The York River is a navigable estuary, approximately 34 miles (55 km) long, in eastern Virginia in the United States. It ranges in width from 1 mile (1.6 km) at its head to 2.5 miles (4.0 km) near its mouth on the west side of Chesapeake Bay. Its watershed drains an area including portions of 17 counties of the coastal plain of Virginia north and east of Richmond.
Its banks were inhabited by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. In 2003 evidence was found of the likely site of Werowocomoco, one of two capitals used by the paramount chief Powhatan before 1609. The site was inhabited since 1200 CE as a major village. Enormously important in later U.S. history, the river was also the scene of early settlements of the Virginia Colony. It was the site of significant events and battles in both the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War.
The peninsula formed by the York and the James rivers just to the south became the scene of the end campaign of the American Revolutionary War in October 1781. The British Army under Cornwallis at Yorktown found itself cornered by the Americans under George Washington on land and by the French fleet at sea. The ensuing American victory at the Battle of Yorktown forced the surrender of Cornwallis and the end of the war in the east. During the American Civil War, the same area became the theater of the Peninsular Campaign of 1862.