Chesapeake Bay Small

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The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. The water is brackish, shallow, and temperate, allowing the Bay to support a huge number of animals, both in the water and out. Before any Englishman set foot in Maryland, there was an extensive network of Native American tribes that inhabited the fertile area surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. The native people lived mainly on corn that they grew, as well as meat from deer, bears, fish, and oysters. Oysters were an important food staple due to their abundance in the Chesapeake. They thrived in the shallow water, building reefs so large that they could and did ground ships. Although there had been forays by other Europeans, including Giovanni da Verrazano and the Spanish governor of Florida, Captain John Smith was really the first to fully explore the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. He made extensive contact with the Native Americans, and created a chart of his travels that still proves fairly accurate. Englishmen, attracted to Maryland’s great bounty of water, farmland, and natural resources, rapidly settled the area, eventually driving out almost all of the Native American tribes. Watermen built boats like the skipjack and the log canoe to effectively harvest and carry a huge amount of oysters, fish, and crabs from the depths of the Bay to the market. The Bay is still a major source of seafood in the US, even though overfishing, runoff and pollution have taken their toll.