The Chesapeake Bay Watershed represents a rich mixture of ecological, historical, and cultural values. The Bay itself is the nation’s largest estuary, a stressed but incredibly productive water body that serves as a pillar of tourism, recreation, and commerce. Its rivers, wetlands, and forests nurture a diverse collection of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. When allowed to thrive, this interwoven system also provides a suite of ecological services that benefit human communities—by protecting the quality and quantity of our drinking water; promoting air quality; combating the effects of climate change; and reducing the pollution, erosion, and flood events related to stormwater runoff.
History resonates on the Chesapeake landscape. Marshlands, deep forests, farmsteads, wharves, and main streets trace the earliest stories of our nation, from the stirrings of the Revolution to many crucial Civil War battles. Even today, the Chesapeake landscape retains vast areas evocative of this rich indigenous and national heritage. Millions of modern families and individuals, including contemporary American Indians and rural communities that rely on farmland and forestry, live amidst this backdrop.
Set within this vast 64,000 square mile watershed—an area eighteen times the size of Yellowstone National Park—are 55 units of the National Park System, scores of state parks and wildlife refuges, five national trails, several large national heritage areas and additional state heritage areas, and more than 2,600 miles of designated water trails.
From a headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland, the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office manages the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, a partnership-based entity that connect people to experiences of the region’s natural and cultural heritage, and also helps conserve important landscapes. This office also coordinates watershed-wide efforts to achieve land conservation, public access, and citizen stewardship goals established under Executive Order 13508 (Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed) and the Chesapeake Bay Program.