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Google Street View Reveals Grand Canyon

Photo: Google
Photo: Google

You’ve used Google’s Street View to navigate unfamiliar cities. Now, you can use it to explore a river.

Today, Google, in partnership with American Rivers, is launching the Colorado River Street View. The imagery features the iconic Grand Canyon — 286 miles of the river, from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry. It marks the first time Google has used the Street View technology on a river in the U.S.

The project brings renewed attention to the wonder and beauty of the Grand Canyon, as well as the challenges facing the Colorado River’s health. American Rivers named the Colorado America’s Most Endangered River in 2013 because of outdated water management, over-allocation, and sustained drought.

Supported by the outfitter Arizona River Runners, American Rivers staff joined Google on an eight-day float through the Grand Canyon in August 2013 to capture the river imagery. The Street View camera, on a special mount built for the raft, captured a full 360-degree photo sphere every few seconds.

Photo: Google
Photo: Google

Members of the team also wore the trekker camera to capture five popular side hikes, including the trail to the Nankoweap Granaries.

At a time when so much focus is on the Colorado River as a source of water supply, with concerns about drought and low flows, it’s easy to think of rivers just as plumbing systems — conveyances to quench our thirst. But rivers are so much more than that, and the Google project reminds us that rivers are alive and dynamic and beautiful — places for wildlife, recreation, discovery, and connection.

This project enriches the dialogue about water and puts the *river* back in the public conversation. I hope it inspires people to take action to restore the river’s health.

In conjunction with the release of the Colorado River Street View project, American Rivers called on President Obama and Congress to support federal programs that assist cities and farms in getting smarter about managing their water supplies.

Thirty-six million people from Denver to Los Angeles drink Colorado River water. The river irrigates nearly four million acres of land, which grows 15 percent of the nation’s crops. Lower river flows threaten endangered fish and wildlife, along with the $26 billion dollar recreation economy that relies on the Colorado River.

The Colorado River gives us so much. Now it’s time to give back. Explore the Street View project and then take action to save the river.