|Kent Island played an important role in the early history of Maryland. It was the scene of a power struggle to claim most of the eastern shore for the colony of Virginia and the Virginia Company. Kent Island was established as the first English settlement in the region by William Claiborne in August 1631 as a trading post with the Indians. Claiborne named Kent Island after his birth place of Kent County in England. The area came under dispute when Lord Baltimore was granted lands in Maryland by the King. The grant covered all land that was "not currently under cultivation". Since Kent Island was a trading post, the Calvert family claimed it belonged to them. Claiborne made efforts to cultivate the land after the grant, but Calvert fought for possession of the land and Claiborne withdrew, returning in 1644 with a more well equipped force to reclaim the island for several years. A successful campaign of force removed him from the island and he finally gave up all claims to the island in 1657.
Now Kent Island is the eastern end of the Chesapeake Bay bridge. This double span 5 lane highway crosses the four+ mile wide Chesapeake Bay Main channel at the Bay's narrowest point. Each weekend, hundreds of thousand of automobiles head to the ocean beaches on a Friday night and frequently sit in long traffic lines as the sunburned vacationers head home on Sunday afternoon and night. The high capacity route 301/50 highway takes them across the Bay Bridge and across Kent Island to the Eastern Shore. The road leaves Kent Island as it crosses over a high bridge at the Kent Narrows, a narrow cut that just barely makes Kent Island an island. The high bridge here replaced a low bridge that opened every 30 minutes to let boat traffic seeking the shortcut from the Chester River to the Wye and Miles Rivers through the 2 mile long passage. The regular opening of the bridge made the traffic jams at this area spectacular, a problem that has been eliminated with the new high fixed bridge.
I found the displays oo Sedimentation and Erosion effects to be particularly interesting. I had known that the rivers of the western shore were being choked with silt from the run off from the development occurring with the exploding population. And I knew that many of the islands along the eastern shore were eroding as the storm and wake wave action and the slowly rising sea level wash them into the deeper Bay waters. But I did not have an appreciation of just how extensive and rapid these changes had been. The excellent displays on these two processes are worth the stop to spend the 30 minutes or so it takes to wander through the small display area.
Located on Kent Island at the Narrows, the new Chesapeake Exploration Center is a small museum with an interactive display of early life on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. Displays of interesting Bay facts and photographs mingle with objects from Kent Island's past. The importance of the seafood packing industry and produce canning is highlighted as well as the significant role slavery played in the early development of the area.
The Chesapeake Exploration Center is currently the eastern terminus of the Cross Island Trail, a 10 foot wide hiker-biker trail along the Old Love Point Railroad line across Kent Island between Terrapin Nature Park on the shores of the Chesapeake to the center itself. Plans call for the eventual extension of the trail along the busy route 50/301 to Queenstown and on to Queen Anne, Maryland along utility and railroad rights of way.
Pedestrian pathways and a boat launch, along with 20 acres of parking is located under the high level bridge at the Narrows. The trail network provides pedestrian access along the waterfront.
On the southwest portion of Kent Island is the proposed Matapeake Greenway connecting Terrapin Beach Park, Matapeake County Park and the bike trail along Route 8 to Romancoke County Park.
Other related pages..................
War of 1812 - Cockburn's raid
Trip report on paddle around the southern end of Kent Island