A free, online resource, A Boater’s Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, introduces paddlers and boaters to the Bay and tributary rivers. The Guide is a joint project of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office, the Chesapeake Conservancy, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Author John Page Williams expertly weaves practical information for today’s boaters with the historical context of the Chesapeake’s waters explored by Captain John Smith four centuries ago.
Users of the Boater’s Guide can learn where the trailheads are (including GPS coordinates), see suggested trip itineraries, and compare on-the-water experiences for paddlecraft, skiffs and runabouts, and cruising powerboats and sailboats. The Guide’s interactive features include links to additional maps, NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, navigation charts, and information on facilities and points of interest.
Historical context for humans’ use of the Chesapeake supplements text about the Bay today. Guide users will be able to envision the Chesapeake as Captain John Smith saw it four hundred years ago, and as American Indian societies have experienced it for thousands of years.
“The Chesapeake is such a multi-dimensional place,” explains author John Page Williams, “and seeing it against the backdrop of four hundred years of history, and our knowledge of Native peoples of the Bay, makes exploring it a much deeper and richer experience.”
John Maounis, superintendent of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, said, “Developing this guide has been a great partnership endeavor, bringing together the NPS, the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. John PageWilliams worked closely with Paula Degen of our staff to create a unique resource for Chesapeake residents and visitors: a free guide that combines information on how to safely enjoy the Smith Trail today with a view of the Chesapeake region that was peopled by thousands of American Indians when Smith explored the bay and rivers.”
“The boaters guide opens the door to modern day explorers wanting to experience the Bay's great rivers and special places, and engages them in the Chesapeake’s cultural and natural history,” said Joel Dunn, executive director of the Chesapeake Conservancy. “Whether you are paddling a kayak or navigating a trawler yacht, the guide will encourage stewardship and add to the fun.”
Any section of the Boater’s Guide can be downloaded and printed for excursions on the main stem, the head of the Bay, the lower eastern shore, and the James, Chickahominy, Rappahannock, York, Patuxent, Potomac, Patapsco, and the Nanticoke rivers.
The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail was designated as part of the National Trails System in 2006. While this Boater’s Guide describes many places where boaters can access and explore the trail now, many more access areas and facilities will be added as the trail develops. For this reason, the Boater’s Guide is an online publication, designed to be updated.