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Photo of John Smith statue facing the James River at sunset.

Prepare a Comprehensive Management Plan/EA for Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

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On December 19, 2006, President George W. Bush signed legislation to establish the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail as the first national water trail in the United States. Designated through an amendment to the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. 1241), the new trail consists of "a series of water routes extending approximately 3,000 miles along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the States of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and in the District of Columbia," tracing the 1607-1609 voyages of Captain John Smith to chart the land and waterways of the Chesapeake Bay.

The establishment of the trail reflects public and private interest in the recent 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Virginia—the first permanent English settlement in North America—and Captain John Smith's pioneering explorations on the Chesapeake Bay. Because rivers and bays have always been defining features of settlement, commerce, and transportation, water trails are a way to link historic sites by a common theme as a framework for educational and recreational experiences. The new Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail offers outstanding opportunities to increase appreciation of the importance of the native peoples and cultures of the Chesapeake region, the geography and natural environment at the time of early English exploration, and the influence of Smith's voyages on the future development of the nation. The trail complements the diverse resources of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network—a partnership of existing water trails, parks, museums, wildlife refuges, and other sites that provide interpretation and Bay access—to make additional opportunities for education, recreation, and heritage tourism.

The route of the new water trail traces John Smith's several voyages on the York and James rivers in 1607 and his two major voyages around the Chesapeake Bay during the summer of 1608, both of which started from Jamestown, Virginia and headed out the James River into the Bay. It goes north along the Virginia/Maryland Eastern Shore, across the Bay to present-day Baltimore and the Patapsco River and southward along the Western Shore and up the Potomac River to present-day Washington, D.C., before returning to Jamestown. The second leg of the Smith trail travels straight up the Bay to the mouth of the Susquehanna River and present-day Havre de Grace, then returns southward with stops along the Patuxent and Rappahannock rivers.

As the nation's first national water trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT will be most fully experienced by watercraft and at water access sites. However, visitors will also be able to view the trail setting and learn the stories from land. Numerous existing land sites along the voyage routes will interpret Smith's explorations, native settlements and cultures, and the environment of the early 17th century. Many of these sites are part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.

The National Park Service, with extensive public involvement through workshops, is developing a Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for the management and use of the trail, for interpretation, and assessment of access points. Subject to public review, the CMP for the new trail will address the roles of various jurisdictions and partners. An advisory council, to be named by the Secretary of the Interior, will assist the planning process.

The public is encouraged to participate in the planning and development process. Documents available elsewhere on this site provide additional background information.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you would like to provide information for consideration in the planning process, please use the resources of this web site or attend a planning meeting in person. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Sincerely,

John Maounis
Superintendent
Contact Information
410.260.2488
410 Severn Avenue, Suite 314
Annapolis, MD 21403