Delaware Bay in Winter
|Surface area||782 square miles (2,030 km2)|
|Surface elevation||0 feet (0 m)|
|Official name||Delaware Bay Estuary|
|Designated||20 May 1992|
Delaware Bay is the estuary outlet of the Delaware River on the northeast seaboard of the United States. Approximately 782 square miles (2,030 km2) in area, the bay's fresh water mixes for many miles with the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean.
The bay is bordered inland by the States of New Jersey and Delaware, and the Delaware Capes, Cape Henlopen and Cape May, on the Atlantic. The Delaware Bay is bordered by six counties: Sussex, Kent, and New Castle in Delaware, along with Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem in New Jersey. The Cape May–Lewes Ferry crosses the Delaware Bay from Cape May, New Jersey, to Lewes, Delaware. Management of ports along the bay is the responsibility of the Delaware River and Bay Authority.
The shores of the bay are largely composed of salt marshes and mudflats, with only small communities inhabiting the shore of the lower bay. Besides the Delaware, it is fed by numerous smaller rivers and streams, including (from north to south) the Christina River, Appoquinimink River, Leipsic River, Smyrna River, St. Jones River, Mispillion River, Broadkill River and Murderkill Rivers on the Delaware side, and the Salem River, Cohansey River, and Maurice Rivers on the New Jersey side. Several of the rivers hold protected status for their salt marsh wetlands bordering the bay, which serves as a breeding ground for many aquatic species, including horseshoe crabs. The bay is also a prime oystering ground.
The Delaware Bay was designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance on May 20, 1992. It was the first site classified in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.
At the time of the arrival of the Europeans in the early 17th century, the area around the bay was inhabited by the Native American Lenape people. They called the Delaware River "Lenape Wihittuck", which means "the rapid stream of the Lenape". The Delaware Bay was called "Poutaxat", which means "near the falls".
In 1523 Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón had received from Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor a grant for the land explored in 1521 by Francisco Gordillo and slave trader Captain Pedro de Quejo (de Quexo). In 1525 Ayllón sent Quejo northward and received reports of the coastline from as far north as the Delaware Bay. In 1525 De Ayllon and Captain Quejo called Delaware Bay by the name Saint Christopher's Bay.
In the 1600s the bay was known as "Niew Port May" after Captain Cornelius May.
Another recorded European visit to the bay was by Henry Hudson, who claimed it for the Dutch East India Company in 1609. The Dutch called the estuary "Godyns Bay", or "Godins Bay" after a director of the company, Samuel Godijn.As part of the New Netherland colony, the Dutch established several settlements (the most famous being Zwaanendael) on the shores of the bay and explored its coast extensively. The thin nature of the corporate colony's presence in the bay and along what was called the South River (now the Delaware) made it possible for Peter Minuit, the former director of New Netherland, to establish a competing Swedish sponsored settlement, New Sweden in 1638. The resulting dispute with the Dutch colonial authorities in New Amsterdam (New York City) was settled when Petrus Stuyvesant led a Dutch military force into the area in 1655. After the English took title to the New Netherland colony in 1667 at the Treaty of Breda the bay came into their possession and was renamed, by Samuel Argall, the river Delaware, after the first Governor of Virginia Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr. The Native American tribe living along the bay and river were later called the Delaware by the Europeans due to their location. The U.S. state also takes its name from the bay and the river.
Conflicting crown grants were made to the James, Duke of York and William Penn on the west bank of the bay and river. Settlement grew rapidly, leading Philadelphia, upriver on the Delaware, to become the largest city in North America in the 18th century. Penn viewed access to the Delaware Bay as being so critical to Pennsylvania's survival that he engaged in an eighty-year long legal boundary dispute with the Calvert family to secure it. In 1782 during the American Revolutionary War, Continental Navy Lieutenant Joshua Barney fought with a British squadron within the bay. Barney's force of three sloops defeated a Royal Navy frigate, a sloop-of-war and a Loyalist privateer.
The strategic importance of the bay was noticed by the Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolutionary War, who proposed the use of Pea Patch Island at the head of the bay for a defensive fortification to protect the important ports Philadelphia and New Castle, Delaware. Fort Delaware was later constructed on Pea Patch Island. During the American Civil War it was used as a Union prison camp.
In 1855, the United States government systematically undertook the formation of a 26 ft (7.9 m) channel 600 ft (180 m) wide from Philadelphia to deep water in Delaware Bay. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 provided for a 30-foot (9.1 m) channel 600 feet (180 m) wide from Philadelphia to the deep water of the bay.
Other names for the bay have been "South Bay" and "Zuyt Baye".
The bay is one of the most important navigational channels in the United States; it is the second busiest waterway after the Mississippi River. Its lower course forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway. The need for direct navigation around the two capes into the ocean is circumvented by the Cape May Canal and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal at the north and south capes respectively. The upper bay is connected directly to the north end of Chesapeake Bay by the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
The bay offers several challenges to mariners: a significant current of up to three knots, which quickly builds a nasty chop when the wind is in opposition; mainly shallow water, with its channel often occupied with ocean-going vessels; and relatively few places to take shelter.
The Delaware River is a major river on the Atlantic coast of the United States. It drains an area of 14,119 square miles (36,570 km2) in four U.S. states: Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Rising in two branches in New York state's Catskill Mountains, the river flows 419 miles (674 km) into Delaware Bay where its waters enter the Atlantic Ocean near Cape May in New Jersey and Cape Henlopen in Delaware. Not including Delaware Bay, the river's length including its two branches is 388 miles (624 km). The Delaware River is one of nineteen "Great Waters" recognized by the America's Great Waters Coalition.
The Delmarva Peninsula, or simply Delmarva, is a large peninsula on the East Coast of the United States, occupied by the vast majority of the state of Delaware and parts of the Eastern Shore regions of Maryland and Virginia. The peninsula is 170 miles (274 km) long. In width, it ranges from 70 miles (113 km) near its center, to 12 miles (19 km) at the isthmus on its northern edge, to less near its southern tip of Cape Charles. It is bordered by the Chesapeake Bay on the west, and the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east.
Sussex County is located in the southern part of the U.S. state of Delaware, on the Delmarva Peninsula. As of the 2010 census, the population was 197,145. The county seat is Georgetown.
Lewes is an incorporated city on the Delaware Bay in eastern Sussex County, Delaware. According to the 2010 census, the population is 2,747. Along with neighboring Rehoboth Beach, Lewes is one of the principal cities of Delaware's rapidly growing Cape Region. The city lies within the Salisbury, Maryland–Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area. Lewes proudly claims to be "The First Town in The First State."
Rehoboth Beach is a city on the Atlantic Ocean along the Delaware Beaches in eastern Sussex County, Delaware, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 1,327, reflecting a decline of 161 (11.2%) from the 1,488 counted in the 2000 Census. Along with the neighboring coastal city of Lewes, Rehoboth Beach is one of the principal cities of Delaware's rapidly growing Cape Region. Rehoboth Beach lies within the Salisbury metropolitan area.
The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is a 14-mile (22.5 km)-long, 450-foot (137.2 m)-wide and 35-foot (10.7 m)-deep ship canal that connects the Delaware River with the Chesapeake Bay in the states of Delaware and Maryland in the United States. The C&D Canal is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District. The project office in Chesapeake City, Maryland, is also the site of the C&D Canal Museum and Bethel Bridge Lighthouse. The canal saves approximately 300 miles on the route between Wilmington and Baltimore, and similar for Philadelphia to Baltimore, whereas otherwise ships would have to go around the lower peninsula of Delaware.
The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, running from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. Some sections of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea.
Delaware Colony in the North American Middle Colonies consisted of land on the west bank of the Delaware River Bay. In the early 17th century the area was inhabited by Lenape and possibly the Assateague tribes of Native Americans. The first European settlers in the area were Swedes, who were Lutheran Protestants, and the Dutch, who practiced Protestant Calvinism. The English took control in 1664, after defeating the Dutch in New Netherland.
Cape May is a peninsula and island ; the southern tip of the island is the southernmost point of the U.S. state of New Jersey. The peninsula resides in Cape May County and runs southwards from the New Jersey mainland, separating Delaware Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The cape is named for Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, a Dutch explorer who was working for the Dutch East India Company.
The Salem River is a 34.7-mile-long (55.8 km) tributary of the Delaware River in southwestern New Jersey in the United States.
The Broadkill River is a river flowing to Delaware Bay in southern Delaware in the United States. It is 13.3 miles (21.4 km) long and drains an area of 110 square miles (280 km2) on the Atlantic Coastal Plain.
Fort Nya Elfsborg was a fortification and settlement established as a part of New Sweden. Built in 1643 and named after the Älvsborg Fortress off Gothenburg, Fort Nya Elfsborg was located on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, between present day Salem and Alloway Creek.
Winyah Bay is a coastal estuary that is the confluence of the Waccamaw River, the Pee Dee River, the Black River, and the Sampit River in Georgetown County, in eastern South Carolina. Its name comes from the Winyaw, who used to inhabit the region during the eighteenth century. The historic port city of Georgetown is located on the bay, and the bay generally serves as the terminating point for the Grand Strand.
Rehoboth Bay is a body of water in Sussex County, Delaware. It is connected to the Broadkill River by the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal.
The Lewes and Rehoboth Canal is a canal in Sussex County, Delaware, which connects the Broadkill River and the Delaware Bay to Rehoboth Bay. It forms a portion of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Broadkill Beach is an unincorporated beach community in Sussex County, in the U.S. state of Delaware, located on the Delaware Bay north of the mouth of the Broadkill River. It is part of the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Zwaanendael or Swaanendael was a short-lived Dutch colonial settlement in Delaware. It was built in 1631. The name is archaic Dutch for "swan valley." The site of the settlement later became the town of Lewes, Delaware.
New Netherlanders were residents of New Netherland, the seventeenth-century colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on the northeastern coast of North America, centered on the Hudson River and New York Bay, and in the Delaware Valley.
The Cape Henlopen Region, or the Cape Region, is a region in Sussex County, in southern Delaware, on the Delmarva Peninsula. The region is part of the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area. The region takes its name from Cape Henlopen, as does the Cape Henlopen School District and Cape Henlopen State Park. Much of the region's populated areas are found along the Delaware Bay, Rehoboth Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Northern and western parts of the Cape Region are rural areas dominated by farmland and wetlands. The area is often referred to as the Delaware Beaches.
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