The best way to experience the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is by water.
Long before Captain Smith's explorations of the Chesapeake and its tributaries, Indians used these waterways for fishing and hunting, to trade goods, and to explore new lands. Smith traveled nearly 3,000 miles on the Bay and its rivers, recording and mapping what he saw. Due largely to Smith's descriptions, European settlement followed along these waterways. Traveling these waters today, you can see how the landscape has changed — and where it has changed very little. You can see where history was made and where wildlife and native plants still thrive.
"A Boater's Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail" is for boaters in all types of vessels and all skill levels. In this guide to America's first national water trail, Chesapeake expert John Page Williams suggests itineraries for each area explored by Smith and tells you what you need to know for exploring the areas today.
The guide is intended for online viewing and downloading.
View the Boater's Guide
Water Trails by River
Guided paddles are perfect for inexperienced kayakers and canoers looking to dip their toes into the water! Join in on a guided paddling tour to learn the ropes. Practice captaining your ship while also learning about the Bay's history, culture, and ecology.
No boat? No Problem!
Even if you don't own a boat yourself, there are still lots of ways to get out on the water. Many of the locations mentioned on this website rent canoes, kayaks, and boats to visitors. Call ahead before you go to confirm availability.
Tall Ships & Historic Boats
Especially when it comes to water, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Know and follow these safety tips when kayaking or canoeing:
Boating Safety Regulations by State
Last updated: May 26, 2022