Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
Nearby Stingray Point was named for a fish that almost killed John Smith in July 1608. After running aground in the sandy flats near the point, the explorers speared fish with their swords as they waited for the tide to rise.
Not realizing he had caught a poisonous cownose ray, Smith was stung when he tried to remove it from his sword. The wound caused so much swelling that he and the crew feared he would die.
Lucky for Smith, there was a doctor onboard, who probed the wound and applied medicinal oil. The swelling subsided, and by that evening Smith was well enough to eat the ray.
"...the torment was instantly so extreme, that in foure houres had so swollen his hand, arme and shoulder, we all with much sorrow concluded his funeral, and prepared his grave in an Island by, as himselfe directed..."
-The General History of Virginia
Reenactors portray the scene of Captain John Smith's near-death encounter with a stingray, during a Deltaville Maritime Museum event.
Explore these nearby places to learn more about maritime traditions of the Chesapeake Bay:
· Learn boatbuilding history, see classic boats, and try hands-on activities at the Deltaville Maritime
· Stroll on the boardwalk at New Point Comfort Preserve in Mathews County to view the 1804 New Point Comfort Light.
· Visit the waterfront town of Urbana to enjoy the annual fall oyster festival and other Chesapeake traditions.
· Retrace portions of Captain John Smith's 1608 journey as you paddle the Plankatank River Trail.
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, 1612
the Susquehanna River
Students aboard Discovery
at Jamestown Settlement
Kayakers explore the trail
Indian dance demonstration at Jefferson Patterson Park and Monument