While driving back from Layton’s Chance Vineyard and Winery, we decided to make another pit-stop in Vienna to visit the Captain John Smith Nanticoke River Discovery Center. The little museum focuses on the cultural significance of the Nanticoke River and the long history of the tidal body of water. Fun fact: did you know that the infamous Captain John Smith voyaged up the Nanticoke and met with the Nanticoke Tribe? That’s right, Pocahontas’ own made his way right to our very own home on the Eastern Shore. However the Discovery Center does not only have historical displays, it also serves as a very important spot along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and is home to the Nanticoke River Watershed Alliance.

John Smith sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and the Nanticoke River in 1607 and 1609. He traveled as far North as the Susquehanna and mapped about 3,000 miles of his journey. Along his voyage he saw an enormous diversity of wildlife along the shores including huge trees, abundant game and fish, and flocks of birds so thick, that it darkened the sky. Can you imagine that? Those massive flocks would have likely blocked out cell reception today.

From Smith’s journals and maps, people have been able to uncover information that we now know about Native Americans during this time period. Through writings and pictures, Smith described aspects of Native American culture such as what they wore and hunting habits. When Smith arrived on the muddy banks of the Nanticoke, he found a cultivated and complex civilization of people that had inhabited the area for 40,000 generations, around 10,000 years with an estimated population at 50,000.

To take a trip back into Smith’s time and follow his footsteps, we suggest meandering your way down the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. This trail is not your average hike; instead it covers the same 3,000 miles that Smith explored spanning parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. It is also the first national water trail flowing by routes with historically significant stopping points along the way. To help stay on course, Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy Systems (CBIBS) are used. These special buoys guide trail goers as well as provide real-time data and historical facts via cell phone and internet. An interactive boat ride! Just don’t drop anything overboard! Click Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail for more information about the trail.

Located just above the exhibits on Smith’s journey is the Nanticoke River Watershed Alliance. This is a local organization dedicated to maintaining the health of our river and educating the community about its state. The Alliance mostly advocates protecting the Nanticoke, the most diverse watershed on Delmarva, so that the incredible ecosystem that it supports can continue to survive. The Alliance does this through community clean-ups and plantings along the river’s banks and also tracks the river’s currents. Click Nanticoke River Watershed Alliance for more information about the organization.

The Captain John Smith Discovery Center turned out to be a great place for a day trip and a place to volunteer! Make sure to get involved and help your community, Shorebread will be rolling up our sleeves and working in the mud at the next Nanticoke clean up. See you there!