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A Hole in the Bay by Gary D. Crawford

Say, did you hear the news? Something from outer space slammed into Cape Charles, Virginia! Of course, if you’re new to the area you might have missed hearing about it. After all, it was a while back – 35 million years ago or so, give or take a few hundred thousand. While that may sound like old news, it’s actually pretty recent in geologic terms – about halfway back to the extinction of the dinosaurs, if that helps you place it. I apologize to the Gentle Reader for the catchy but misleading title of our article. Strictly speaking, the thing didn’t exactly blow a hole in the Bay. In fact, there was no Chesapeake Bay at the time, much less a Cape Charles. Why no Bay? The answer may be of interest to some of you. Have you noticed the difference between rivers on the western shore and those over here? Ours meander sleepily through the countryside, turning this way and that, taking their sweet time carrying water down to the Bay. Lacking high ground, Delmarva rivers just don’t have much flow. It’s different on the western shore. If you look at Virginia edgewise (and it’s hard not to, sometimes), you’ll notice that the western shore

actually is pretty much like the Eastern Shore – low and tidal. They refer to it, cleverly, as the Tidewater region. Off in the far west are the Blue Ridge Mountains. Between, from the Tidewater to the foot of the mountains, lies the Piedmont. (Foot + mountain, wink, wink). For the most part, the Piedmont is a big plateau, with some of its rivers running east to the Bay. When they get to the edge of the plateau, they do the Niagara thing and fall. That’s why you can navigate only just so far up the Potomac, the Rappahannock and the James rivers. Your boat runs into rocks at the Piedmont, and so towns were built there to move freight up and down

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May 2012 Tidewater Times  

May 2012 Tidewater Times magazine

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