Captain John Smith's Chesapeake Voyages
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

[ Print this page ]

Four centuries ago, when three creaky British ships made landfall on the mid-Atlantic coast of North America in the spring of 1607, a smart, cocky twenty-something adventurer named John Smith stepped onto the stage of history. Over the next two years, working on behalf of London entrepreneurs who called themselves The Virginia Company, Captain John Smith would play a pivotal role in establishing a tiny, struggling settlement—Jamestown, the first successful English colony in North America. He would also systematically explore the Chesapeake region, traveling the vast Bay and its major tributaries in what amounted to an oversized rowboat with a single canvas sail. Along the way, Smith and his crew would meet, parlay, and sometimes do battle with the Chesapeake 's diverse Native peoples.

Today the story of John Smith's expeditions around the Chesapeake has become the stuff of legend, lore, and intensive research by scholars. Smith's descriptions of the Bay region's dense forests and bountiful wildlife and fisheries in his 1608 account “A True Relation of Virginia …” would help fuel the rapid colonization of North America by the English and others. Within half a century of his journeys, the shores of Chesapeake Bay would be forever changed, studded with growing communities inhabited by thousands of colonial settlers.

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, designated on December 19, 2006, commemorates Smith’s historic voyages of exploration on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries 1607-1609. As the first national water trail evolves, people will have opportunities to experience the trail and learn the many stories of the Chesapeake from the early 17th century into the future.

Captain John Smith

A bold, strong-willed adventurer, Captain John Smith played a pivotal role in British efforts to colonize North America. Learn more about this amazing explorer.

The Voyages

In1608, Captain John Smith led two pioneering expeditions around Chesapeake Bay, setting the stage for later English efforts to make the Bay their own.

The Shallop

John Smith expected to go ashore frequently during his voyages around the Bay, so the expeditionary vessel was a small, shallow-draft vessel called a “barge” or shallop.

Native Peoples of the Chesapeake
Learn about the lives and cultures of the various Indian peoples of the Chesapeake region that Smith encountered on his two voyages around the Chesapeake.
Events & Initiatives
Many other initiatives are underway related to John Smith's Voyages and the 400th anniversary of the settlement of historic Jamestown.
John Smith Water Trail
Learn about the recently designated Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail which extends approximately 3,000 miles along the Chesapeake Bay.
Explore Related Gateways

Many Chesapeake Bay Gateways offer a chance to learn more about John Smith and his Chesapeake voyages. Find out where to explore these Gateways.

Two Important Books
John Smith's explorations of Chesapeake Bay are chronicled in two new books that provide important reference and enjoyable reading.

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Comments or Questions: Call: 1-800-YOUR-BAY