NOAA Smart Buoys

A kayaker paddles in front of a NOAA buoy
Water trail users can visit for weather and environmental data and to read about the natural and cultural history of the area they're paddling through.

Instead of the signposts and tree blazes you would find on a land-based trail, our water trail is marked by floating buoys!

In addition to marking the Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) tracks meteorological, oceanographic, and water-quality data at different locations in the Bay. The system is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

CBIBS "Smart Buoys" are loaded with sensors to collect a range of meteorological, physical, water quality, water level, chemical, biological, optical, and acoustic measurements. The information is relayed in near-real time from the buoys using wireless technology.

The immediacy and accessibility of information from these smart buoys helps people navigate the Bay, improve marine safety, and learn about the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. This data is being applied to science-based bay restoration efforts and in educating people to be better stewards of the Chesapeake Bay.

Access information about the buoys and real-time data from buoy sensors at


Weather Station

  • Wind speed, gust, and direction
  • Air temperature
  • Air pressure (barometer)
  • Buoy location (GPS)

Water Quality Sensors

  •  Water temperature
  • Salinity
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Turbidity (water clarity)
  • Chlorophyll-a

Current Profiler

  • Current speed and direction

Acoustic Receiver

  • "Listens" for tagged fish

Wave Measurement System

  • Wave height, period (frequency), and direction

Visitors to the Trail

The buoys help modern trail explorers learn more about the environment of the Bay while discovering what Captain Smith might have seen as he passed near a buoy location 400 years ago. In addition to marking locations and transmitting observations, the buoys offer descriptions of geography and history. Because the buoys are accessible to anyone with a phone or internet connection, both water and land-based travelers can use them. Take a virtual trip to any buoy location from your computer or mobile device. Also along the trail are land-based interpretive kiosks and exhibits that complement the geographic and historical information the buoys provide. 

Boaters and Fisherman

Recreational and commercial boaters rely on the buoys for real-time data on wind, weather, wave height, and currents. Data from the buoys help boaters make safe choices before venturing into the open waters of the Bay.

Educators and Students

CBIBS is a valuable tool for teachers and students in many subject areas, such as science, biology, mathematics, and history. CBIBS is especially useful in teaching estuarine concepts for better understanding the Chesapeake Bay - North America's largest estuary. The historical adventures of Captain John Smith interest students in learning how the Bay has changed since the time of Smith's explorations. This provides educators with exciting new ways to prepare the next generation of Bay stewards.

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office has developed educational content based on real-time observational data from CBIBS. "Chesapeake Explorations" offers online activities for middle and high school students that bring the science of the Chesapeake Bay to life.

Scientific Research and Bay Restoration

CBIBS buoys collect data on meteorological (wind speed and direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity); GPS (horizontal position); near-surface water quality (water temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, Chlorophyll A, turbidity); wave height (significant and maximum), direction, and period. The real-time and stored data from these measures help scientists analyze changes in the Bay over time. This information is critically important to Bay restoration efforts coordinated through the Chesapeake Bay Program and to various partners in monitoring and raising awareness for Bay health.

Last updated: April 27, 2022

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