Freedom to Float is a campaign dedicated to promoting access for recreation and community stewardship while preserving treasured waters and natural landscapes.

Freedom to Float: Expanding Access to the Places We Love

Freedom to Float is a campaign dedicated to promoting access for recreation and community stewardship while preserving treasured waters and natural landscapes.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to iconic historical and natural treasures, but significant stretches of shoreline have little or no access. Gaps between sites extend dozens of miles along the shorelines of the Bay and tidal portions of the tributaries, which span a combined length of 11,684 miles—equivalent to the distance along the United States’ west coast from Mexico to Canada. While connecting communities with nature, expanding access would help realize the importance of protecting these lands and waters—for boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and birding.

Who can join Freedom to Float?

Freedom to Float is a network of Chesapeake boaters, small businesses, civic groups, non-profit organizations, paddlers, and recreational enthusiasts dedicated to expanding access throughout the watershed. Any group or individual is welcome to lend their voice for preserving nature and creating new opportunities for public access.

Press Release

New ‘Freedom to Float’ Campaign Aims to Preserve Chesapeake Watershed and Promote Public Access

New initiative to expand access to and preserve Chesapeake Bay watershed

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What is Public Access?

Expanding public access within the Chesapeake Bay watershed is extending the scope beyond simply building additional boat launches and fishing piers. Multiple-use sites will create more places along the water to walk, sit, play, picnic, camp, swim, fish, watch wildlife, and put in canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and sailboats. Public access locations can create opportunity for education, personal connections with nature, citizen stewardship, and landscape conservation.

Why the Chesapeake?


Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

Designated as the first national water trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail follows the historic routes of the English explorer’s voyages between 1607 and 1609 on the…

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Preserving one of America’s “Great Waters.” The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, stretching 180 miles and offering more than 12,000 miles of shoreline. The 64,000-square-mile watershed is home to thousands of species of plants and wildlife. By securing and protecting these shorelines we make the land and water safer and cleaner for wildlife and migratory fish.

Preserving the Chesapeake’s Heritage. Preserving cultural landscapes helps us connect to the early settlers and why the rivers of the watershed were important as transportation and communication corridors for the American Indians and colonists. During the War of 1812, the fight for the Chesapeake played a crucial part in American history. National parks and historic water trails preserve the region’s rich maritime heritage from the Native Americans to the skipjacks of Chesapeake watermen. Fishing, crabbing, and harvesting oysters fed and grew the region, and water-based recreation continues to be a tradition.

Access Promotes Our Sense of Place in the Chesapeake. The Chesapeake watershed is home to over 50 of our national parks, connecting a landscape which spans five states and the District of Columbia. President Obama’s Executive Order 13508 seeks to address public access by calling for the creation of 300 new public access sites by 2025. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trails are unprecedented congressionally designated water trails connecting the landscape. Increased access will further connect the region’s communities to its natural and cultural history. Building multiple-use access sites will expand the reach of these trails to new and diverse communities. Why is public access important to the economy?

Recreation and tourism in the Chesapeake fuels the region’s economy. The National Parks in the Chesapeake recorded over 54 million visitors in 2010, which contributed to over $1.5 billion in spending and supported over 20,000 jobs. Recreational fishing in the Chesapeake Bay contributed to over $500 million in economic activity and supported over 11,000 jobs. Investing in preserving the landscape and protecting clean water is vital to the region’s economic future.

See our list of partners.

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