noaa.gov

Where is the largest estuary in the United States?

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States.

Chesapeake Bay (Image credit: Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve)

This image shows the Coleman Bridge over the York River in Gloucester Point, Va, near the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. Image credit: Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and is one of the most productive bodies of water in the world.

The Chesapeake watershed spans 64,000 squares miles, covering parts of six states — Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Over 17 million people live in this area.

The estuary and its network of streams, creeks, and rivers hold tremendous ecological, cultural, economic, historic, and recreational value for the region.

More than 250 fish species use the Bay and tributaries for some portion of their life cycles, including American and hickory shad, river herring, striped bass, eel, weakfish, bluefish, flounder, oysters, and blue crabs. More than 300 migratory bird species can also be found in the watershed. During the fall, the skies come alive as one million ducks, geese, and swans return to overwinter on the Chesapeake.