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Chesapeake Bay
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Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Virginia and Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay's watershed covers 64,000 mile² (170,000 km²) in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the Bay. The Bay itself is about 189 miles long, from the Susquehanna River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. Geologically, the Bay is the drowned valley of the Susquehanna, meaning that was where the river flowed when sea level was lower, but the Bay's geology and its present form have also been affected by a bolide impact at the end of the Eocene (about 35.5 mya), forming the recently-discovered submerged Chesapeake Bay impact crater. At its narrowest point, near Annapolis, Maryland, it is only 4.3 miles wide and is spanned by the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge, commonly termed the "Bay Bridge". Near its mouth, it is spanned by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

Much of the bay is quite shallow. A person six foot (2 m) tall could not only walk across the mouth of the Susquehannah at the upper bay, but could also traverse some 700,000 acres (2,800 km²) of the bay without being entirely submerged.

The Chesapeake Bay was the site of the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, during which the French fleet defeated the Royal Navy, allowing the United States to become independent.

The largest rivers flowing into the Bay are:

The word Chesepiooc is an Algonquin word meaning "Great Shellfish Bay". The Bay was once known for its great seafood production, especially blue crabs, clams and oysters. The plentiful oyster harvests led to the development of the Skipjack, the State Boat of Maryland, and the only remaining working boat in the United States still under sail power. Today, the body of water is less productive than it used to be, because of fertilizer runoff from agricultural development on the Eastern Shore, urbanization, particularly on its western shore, overharvesting, and invasion of foreign species. The bay though, still yields more fish and shellfish (about 45,000 t yearly) than any other estuary in the United States.

In the 1970s, the Chesapeake Bay contained one of the planet's first identified marine dead zones, where hypoxia waters were so depleted in oxygen they were unable to support life, identified when massive fish kills resulted. Chesapeake Bay's shellfish industry has also suffered from the toxic results of Pfiesteria poisoning in fish and humans, and red tides.

The bay is also known for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a dog breed developed in this area.

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