Chester in Chesterfield County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
John Smith Explores the Chesapeake
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic 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 passage to the Pacific, his precise map and detailed observations of American Indian societies and the abundant natural resources guided future explorers and settlers.
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.
At the time of Smith’s exploration, 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
(upper right) Smith’s remarkably accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay (published in 1612), and his spirited written accounts of a lush landscape inspired European migration.
(lower right) Decorative shells—such as those found on this ceremonial robe—were valuable in the American Indian's tradeing network that extended for hundreds of miles. This robe (which may have belonged to paramount chief Powhatan) was crafted from elk skins and adorned with more than 17,000 shells.
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.
• 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 www.smithtrail.net
(upper right) Captain John Smith’s Historic Voyage Routes. “Here are mountains, hills, plains, valleys, rivers, and brooks all running most pleasantly into a faire Bay compassed but for the mouth with fruitful and delightsome land.” —John Smith, 1612
(bottom) Overlooking the Susquehanna River; Students aboard Discovery at Jamestown Settlement; Kayakers explore the trail; Indian dance demonstration at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.
Launch Your Journey
Welcome to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. This site is one of many places along the trail where you can experience the area's rich heritage. Learn about Captain Smith's voyages, American Indian tribes and the Chesapeake of long ago. Explore diverse
Erected by National Park Service.
Location. 37° 22.579′ N, 77° 21.583′ W. Marker is in Chester, Virginia, in Chesterfield County. Marker can be reached from Henricus Park Road 1.3 miles east of Coxendale Road. Touch for map. The marker is located in Henricus Historical Park 300 yards north of the parking lot. Marker is at or near this postal address: 251 Henricus Park Road, Chester VA 23836, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Henricus Historical Park (a few steps from this marker); Changes Over Time (a few steps from this marker); The Church of Henricopolis (a few steps from this marker); The Lightkeeper’s House (within shouting distance of this marker); Henricopolis (within shouting distance of this marker); The Bermuda Hundred Campaign (within shouting distance of this marker); Dutch Gap Canal (within shouting distance of this marker); USCTs At Dutch Gap (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chester.
Also see . . .
1. Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. National Park Service (Submitted on May 26, 2014.)
2. Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. National Park Service (Submitted on May 26, 2014.)
3. Henricus Historical Park. (Submitted on May 26, 2014.)
Categories. • Colonial Era • Exploration • Native Americans • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 26, 2014, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 399 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on May 26, 2014, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.