Boating Adventures

A kayaker paddles through a densely vegetated area.

The very best way to experience the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is by water. It is after all the Nation's first water trail.

Long before Captain Smith's explorations of the Chesapeake and its tributaries, Indians used these waterways for fishing and hunting, to trade goods, and to explore new lands. Smith traveled nearly 3,000 miles on the Bay and its rivers, recording and mapping what he saw. Due largely to Smith's descriptions, European settlement followed along these waterways. Traveling these waters today, you can see how the landscape has changed - and where it has changed very little. You can see where history was made and where wildlife and indigenous plants still thrive.

Here are two great ways to explore the Chesapeake's waterways by boat:

  • Follow the official Boater's Guide.
  • Explore the numerous water trails that are part of Find Your Chesapeake.

Cover Page of Boaters Guide depicting a replica shallow sailing
Boaters Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
Now you can explore the Chesapeake Bay as John Smith did it! But you'll have the advantage of an expert guide who has "hindsight." Let John Page Williams take you on a journey along the waterways traveled by Smith and discover the special places Smith described and how remarkably same - or different - these places are today.
A Boater's Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is for boaters in all types of vessels and all skill levels. Whether you paddle, sail, or motor, a novice or expert, you'll find the information you need to follow in Smith's wake along the main stem of the Bay and all the rivers he traveled.
Even non-boaters will enjoy John Page William's engaging way of weaving history, geography, and practical information for seeing the Chesapeake Bay in a new way. The Boater's guide is also loaded with links to take you to trail access points and resources where you can learn even more.
The Guide is a joint project of the National Park Service, the Chesapeake Conservancy, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. In this first guide to America's first national water trail, Chesapeake expert John Page Williams suggests itineraries for each area explored by Smith and tells you what you need to know for exploring the areas today.
The guide is intended for online viewing and downloading. Download the entire document to enjoy all the interactive features designed to help you navigate quickly to specific areas of the Guide. Or download and print individual river sections to take along as you travel.
View A Boater's Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail on

Last updated: December 14, 2017

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