For boating and fishing enthusiasts, knowing the depth of the bordering body of water is crucial to understanding the value and capability of the property. While the depth of a body of water is subject to change (sometimes abruptly), the ability of owners to get their crafts in and out of the creeks and rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay has remained fairly constant over time.
Generally speaking, the creeks and rivers that surround the Bay are classified in the three ways:
- Deep Water (6′ or deeper) that can handle most types of recreational motorized boating as well as most sailboats.
- Shallow Draft (2-6′) that can handle most motorized recreational boats up to roughly 25′ in length
- Kayak/Canoe Depth (2′ or less) that are not safe to expect consistent ingress/egress for any craft other than those that are flat-bottomed and/or self-propelled.
Deepwater is generally considered to be where depths exceed 6′. Deepwater is not prevalent and typically found in areas closer to the Bay than further inland.
For larger craft and/or sailboats with keels that increase the need for depth, many of the smaller creeks and coves, even with extended docks, will not provide the depth required for safe navigation. The numerous marinas located throughout the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula typically are located along deep water to allow access to most types of recreational boats found in the Bay communities.
There are some natural locations which offer 6′ or more of depth within easy reach of a personal dock but generally speaking, deepwater access from a private boat dock is somewhat rare.
The term ‘Shallow Draft’ is a nautical term referring to watercraft whose hull requires only a few feet of water depth to remain operable.
Motorized craft considered to be ‘Shallow Draft’ are what many see as the largest segment of the boating market in and around the Chesapeake Bay. Most boats of up to 30′ can be housed in creeks and rivers that have a 2-3′ minimum water depth (although 4′ or more is recommended) making these craft between 20′ and 30′ extremely popular.
Most ‘Shallow Draft’ boats of 25′ or more are generally considered sea worthy and in the hands of an experienced owner can reasonably handle open water with up to 3′ swells depending on other weather conditions. Being able to handle those conditions would allow an owner to fish as far southeast as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands where the Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Kayak and Canoe
Water Depth of less than 2 feet is generally found in the tributaries that feed the larger rivers and the Chesapeake Bay itself.
With tides that can vary 3-4′ feet in some cases, the smaller creeks and coves are sometimes navigable for larger craft, but kayaks, canoes and small flat-bottomed crafts are the safest bet in the shallower areas.