Bohemia Creek || Broad Creek || C and D Canal West || Chester River || Choptank River || Deep Creek || Elk Creek || Gravelly Branch || Gum Branch || Marshyhope Creek || Nanticoke River || Perch Creek || Pocomoke River || Sassafras River || Wicomico
The Chester River is a pipe-shaped river with its narrow stem in Delaware and its wide bowl opening into the Bay between Eastern Neck Island and the north end of Kent Island in Maryland. The Chester River watershed is located on the western edge of Delaware in New Castle and Kent Counties. Cypress Branch, the most northerly stream, drains southwestward, while Sewell Branch directly below drains in a westerly direction. Furthest to the south in the Chester River Watershed is Gravelly Run, which drains northwestward and meets Sewell Branch several kilometers west of the Maryland-Delaware state line.
The land use within the watershed is dominated by agriculture, wetlands, and forests. Hartly, which lies on the southern border of the watershed, is the only incorporated town.
DNREC's Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program (WMAP) has been developing scientifically robust methods to monitor and evaluate wetlands in Delaware on a watershed basis. Learn more about the health of the wetlands in this watershed from the DNREC Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Program.
Under DNREC's TMDL for Chester River, a 40% reduction in phosphorus levels and a 37% reduction in bacteria are required.
EPA established a Total Maximum Daily Load for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment for the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This TMDL requires reductions of approximately 24% for nitrogen and 20% for phosphorus between 2009 and 2025 from all of the Chesapeake watersheds within Delaware. Sediment loads from Delaware's portion of the Chesapeake must remain at 2009 levels under this TMDL.
Plants and Wildlife
Ducks, geese, bald eagles, and other water-loving birds make their homes along the entire 60-mile course of the river from Delaware into Maryland. Hunters flock to the Chester in the fall because the river is on a major migration route for Canada geese. The waters of the Chester are spawning and nursery areas for many fish species, including alewife, shad, blueback, and perch. Striped bass is the most prized anadromous (freshwater spawning) fish found in the Chester. Known locally as 'rockfish', the striped bass is very valuable commercially.
Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Division of Fish and Wildlife conducts on-going inventories of natural communities as well as rare and declining species, (e.g., state and globally-rare plants, birds, insects, mussels, reptiles, and amphibians). It maintains a database, both electronic and manual, of its findings throughout the state. Learn more about the wildlife and plant communities in this watershed from the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Programs.
In addition, the Division of Fish and Wildlife, working with the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration - Water Resources Center, maintains online databases about plants and plant communities in Delaware. Learn more about the plant communities in this watershed from the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife.
For more detailed information on this watershed, its water quality and resources, check out the following resources:
Chesapeake Watershed Implementation Plan
Delaware Watershed Plans
Delaware Whole Basin Reports
View of the Naudain Tract of the Blackbird State Forest taken from a trail
Photo credit: Patricia Hurley
Square Miles (total): 83.3
Square Miles (DE): 39.6
Population (total)*: 6,458
Population (DE)*: 5,490
States: DE, MD
Counties: DE: New Castle and Kent MD:Kent
*Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 5-year estimates, 2019.
Land cover (total)†
Land cover within Delaware†
†Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management. 2016 C-CAP Regional Land Cover. Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) Regional Land Cover..