Some Fun Facts About the Chesapeake Bay

If you’ve never been to the Chesapeake Bay, this blog just might inspire you to plan your next transient adventure up and down its formidable waters. Check out these fun — and somewhat astonishing — facts about the nation’s largest estuary. 

boat on chesapeake bay


The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and the third largest in the world.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, an estuary is the tidal mouth of a large river, where that freshwater meets the salty water from the ocean. When the freshwater and the seawater combine, you get slightly salty, brackish waters. It was also the first estuary in the nation that was specifically targeted for restoration as an integrated watershed and ecosystem. 

Although only two states border the Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia), its watershed — meaning the area that drains into the Bay — stretches across areas of four additional states. 

These states include: Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, in addition to Maryland and Virginia. The Susquehanna River watershed itself includes about 50 thousand miles of rivers, streams, and creeks that move into the Chesapeake Bay. Other major rivers that empty into the bay include: the James, York, Rappahannock (the longest free flowing river in the watershed), Potomac, Patuxent, Patapsco, Pocomoke, Wicomico, Nanticoke, Choptank, and Chester. 

There are also more than 6.2 million acres of accessible green space within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

A person who measures six feet tall could comfortably wade through more than 700,000 acres of the Chesapeake Bay and never get the top of their head wet!

The Chesapeake Bay is surprisingly shallow – its average depth is about 21 feet, making it a fisherman’s dream location! The deepest part of the Bay is nicknamed “The Hole” and is more than 170 feet deep. Water temperatures fluctuate quite a bit throughout the year, dropping as low as 34 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months. 

The Bay holds nearly 18 trillion gallons of water — which amounts to more than fifty billion bathtubs filled to the brim!

Around 51 billion gallons of water flow into the Chesapeake Bay each day from freshwater tributaries — half of which is saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean and half is freshwater from the Susquehanna River and other watersheds which extend nearly 524 miles from New York to Virginia. 

The Chesapeake Bay is home to a ton of different species — both under the water and above it. 

The Chesapeake Bay is home to more than 3,600 different species of plants and animals, including finfish, shellfish, plant species and all different types of underwater grasses. It’s famously known for its blue crabs, with more than a third of all blue crabs consumed in the U.S. coming from the Bay. 

70% to 90% of all striped bass (also called rockfish by the locals) spawn in the Bay. And the Bay produces about 500 million pounds of seafood every year — since 1990, commercial watermen have harvested more than 1.6 billion pounds of blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay.

But the area’s harvest is steadily declining each year according to recent data. In 2014, we saw the lowest level of seafood harvest on record in 25 years at only 35 million pounds. Similarly, what used to produce tens of millions of bushels of oysters has dropped to less than 1% of its historic levels. 

During the colder months, the Bay is also home to a bunch of different types of waterfowl. Nearly one million waterbirds spend their winter on the Bay, which comes out to be approximately one-third of the entire Atlantic coast’s migratory population. These birds stop to rest and eat at the Bay while making their annual migration along the Atlantic Migratory Bird Flyway. This even includes more than 500,000 Canada geese!

We even have twelve known species of sharks that have been sighted along the Chesapeake!

Only five of these species we would consider to be a common occurrence for the area: smooth dogfish, spiny dogfish, bull shark, sandbar shark, and a sand tiger shark. 

Bald Eagles are making a comeback in the area, thanks to recovery efforts. 

In the 70’s there were as few as 60 breeding pairs of bald eagles all across the Chesapeake Bay region. Today, you can find as many as 3,000 breeding pairs in the same area!

Morningstar Marinas has two locations along the Chesapeake Bay. 

At Morningstar Marinas, we’ve created a community of boaters who come together to enjoy life on the water. With locations up and down the Southeast and mid-Atlantic areas, our full-service marinas and seasoned staff are ready to help you make the most out of your next fishing adventure on the Chesapeake Bay. With clubhouse facilities and picnic areas, clean facilities, restaurants, fuel, fish cleaning stations, and ship’s stores, Morningstar Marinas is more than just a place to store your boat—it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Check out our Gwynn’s Island & Little Creek locations when you visit the Chesapeake Bay area. 

Visit Morningstar Marinas Gwynn’s Island

Located on Gwynn’s Island with access to the Chesapeake Bay, this Morningstar Marina’s location is protected from the winds, making docking as easy as can be. Just an hour outside of Richmond, 45 minutes north of Hampton, and 10 minutes from Mathews, the marina is equipped to handle even your most demanding boat requirements. Regardless of whether you’re fishing, tubing, or just cruising along, our on-site mechanics and expert staff are ready to help you have the best experience possible out on the water. 

Visit Morningstar Marinas Little Creek

Located right off the open water near Norfolk, our facilities are easy to access from the Chesapeake Bay and are only a short boat ride away from the James River and the Atlantic Ocean. See our state-of-the-art, storm-resistant Bellingham dock system for yourself, or stop in to fuel up — for either your boat or yourself! We’re proud to offer transportation options for our transient guests who may want to explore Norfolk while they’re nearby, plus we’re within walking distance to quite a few points of interest in the area.