Frequently Asked Questions


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What is the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (NHT)?

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT shares knowledge about the American Indian societies and cultures of the 17th century Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers. First established by Congress in 2006, the water-based trail follows the voyages of Captain Smith through the Chesapeake from 1607-1609 in association with the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent British colony in North America. Since, the trail has been expanded along rivers important to Native peoples, including the Susquehanna, Upper Nanticoke, Chester, and Upper James.

The trail also manages Werowocomoco, an Native American site in Tidewater Virginia where English settlers once met with the leader Powhatan. Archeological evidence shows that the site at Werowocomoco was occupied by American Indians for more than 400 years, with and artifacts have been found dating back as far as 10,000 years. In recent centuries, the property was occupied Europeans and African Americans.

Working alongside the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, the trail calls attention to the cultural and natural heritage of the Bay, and provides new opportunities for education, recreation, and heritage tourism in the Chesapeake Bay region. In providing a focus on the resources associated with American Indian history and contemporary communities, the trail helps facilitate the protection of associated resources for future generations.

How do I contact the trail?

To contact us, email:
Physical mail, including junior ranger books, can be sent to the following address:
P.O. Box 210
Yorktown, VA 23690

How do I get on the trail?

The trail is more than 3,000 miles long and can be accessed at various points along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. View a map of the trail.

The trail’s is currently headquartered at Historic Jamestowne, part of Colonial National Historic Park: 1368 Colonial Pkwy, Jamestown, VA 23081.

The primary visitor’s center for the upper portion of the trail is the Zimmerman Center for Heritage, located on the Susquehanna River in York County, Pennsylvania: 1706 Long Level Road, Wrightsville, PA 17368.

There are dozens of museums, parks, visitor centers, and water access points that are considered partners of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. At these places, collect National Park passport cancellation stamps and experience the Chesapeake's rich history and culture. Explore trail places that offer passport stamps!

How is the trail marked?

The trail is marked with a series of logo markers and interpretive signs at designated trail locations. Currently, interpretive buoys mark the trail at several places in the Chesapeake Bay. The buoy system was developed in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These buoys provide important cultural, geographic, and historical information while transmitting real-time scientific data about water conditions. To access the buoy system, visit

What if I don’t have a boat?

Although the National Park Service (NPS) does not currently offer watercraft rentals and/or guided tours of the trail, these services are available at many trail locations through concessions at state parks or private enterprises.

Where can I get a map and guide to the trail?

View our map and brochure.

Are there ranger-led tours available?

The trail offers pop-up programming at Historic Jamestowne and at special events that can be viewed on our calendar. Parks, refuges, museums, and other sites along the trail offer tours and other experiences.

How long is the trail?

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail traverses more than 3,000 miles up and down the Bay and its tributary rivers through the states of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Where does the trail start?

Visitors can access the trail at multiple locations. Historically, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT begins at Historic Jamestowne on Jamestown Island located near Williamsburg, VA. This is where John Smith began his explorations and voyages. The northernmost point of the trail is the Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, NY. This lake is the headwaters, or origin, of the Susquehanna River. Since the Susquehanna River formed the valley that now holds the Chesapeake Bay, the Otsego Lake is in a way the “starting point” of the Chesapeake.

Can I stay overnight on the trail?

Although the NPS does not currently provide camping facilities along the trail, camping is available through state and private partners at sites along many trail segments.

Does it cost anything to use the trail?

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT is free of charge; however various partner sites and concessions along the trail may charge a fee.

Who manages the trail?

The trail is administered by the National Park Service in coordination with the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, in consultation with tribal partners, and in cooperation with other federal, state, and private entities.

Do you need volunteers for the trail?

We do not offer any volunteer opportunities at this time.

Is there a passport cancellation stamp for the trail?

Yes, there is a cancellation stamp for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. View a map of passport stamp locations.

Is there a scout merit badge for the trail?

The National Park Service offers a Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger Program as well as a Girl Scout Ranger Program. These programs are designed to increase scout visitation to national park units, promote a better understanding of the NPS mission among scouts and their families, educate young people about their responsibility to conserve our natural and cultural resources, encourage volunteer service, and promote good citizenship.

What is the buoy system?

In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “smart buoys” guide visitors along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT. The solar-powered buoys provide visitors with a wide range of real-time information such as latitude and longitude, water quality, wind speed and direction. The buoys also provide site-specific geographic and historical information. There are currently ten buoys in place located at the mouth of the Susquehanna, the Patapsco River, Annapolis, the Upper and Lower Potomac River, Gooses Reef, Stingray Point, the York Spit, Jamestown, and First Landing. These buoys are accessible at

What is an estuary?

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America. An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with saltwater from the ocean. It is an area of transition from land to sea. Estuaries are among the most productive environments on earth, creating organic matter and providing many different types of habitat that support diverse communities of plants and animals.

What is Werowocomoco?

Werowocomoco, meaning “place of leadership,” is an Indigenous town in Tidewater Virginia where the leader Powhatan met with English ambassadors like John Smith. Werowocomoco is one of the richest American Indian archeological sites on the east coast. It contains archeological evidence of human activity on the land going back more than 10,000 years. Read more about Werowocomoco.

How did Captain John Smith and his men explore the Chesapeake Bay?

In the summer of 1608, Smith and his crew traveled in a 30-foot work boat called a shallop, or barge. This vessel was constructed in England and transported in two parts on one of the three ships that brought the colonists to Jamestown: the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. Reassembled in Virginia, the shallow-draft boat was used for exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Having learned the basics of the Virginia Algonquin language, Smith was able to communicate and even trade with the many tribes he met along the way. He mapped his journeys and recorded what he saw in journals. Though his writings are biased towards a European perspective, they provide a unique glimpse into American Indian life in the seventeenth century.

Last updated: September 13, 2023

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 210
Yorktown, VA 23690


(757) 856-1220

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