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by Orient-Express
Inn at Perry Cabin, St Michaels, Maryland

The Miles River and Chesapeake Bay – Waterways in Crisis

The Miles River, which flows majestically alongside the Inn at Perry Cabin, comprises approximately fifty-four square miles. It is mostly tidal and drains into Eastern Bay which opens to the Chesapeake. Agriculture is the major land use within the watershed. The meandering Wye and Wye East Rivers flow from the north and empty into the mid Miles. They girdle Wye Island and the famous Wye House, one of our many historic treasures.

The magnificent Chesapeake Bay is our continent's largest estuary. Its watershed extends from New York to North Carolina, from Appalachia to the Atlantic. An estuary is a bath of life - where the fresh and salt water mix. 

There was a time not so long ago when these rivers literally teemed with life, sturgeon for the taking fat with roe, shad running up every creek, enormous schools of migrating herring, an abundance of oysters, soft shell clams, and seemingly endless supplies of blue crab. But the Bay, and our local rivers - rivers such as the Miles, Eastern Bay, the Wye, the Tred Avon - all are suffering and in great jeopardy. They have become polluted from an excess of nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorus, and from sediment and bacteria washing into the water from agricultural fields, from waste water discharges, from septic systems, and from impervious surfaces.

Just thirty-five years ago when William Warner wrote his book Beautiful Swimmers, the Bay offered up 80 million pounds of blue crab in a year. Now the entire industry is on the verge of collapse. Chesapeake grass beds in the 1950s covered 600,000 acres. Underwater grasses are the habitat for juvenile crabs, fish, and most marine life. They pump oxygen into the water and keep our waters clear. In the Miles River and Eastern Bay just over the past decade we have lost over 75% of our underwater grasses. In 1974 the Miles River produced a harvest of 148,144 bushels of oysters. Thirty years later the harvest was 56 bushels. Recent waterway assessments gave our local rivers a report card grade of "D". We all need to take part in restoring and protecting the vitality of these precious rivers - our rivers - which instill in all of us a sense of wonder and fill our lives with transcendent beauty. We hope that each of our guests will consider participating in this effort.

 

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