Captain John Smith’s explorations of the Chesapeake Bay region marked a fundamental change in how humans interacted with the environment here. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is part of a concerted effort to reverse the negative changes and restore the “faire” Bay that Smith describes.
In a matter of a few decades the waves of settlement that followed in Smith’s wake upset a balance that had sustained native populations and the robust natural ecosystem for thousands of years. Human and natural impacts have continued to assault the health and natural diversity of the Chesapeake Bay.
The patient is in critical condition. The Bay’s ability to sustain life has diminished in visible and measurable ways. Key species have declined, threatening the sensitive ecosystem and the livelihoods of communities dependent on Bay harvests. Cutting forests to make way for development has destroyed natural protections for fragile shorelines, habitats, and water quality.
Healing the damage of 400 years is an enormous undertaking. We are swimming against the tide of continued population growth. But restoration efforts, coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Program and involving countless people who care about the Bay, are starting to show signs of progress. Success will require accelerated restoration and even more people. Everyone who lives in and visits the watershed needs to join the effort.
The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail provides a new way to view the Chesapeake landscape. It offers opportunities to reflect on the bountiful Chesapeake known to the native populations and English explorers. The trail is a way to discover places that still look much as they did in 1607 and to learn the many intriguing stories of native cultures, English settlement, and the natural world.
The trail offers many paths of discovery. Most important, by revealing what has been lost and what remains and why, the trail inspires its travelers to join in restoring the Chesapeake Bay for generations of explorers still to come.
Did You Know?
Learn more about Bay Restoration Efforts