The Chesapeake Bay is a 200-mile-long estuary and so much more.

Chesapeake Bay page

Running from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay is the nation's largest estuary, encompassing a watershed area covering about 64,000 square miles. More than 50 major streams and rivers pour into the Bay daily, with hundreds of water sources pouring into those streams and rivers as well. The watershed runs from New York through 6 states before ending at the ocean, so the environmental impacts on any part of this vast area will ultimately impact the marine environment.

Quick Facts about the Bay

  • Located in the mid-Atlantic region
  • Coastal estuary covers about 200 miles
  • Total shoreline, including tributaries, runs 11,684 miles
  • The width ranges from 2.8 miles to 30 miles across
  • Average depth is 21 feet with the deepest point being 174 feet


Take a journey along the Chesapeake Bay floor and get an eye-level look at a variety of the fish that live here as they swim by!


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This exhibit gives our guests the opportunity to get up close to some of the benthic (bottom-dwelling) animals of the Chesapeake Bay. Meet one of our Educators and ask questions! If health policy allows, guests may have a chance to feel the hard shells and spines.

Featured Animals - Chesapeake Bay Touch Pool

Knobbed Whelk
Click the image to learn more.

The whelk shell, like the similar conch shell, has long been used in certain cultures as a horn for ceremonial or communications purposes.

Atlantic Purple Sea Urchin
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The Atlantic purple sea urchin (a.k.a purple-spined sea urchin) is an important indicator species, alerting us to deteriorating water conditions.


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The habitats found under the Bay's surface and along the shorelines are diverse and spectacular in detail. This gallery features individual, smaller exhibits accurately designed to let visitors study habitats that some of our smaller residents call home.