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June 2005
What's Flushing Into Chesapeake Bay?

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Zoom in on the largest estuary in the United States.

Chesapeake Bay legend

Born after the last glacial period, when rising sea levels flooded the Susquehanna River Valley, Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States—and one of the most troubled. For centuries inflows of fresh water mixed with seawater through meadows of underwater grass to nurture millions of pounds of crabs, oysters, and fish each year. But the same geography that helped make the bay so productive also makes it that much harder to fix. Nutrient and sediment loads in tributaries have risen dramatically over the past half century, clouding the once clear water and fueling massive algae blooms. Scientists pin the blame on suburban sprawl and chemical-intensive agriculture in this 64,000-square-mile (166,000-square-kilometer) watershed—drainage basin for six states and the District of Columbia—as well as on a car-loving population growing by more than 100,000 people each year.

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Listen to a Tangier Island waterman talk about life on the bay.

Hear Tom Wisner perform music inspired by the spirit of the Chesapeake region.
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