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Chesapeake History Game: Where Capt. John Smith Didn't Go

Smith Trail Map Question 0211During his thirty months of exploring the Chesapeake, Capt. John Smith covered over 3,000 miles of the Bay and its 40+ named tidal rivers. 

He did, however, skip a few.  Can you name three of the largest? The first reader to correctly answer the question will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-shirt. 

UPDATE: The first right answer came from Carmen, who guessed the Choptank, Chester, and Severn rivers.

Carmen, please email your T-shirt size and address to me at and I'll send you your prize.  Here's a list of the tidal rivers that Capt. Smith missed:

  • Wicomico (Eastern Shore)
  • Choptank
  • Miles
  • Wye
  • Chester
  • Bohemia
  • West
  • Rhode
  • South
  • Severn
  • Coan
  • Yeocomico
  • St. Marys

One of Capt. Smith’s assignments from the Virginia Company of London was to find out if the fabled Northwest Passage to the Pacific began somewhere in the Chesapeake.  During his first voyage of exploration in June, 1608, a storm drove him and his crew onto Bloodsworth Island on the west side of Tangier Sound, opposite the mouth of the Nanticoke.  After repairing their Discovery Barge, they sailed straight for that river in search of fresh water, thus missing the Wicomico.

The Nanticoke chief they met in their travel up that river told Smith about a powerful tribe that lived on a “great water” to the north.  Smith immediately focused on that information.  The next day, he and his men sailed straight across the Bay and headed north along the western shore, looking for the first river “deep enough to admit a ship.”  Thus they passed the West, Rhode, South, Severn, and Magothy before turning into what is now the Patapsco.  (Some scholars believe that they spent a night in the Magothy later, on their way back to Jamestown.)  Since Smith was looking to the west for the Northwest Passage, he ignored the Choptank, Miles, Wye, and Chester. 

In his explorations at the head of the Bay, he entered the Susquehanna, the North East, the Elk, and the Sassafras but not the Bohemia.  In his travel up the Potomac, he skipped the Coan, the Yeocomico, and the St. Marys.  Several of you guessed the Rivanna, which enters the James west of Richmond, but this contest was for tidal rivers.

Thanks for playing!  Look for another Bay History Game on Monday, March 21.

John Page Williams


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Choptank, Chester, Severn?

Magothy? Wye? Yeocomico?

Chester river, Corsica River, and Choptank River

rivanna river, choptank river, and tuckahoe river

Middle River, Chester River, Choptank

York, Mattaponi, Pamunkey rivers

Choptank, Tuckahoe and Rivanna Rivers

Choptank, Chester and Severn Rivers

Chester, Choptank, Pocomoke

James, York and Potomac

Susquehanna, Choptank and Potomac

Choptank, Chester, Miles

Chester, Choptank and the York

Bohemia, North East, Bird Rivers

Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock

Patapsco, Wye, and Pocomoke Rivers

Severn River,Chester River, and Bohemia River

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