Our Chesapeake Story

Capt. John Smith knew it from the moment he began to explore the Chesapeake and its rivers more than 400 years ago: This place was special. Now home to nearly 19 million people and 3,600 species of plants and animals, the Chesapeake watershed stretches across 64,000 square miles, from New York to Virginia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Eastern Shore.

And what connects us all are not just the 100,000 rivers and streams that bend and twist their way to the Chesapeake. What connects us are our stories. The scientist tagging osprey, the volunteer who has worked Clean the Bay Day all 28 of its years, the high school student taking her clean water message to senators on Capitol Hill, the New York farmer working for a healthier farm and healthier waters.

Together through our stories and unwavering love of this place, we are the watershed. And this is Our Chesapeake Story.


Restoring the River of My Childhood

“The James River seemed to be fading with my youth, and while I had no clue why, I distinctly remember wishing it wasn’t so but feeling helpless to stop it.”

How a dying Virginia river inspired the career of a lifetime. Read on.

Photo by Debbie Epes.

Three Little Words That Changed My Life

“The Brock Center shows us what’s possible . . . how we can begin to change the world. If not, we see a very different future.”

CBF President Will Baker reflects on the moment he realized his life’s work. Plus, how CBF’s new Brock Environmental Building is an international model for smart building. Learn more.


My Incredible Journey

“At Havre de Grace, it’s incredible. It was the promised land of sorts. The sky opens up and you see this huge, open Chesapeake Bay after being closed by mountains and cliffs for almost 500 miles.”

The story of two young Pennsylvanians and their trip down the Susquehanna one summer. Read their story.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Phillips.

Fishing with Marsh Rats

“Theirs were childhoods ruled by high tides, full moons, and blue crab harvests.”

Self-described marsh rats Bill Goldsborough and Chuck Foster both grew up on the Eastern Shore with Bay blood coursing through their veins and fishing rods in their hands. And this week, after a combined nearly 70 years at CBF, the Chesapeake legends are retiring. We recently joined them for one final fishing trip as CBF colleagues. Click here to see, hear, and read more about that day out on the water with these Bay champions.


A River Reborn

“The water’s just about perfect . . . it really is.”

Take a trip beneath the surface of the Severn where we see abundant grasses, scampering blue crabs, and thick, healthy oyster reefs — incredible signs of the Bay’s recovery! Watch the video.


My Visit to the Hill

“The general message I wanted to leave with the senator was that people really do care about clean water and agriculture in Pennsylvania, and we so badly want to see positive change.”

How Pennsylvania’s high school students took their clean water message to Capitol Hill. Read their story.

Photo by Jeff Rogge/CBF Staff.

The Best Part

“It’s not about the oysters so much . . . It’s about helping the Bay — something that’s given me so much in my life. It’s about giving back to something you love.”

How we planted four million water-filtering oysters in the Little Choptank River. Read on.


This Gives Me Hope

“These moments of clarity give us a real, live look at how the Bay might routinely appear someday after more progress in its cleanup.”

Last winter we were struck by startlingly clear waters in our Bay and its rivers and streams — a hopeful sign that our clean water efforts are working. See the photos that show us what is possible.

Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

James River Champions

I went back to nature. I truly believe it has the power to comfort your soul and for you to change your approach to a lot of things in life.”
“Regresé a la naturaleza. Creo que tiene el poder de consolar el alma y de cambiar muchas cosas en la vida.”

For years, Salvadoran Efrain Carcamo and his three young children have regularly cleaned up trash along the James River in Richmond . . . all on their own! Read his story of how he and his family are inspiring a new generation of clean water stewards.


Turning Nothing Into Something

“It’s beautiful. It was such a pleasure to see [the lot] go through its transformation, from just an idea to a real, live example of what can transpire in the city when you have people with a lot of heart and a lot of aspirations to do something great for the environment and the community.”

How we turned a vacant lot in West Baltimore into a community garden. Listen to the story.

Photo by Jay Fleming.

How to Make a Smith Island Cake

“Some do nine, some do twelve, some do sixteen . . . I do a basic eight.”

Smith Islander and baker extraordinaire Mary Ada Marshall invites us into her kitchen and shows us how to make the quintessential Chesapeake dessert.


I was an Environmentalist Before I Was a Farmer

“We all just have to take care of our own little piece [of land] and lead by example.”

How New York farmer Charles Bares’ support means cleaner water. Read his story.

Photo courtesy of Charles Bares.

I Do It Because I Wonder

“As a scientist, the world around me is wonderful — I wonder where that bird’s going to go, what’s that bird eating. And it’s a way to share my joy and wonder in the world with other people.”

How we helped tag and study osprey with Prof. Rob Bierregaard, one of the world’s leading osprey experts, on Whitehall Bay in Annapolis.


Making a Difference with Día de la Bahía

“Across human history, the perfect place to start a civilization has always been near rivers and beautiful places. These rivers feed the Bay, taking water with them. Unfortunately, they also carry trash.”
“En la historia humana los lugares perfectos para comenzar una civilización siempre han sido alrededor de los ríos y lugares hermosos. Estos ríos se desembocan en la Bahía, llevan agua, pero lamentablemente también llevan la basura.”

More than 50 dedicated volunteers from the Hispanic community came out to clean up 600 pounds of trash from the banks of the James River in Richmond. Read their story.


I Had Never Been to Smith Island Before

“It was a life-changing experience to be part of that community (human and biological) and to watch each group of students become suddenly aware of its natural rhythms.”

CBF’s first Smith Island educator and now Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough reflects on the early days of the education program, inspiring and transforming students in this unique island community. Read his story.


Renaissance Farmer

“My friends used to joke that I was the only high school quarterback with a wildflower garden.”

Now more than ever, it is critical to understand how healthy farming practices are intrinsically tied to a healthy Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and streams that feed it. CBF’s Clagett Farm Manager Michael Heller explains how.


Bent for Survival

“There was probably a dozen or so streams that had them in 1990, but those populations are all gone now.”

What giant, mysterious Eastern hellbender salamanders can tell us about clean water. Read on.

Photo by Kevin Stohlgren.

Winter on the Islands

“This island was no old photograph, but a vibrant habitat bursting with life in any season. This is why we bring students and teachers here. This is why we work so hard to save these places.”

CBF Educator Adam Wickline reflects on an often forgotten season on the Chesapeake islands. Read on.


27 Clean the Bay Days and Counting

“Now that I’ve been doing it so many years, nothing really surprises me . . . You name it, it’s probably washed up on the beach at one time.”

In the spring of 1989, 16-year-old Cameron Swain went on an outing with her family in Hampton Roads to pick up trash on a beach. And the rest is history. Read her story.

Photo by Kenny Fletcher/CBF Staff.

Morning Mist on Spring Creek Canyon

“Of course, the health of the Susquehanna River watershed has direct and dramatic impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Photographer Hillel Brandes reflects on the value of clean water in his own backyard.


Exploring a Chesapeake Icon

“I feel very privileged to share this wonderful structure with so many people.”

Peek inside one of the most iconic landmarks in the Chesapeake Bay. Watch the video.


The Economic Value of Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and Its Rivers

“Like a heart muscle whose health depends on what we eat, drink, and breathe, the Chesapeake watershed sustains life throughout our mid-Atlantic region. On behalf of our grandchildren, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint offers a return on investment far in excess of its costs.”

The economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will total $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented. Learn more.

It Could Be Lost Forever

“When I was young, I thought all rivers were called ‘Rappahannock.’”

Along a pristine stretch of the Rappahannock River on Virginia’s Northern Neck, a massive, proposed development threatens a place like no other in the Chesapeake watershed. Learn more.

Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

What’s your Chesapeake story? Tell us!