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Nanticoke River Center

History of the Nanticoke

The Nanticoke River is the longest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, located on the lower Delmarva Peninsula. The 64-mile long river begins in southern Kent County, Del., and proceeds southwest through Tangier Sound, Md. The tidal river forms a boundary between Dorchester County and Wicomico County in Maryland, and in 2011 Delaware designated a 26-mile ecotourism water trail running along the river that adjoins with a 37-mile water trail extending through Maryland into the Chesapeake Bay. The watershed encompasses nearly 725,000 acres as the river meanders through marshland, forests, and farmland. Over 50,000 acres of the watershed are tidal wetlands, which represent about one-third of all tidal wetlands in Maryland. The Nanticoke watershed is a biologically diverse watershed home to an array of many flora and fauna, including the highest concentration of bald eagles in the northeastern United States.

The Nanticoke River had been providing Native Americans with important ecological services a millennium prior to the arrival of European settlers. In the early 1600s the tribe, later referred to as the Nanticokes, were the largest group on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Native Americans relied on the river and its marshes for an abundant supply of fish, shellfish, game and edible plants. They utilized the land for agriculture and cultivated small plots of corn and beans. By the late 1600s many of the natives were displaced as the number of colonists increased and conflict arose due to conflicting practices. Thousands of years later, the river is still utilized by many inhabitants along the Eastern Shore. The Nanticoke provides great opportunities for exploration and education about the history and wildlife of the area.