b'IntroductionChathams WatersW hen we think of Cape Cod, we think of water. Water dominates our landscape and our history. The regions landscape was shaped by multiple glacial ice ages. Humankinds history on the Cape traces back through the Monomoyics and Wampanoag Tribes to over 10,000 years ago.Archaeological evidence of shoreline campsites, extensive shell mounds and water-centered legends attest to the central importance of water in the lives of the Capes fi rst inhabitants. Early settlers from Europe built their villages around harbors or along freshwater streams that provided water for livestock, shallow wells, and dams that harnessed the waters energy for mills. Like the Native Americans, they depended heavily on fi sh and shellfi sh har-vested from the freshwater ponds, estuaries and the ocean. In later years, marine commerce, fi shing, boat building, and whaling became the Capes economic mainstays.Chatham has 66 miles of coastline, one of the longest in the Commonwealth.Perhaps the single most ob-vious and widely cherished feature of our waterways is their beauty.Our many embayments, tidal rivers, marshes, freshwater ponds, and beaches all have their own character and natural beauty.EmbaymentsE mbayments consist of harbors connected to the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound and tidal estuaries (see map on page 4). Estuaries are places where fresh and salt waters meet and mix and are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth. With beaches, marshes and eelgrass beds, an estuary provides critical spawn-ing, nursery and feeding areas for countless species of birds, shellfi sh, and fi nfi sh that are commercially important to us all. Oysters, clams, quahogs, bay scallops and crabs spend their entire lives in estuaries. Crabs, worms, eels and other invertebrates provide vital food sources for the larger fi sh and birds living and/or feeding in the estuary. The largest salt marshes in Chatham are found along the Nantucket Sound shoreline, located behind the barrier beaches of Stage Harbor, Hardings Beach, and Cockle Cove Beach. Marine and freshwater wetlands serve many critical en-vironmental functions. They act as pollution fi lters, buff ers against storm damage and fl ooding, and provide habitat for many spawning and juvenile species. Approximately two-thirds of the landed value of commercial catch on the East Coast of the United States comes from species that live at least part of their life cycles in estuaries.Bassing Harbor System:The system consists of Bassing Harbor, Crows Pond, Ryders Cove and Frost Fish Creek, all sub-embayments toPleasant Bay.Bassing Harbor is the outermost basin in this system and exchanges waters with Pleasant Bay. The Harbor is a relatively stable, high habitat quality system, with good eelgrass beds. Crows Pond, an inland sub-embayment, is a deep pond with eelgrass beds around the periphery.Ryders Cove is the innermost sub-embayment of the system. The full basin appears to have supported eelgrass beds in the past, many of which do not exist today. Ryders Cove is the entrance to Chathams only remaining active herring run leadingto Stillwater Pond and Lov-ers Lake.Frost Fish Creek is a tributary system to Ryders Cove that is primarily a salt marsh with a central basin.Frost Fish Creek has undergone signifi cant changes resulting from past cranberry bog activities and construction of Route 28.Muddy Creek:Muddy Creek exchanges tidal waters with Pleasant Bay and extends from Pleasant Bay to Route 137 and Old Queen Anne Road. During the late 1800s and into the 1900s, it was divided into an upper and a lower portion by a dike whose weir was removed or washed away.Similar to Frost Fish Creek, the ecology of Muddy Creek was altered by the construction of Route 28.Anecdotal evidence suggests that Muddy Creek did support a herring run into Ministers Pond and Mill Pond.Page 5bluepages.indd 5 8/26/2009 1:48:54 PM'