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Home > Visit a Gateway > By Theme > Driving Tours: Early Discovery and Settlement of Chesapeake Bay
Driving Tours: Early Discovery and Settlement of Chesapeake Bay

Blowing glass at Jamestown IslandOne of the continuing wonders of the Chesapeake Bay is its ability to let us step back in time. Yes, cities and people press from all sides. There are places where the strip malls and highways of the contemporary world literally bury the past.

Yet it’s still possible to walk a sandy beach on a low storm tide and unearth a point (arrowhead) that a Native American fabricated in 900 B.C. There are stone tools of paleo-Indian tribes from 11,000 B.C., and middens dating to 1100 A.D. that Algonquians piled here as they cooked oysters, clams and other shellfish.

It is possible to participate in archaeological digs and find jewelry, tools and pottery that the first English settlers left here in 1607. There are still places remote enough to stand quietly, look across the water, and imagine the vast strangeness of this New World.

The Chesapeake Bay is the cradle of our nation. The men and women who traveled here from England in the early 1600s established the first footholds in the New World and the first representative form of government. They found a wild and beautiful place, shorelines furry with huge hardwood and pine forests, waters thick with oysters and fish. They found well-organized, thriving communities of Native Americans, and managed to learn from them even as their two cultures were doomed to clash. They struggled and died and survived. Their legacy is buried beneath the loamy woods, the sandy beaches, the shifting islands.

Burning curiosity drives the search for this past. Archaeologists and historians continue to find evidence that tells us more about these early people. They work beneath the unrelenting pressure of population growth, land development, erosion and time. And countless secrets of the Bay’s early explorers remain, yet to be unearthed and understood.

Early Settlement in Virginia
This tour takes visitors to the home of the last descendants of the great Powhatan Confederacy, then to the site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

Early Settlement in Maryland
This tour takes visitors to the island where English colonists first landed in what is now Maryland, and then to a living history museum at the site of the first Maryland capital.

A Tale of Two Cities
This tour takes visitors to one of Maryland’s “Lost Towns” and then to Annapolis, Maryland’s capital since 1695.


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