Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
The semi-permanent nature of their towns reflected the highly sustainable lifestyle of Virginia's Indians. They located towns next to waterways, in places with the best soils. As farming depleted nearby land, inhabitants built a new house at another site, giving the appearance of town locations slowly changing.
John Smith' map shows an Indian chief's town of Opiscopank located near here, but Smith did not mention the town in his writings. How he learned of its existence or whether he visited the town remains a mystery.
By mapping Indian towns such as Opiscopank during his travels, John Smith provides archeologists with a valuable snapshot in time.
"This place is a quarter of a mile from the river containing thirty or forty houses upon an exceeding high land. At the foot of the hill towards the river is a wood watered with many springs."
-Captain John Smith, A True Relation
On this map, Smith placed the town of Opiscopank on the banks of Urbana Creek near here. Using Smith's map as a clue, archeologists found evidence of Indian habitation.
Explore these nearby places for a taste of the Chesapeake:
· Enjoy Urbana's historic character and
scenic waterfront, especially during the annual fall oyster festival.
· Visit Deltaville Maritime Museum for special events and to see a replica of Captain John Smith's shallop.
· Stroll on the boardwalk at New Point Comfort Preserve in Mathews County to view the 1804 New Point Comfort Light.
· Feast on Chesapeake Bay blue crab with friends.
John Smith Explores the Chesapeake
Captain John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1600s seeking precious metals and a passage to Asia. He traveled the James, Chickahominy, and York rivers in 1607, and led two major expeditions from Jamestown in 1608. Smith and his crew sailed and rowed a primitive 30-foot boat nearly 3,000 miles, reaching as far north as the Susquehanna River.
Although Smith did not discover gold, or a river to the Pacific, his precise map and detailed observations of American Indian societies and the abundant natural resources guided future explorers and settlers.
At the time of Smith's explorations, an estimated 50,000 American Indians dwelled in the Chesapeake region—as their ancestors had for thousands of years. Their sophisticated societies included arts and architecture, systems of government, extensive trade and communication networks, and shared spiritual beliefs. The native people
hunted, fished, grew crops, and gathered food and raw materials from the land and waterways.
An Abundance of Life
Smith discovered a treasure trove of natural wonders in the Chesapeake region: thick forests of giant pines, oaks, and hickories; vast marshlands, huge turtles, 800-pound sturgeon, and great schools of shad and striped bass. Massive flocks of ducks, geese, and swans darkened the sky; and enormous oyster reefs rose above the water's surface.
To learn more about the trail visit www.smithtrail.net
Smith's remarkably accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay (published in 1612), and his spirited written accounts of a lush landscape inspired European migration.
Decorative shells-such as those found on this ceremonial robe-were valuable in the American Indian's trading network that extended for hundreds of miles. This robe (which may have belonged to paramount chief Powhatan) was crafted from four elk skins and adorned with more than 17,000 shells.
Wood ducks and other waterfowl flourished
The forests and lowlands teemed with deer
Cattails grew thick in pristine marshes
Flocks of geese filled the sky
Join the Adventure
Explore the places Englishman John Smith traveled in the early 1600s. Learn about the thriving American Indian
communities he encountered and imagine the bountiful Chesapeake he observed. Experience the natural and cultural richness that exists in the region today.
The 3,000-mile Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail traces the exploratory voyages Smith conducted from 1607 to 1609 on the Chesapeake Bay and along several major rivers. The trail includes parks, museum sites, driving tours, and water trails that align with Smith's historic voyage routes and offer opportunities for recreation and discovery.
Experience the Trail
· Explore rivers, coves, and open water by kayak, sailboat, or motor craft.
· Bicycle or hike along woodland trails and shoreline paths.
· Follow winding back roads through rural landscapes and historic villages.
· Visit places that celebrate American Indian heritage.
· See birds and other wildlife foraging in marshes, waterways, and forests.
· Attend festivals and demonstrations, or join a guided tour.
To learn more about the trail and to plan your adventure, visit
Captain John Smith's Historic Voyage Routes
"Here are mountains, hils, plaines, valleys, rivers, and brookes all running most pleasantly into a faire Bay compassed but for the mouth with fruitful and delightsome land."
- John Smith,
Overlooking the Susquehanna River
Students aboard Discovery
at Jamestown Settlement
Kayakers explore the trail
Indian dance demonstration at Jefferson Patterson Park and Monument