The Chesapeake Bay is the United States’ largest and has a over 8,000 miles of shoreline. The bay is long and narrow, leading into the Atlantic Ocean. It extends northward into Maryland and divides the state into two parts. In addition to Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin includes parts of the surrounding states of West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and the entire District of Columbia area. The cities of Richmond, Virginia; Washington, DC.; and Annapolis, Maryland lie within its basin boundary.
Since the early eighteenth century when the Jamestown settlers arrived, commodities have been exported and imported through the Chesapeake Bay. Exporting and importing a multitude of goods today is a competitive business. Having deep-water ports on the bay help to increase the opportunities for import and export. These ports include Baltimore, Maryland, and Norfolk, Newport News, and Portsmouth in Virginia.
Modern marine deep-sea vessels help U.S. companies export large volumes of goods to other countries in a short period of time. The most profitable commodities imported into the Chesapeake Bay area include natural rubber, paper, auto parts, steel, iron, alcoholic beverages, and grain. The strongest trade partners for the Chesapeake Bay include Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Japan, Greece, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
The Chesapeake Bay is 200 miles long, extending from Norfolk, Virginia to Havre de Grace, Maryland. The bay ranges in width from between 3.4 miles near Aberdeen, Maryland, to 35 miles near the mouth of the Potomac River. The mouth of the Chesapeake Bay is a narrow passage only 12 miles wide between its Atlantic side, northern point near Cape Charles, Virginia, and its inland side, the southern point close to Cape Henry, Virginia.
The Chesapeake Bay estuary receives approximately 50 percent of its water from the Atlantic Ocean, which is salt water. The other half of the water is fresh water which drains into the bay from a large 64,000-square-mile drainage watershed. There are 150 major rivers and streams that flow into this Chesapeake Bay drainage basin. The Susquehanna River, located on the northern shore of the bay, provides about half of the fresh water coming into the bay, about 19 million gallons of water per minute. The Chesapeake Bay contains on average more than 18 trillion gallons of water.
Chesapeake Bay, the largest of 130 estuaries in the United States, is a complex ecosystem. The bay supports more than 3,600 species of animals, plants, and fish. Fish of all types and sizes either live in the bay and waterways, or they use the waters as they migrate along the East Coast. Millions of waterfowl and Canada Geese rest in the bay’s basin annually during the winter.
The bay produces approximately 500 million pounds of oysters, crabs, and other seafood per year. The Chesapeake Bay is still the largest producer of blue crabs in the world.
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