If you’ve researched homes to rent or buy, or met someone at a restaurant in an unfamiliar part of town, odds are you first snuck a peek at the location using Google’s Street View technology, which enables users to view super-high-resolution panoramic shots of any place the Google Street View teams have captured with their massive 15-lens cameras. You can use the technology to explore art galleries, ski resorts, stadiums, Robert Falcon Scott’s hut in Antarctica, and today, for the first time ever, 286 miles of the Colorado River as it winds through the Grand Canyon.
The Colorado River mapping project launched early this morning in partnership with American Rivers, a national non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring America’s rivers and to fostering river stewardship. American Rivers communications director Amy Kober announced that the organization, which named the Colorado River America’s Most Endangered River in 2013, hopes Google’s images will bring renewed attention to the challenges facing the river’s health.
Google kicked off its Street View project in 2007. Since then, according to Mashable, the Street Team has snapped tens of millions of images and put more than 5 million unique miles on their camera vehicles’ odometers. Along the way the team has endured countless unbroken stares from curious children and confused geriatrics and faced harassment by police and pranksters. But capturing one of the country’s most prolific and endangered rivers presented a new challenge for the search giant: Whitewater.
We hope this inspires
viewers to take an active interest in preserving it.
The best way to experience a river is to run it. In August 2013, fortunate members of the Google Street View team and American Rivers staff boarded a raft piloted by outfitter Arizona River Runners for an 8‑day float through the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry. They used a special mount to connect the camera to the raft so it wouldn’t bounce into the depths in big water. Members of the Google Street View team also wore special backpack-mounted cameras to capture five hikes along the way.
“Making Street View imagery available of the Colorado River is a tremendous opportunity for us to drive interest for this historical and natural landmark,” says Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Project Lead for Colorado River Street View. “We hope this inspires viewers to take an active interest in preserving it.”
The Colorado River now joins remote places such as the Amazon Basin’s Rio Negro Reserve and underwater marine wildlife sanctuaries in the Galapagos Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Google’s growing list of wild places mapped. And it won’t be the last.
In February 2014, on International Polar Bear Day, Google released Street View-style images from the shores of Canada’s Hudson Bay, where Google experts working with researchers for Polar Bear International attached cameras to the wheels of gigantic trucks to create an image map of the area surrounding Churchill, Manitoba, one of the few places polar bears can still be observed in the wild. As with the Colorado River project, the effort was a win for conservationists—and for Google.
More and more, Google is able to provide results that enable the curious to explore the world’s wild places at the click of a button. What they’re doing raises awareness of nature’s spectacular bounty and is helping conservation efforts. But it’s not where your search should end.