Chesapeake only  Chesapeake only covers 4,480 square miles, has actually a coast of 11,684 miles, and holds much more than 15 sunshine gallons that brackish water. Phibìc is to the ideal in this image.  Image courtesy that NASA.

You are watching: What is the largest estuary in the world


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 The Gulf that St. Lawrence has actually the largest surface area of any estuary in north America.  Image courtesy Google Earth.
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exactly how does Chesapeake Bay compare in size to other estuaries?

Many sources explain Chesapeake Bay together the world’s third-largest estuary. Others think about it the second largest. We’ve also seen it explained (incorrectly) together the largest estuary in the world. The has additionally been described as the biggest estuary in the unified States.

So what’s the actual answer? that depends, of course, on exactly how you specify an estuary, how you measure its size, and also how girlfriend apportion its limits if the is shared by lot of nations.

What is an estuary?

An estuary is typically defined as a seaside water body where a flow mixes through the sea. Scientific definitions typically include several extr criteria, stating the an estuary and also its waters must additionally be:

semi-enclosedopen come the oceanbrackishaffected by tides.

Based on these criteria, significant estuaries in north America encompass Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf that St. Lawrence, and San Francisco Bay. These criteria exclude, other feasible candidates, such together the Mississippi Delta (not enclosed), the Gulf of Mexico (not enclosed, no brackish), Puget Sound (not brackish), the Gulf of California (not brackish), and also Hudson just (not brackish, not enclosed). Various other waterbodies, such as James Bay, stay debatable.

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How to measure an estuary’s size?

There room at the very least 3 various ways to measure up an estuary’s “size:” surface ar area, shoreline length, and also volume. Size approximates are also confounded through differing approximates of whereby any certain estuary “begins” or “ends”. Is this figured out by a particular salinity value, the reach of tidal action, neighborhood geography, or some mix of these factors?

The (qualified) answer

Based on surface ar area, the Gulf of St. Lawrence is plainly the biggest estuary in north America, extending 60,000 square miles (155,000 km2) contrasted to 4,480 square miles (11,600 km2) because that Chesapeake Bay. The Bay, v a convoluted, fractal coastline of 11,684 miles, might well rank first based on this criterion; a quick measurement that the Gulf the St. Lawrence’s shoreline using Google Earth created a length of 1,994 miles.

The concern we have is this: if Chesapeake just is the third largest estuary in the world, together some sources claim, what other estuary besides the Gulf the St. Lawrence rounds the end the triumvirate?