Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail coming into being

The same e-mail from American Rivers that I referenced last night also announced the official creation, courtesy of the pen of George W. Bush, of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, a water trial in the Chesapeake commemorating the English explorer of the Mid-Atlantic. These trails are great. They are designed for small craft, generally non-motorized at that, and provide a lower-risk way for people in these boats to explore and appreciate a body of water. I have kayaked a small piece of the Maine Island Trail Association’s water trail along that gorgeous coast and looked longingly at end of the one in the Everglades and in each case the concept is a no-brainer. You take a beautiful waterway, guide people through while letting them go at their own pace in their own way, and provide enough shore access to let the people get a sense of the coast. Maybe this is too tame for the intrepid adventurer, but for folks just messing about, perfection.

The Chesapeake screams out for one of these, and now it is getting one. There are gazillions of little steams and marshes one can poke into in a small boat and see the Bay in action. Since there are not as many ways to do this from shore as one might think, the trail will be a great way to open more of the Bay to small boaters and add to the value of small boating in this region. It will also generally add to the level of low-impact recreation and, hopefully, help people understand the Bay’s importance for conservation. I think the trail is a huge win.

There is a website that seems to have some info on the proposed trail. There is a map and guide too.

The Parks Service outlines the following concept for the trail:

John Smith conducted two major voyages around the Chesapeake Bay during the summer of 1608, both starting from Jamestown and heading down the James River into the Bay. On the first voyage he traveled north along the eastern shore, exploring the mouth of the Pocomoke River and traveling some distance up the Nanticoke River. He continued north on the bay as far as present-day Baltimore and the Patapsco River, then headed south along the western shore, exploring the Potomac (Patawomeck) and some of its tributaries to a point north of present-day Washington, DC, before returning to Jamestown. On the second voyage, Smith went straight up the Bay to the mouth of the Susquehanna and present-day Havre de Grace, exploring the Patuxent and Rappahannock Rivers on his return trip southward. The proposed trail would be a circuit of the Bay, with river extensions, combining the routes of these two historic voyages and other explorations of the James and York Rivers in 1607-1609.

I Look forward to its inauguration.

By the way, I just have to chastise American Rivers on one point. In their e-newsletter they include the following passage:

In 1607, Captain John Smith became the first to explore more than 3,000 miles of the Chesapeake Bay and its connecting rivers. Now, 400 years later, you can recreate his epic journey.

First? Come on, gang. Did Pocahontas and company fall from the sky after the Jamestown landing? Sorry to quibble, but an organization like this can’t make that statement in 2006.

1 Comment for “Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail coming into being”

tom armstrong


yeah, ive been looking for something like this as well. there does exist something called chesapeake bay gateways water trail maps but i haven’t seen one yet, and don’t know if they offer beach camping sites or posibilities, which seems a helpful thing for truly small boat access. and why not a chesapeake raid?

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