Susquehanna River, which will soon include Laura Todd of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
- In 2019, Mallows Bay became the first national marine sanctuary in the Chesapeake Bay. Mallows Bay’s Ghost Fleet includes more than 130 wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet during World War I and wrecks from Revolutionary times through the 1900s. It is the largest and most varied collection of historic shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere.
- Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week is always started with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Clean the Bay Day. In the 34 years since the inaugural event, volunteers at the annual event have removed approximately 7.18 million pounds of debris from more than 8,250 miles of shoreline.
- In 2006, U.S. Congress designated the routes of John Smith’s explorations of the Chesapeake as the first national water trail. The trail is more than 3,000 miles long and can be accessed at various points along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The Captain John Smith Trail includes sites in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York.
Journey With Us
Ready to start your journey? Hit the trails or get on the water through a public access site to start exploring the watershed. Find a watershed group in your area, join a community science project, or volunteer to give back to your local waterway. Join in the conversation on social media using #BayAwarenessWeek and #ChesapeakeJourneys to share your connection to the Bay watershed. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week calendar to find an event near you.