Virtual tour to feature SE Michigan hiking, biking and water trails

Digital imaging similar to Google Street View will soon be available for 680 miles of hiking, biking and water trails in southeast Michigan.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) is partnering with Terrain360 to capture high-resolution, 360-degree images of the region’s hiking and biking trails, trailheads, points of interest along trails, rivers, riverbanks, access points on rivers and boat or kayak launches, according to a news release.

Camera operators will capture trails from July 8 to July 18.

“This visual mapping of our region’s trail network will be integrated into Southeast Michigan ParkFinder, allowing lovers of the outdoors to preview regional assets in a virtual environment and prepare for their real-life outdoor adventures,” SEMCOG Director Kathleen Lomako said in a news release.

“This enhancement will highlight the beauty and recreation opportunities of our region while also enabling parks and trail providers to continue improving their coordination efforts.”

Featured hiking and biking trails will include:

  • Livingston County: 20 miles of Lakelands State Park Trail.
  • Macomb County: 36 miles, including Macomb Orchard Trail, Clinton River Park Trail and River Bends Park Trail.
  • Monroe County: 14 miles, including River Raisin Heritage Trail, National Battlefield Park and Sterling State Park Trails.
  • Oakland County: 55 miles, including Addison Oaks County Park and the Clinton River, Paint Creek, Polly Ann and West Bloomfield Trails
  • St. Clair County: 14 miles, including Blue Water River Walk in Port Huron and Wadhams to Avoca Trail.
  • Washtenaw County: 25 miles of Border-to-Border Trail.
  • Wayne County: 44 miles, including Detroit Riverwalk and Dequindre Cut, Downriver Linked Greenways and Hines Park Trail.

Water Trails:

  • Livingston/Oakland/Washtenaw/Wayne Counties: 140 miles of Huron River Water Trail.
  • Macomb County: 70 miles, including Clinton River Water Trail and Lake St. Clair Water Trail.
  • Monroe County: 44 miles of River Raisin Water Trail.
  • Oakland County: 41 miles of Clinton River Water Trail.
  • St. Clair County: 116 miles of Blueways of St. Clair.
  • Wayne County: 62 miles, including Detroit River Heritage Trail and Rouge River Water Trail.

Conservationists turn to technology to raise awareness on Blackwater River

In order to preserve the historic Blackwater River for future generations, conservationists are acting now to record the history of the river, which can be traced back hundreds of years.

The idea of the project – virtual visitors can take a tour from the air, from the water or even underwater to see shipwrecks which are hundreds of years old.

Maps of the Blackwater River allow people to find their location and find out the water’s place in history.

From the beginning of its use in recorded history, the Blackwater River became a highway to move goods like timber downriver for the Spanish crown.

“Just to see waterways and the use they get, this is almost unbelievable. We still had this and so few people use it,” said Doug Lasater with a conservation group committed to the Blackwater River.

He also hopes the threefold mapping will catch on in other areas and encourage preservation nationwide.

“This is the way we share what we have with the rest of the community in the surrounding area and out of state,” Lasater said.

On the surface of the water, Ryan Abrahamson coasts along the water. A tower with 360-degree cameras is taking pictures for the tour.

He believes the online tour encourages people who can’t make it out the river to protect it while giving them a history of the area.

“Underneath that dark surface is dozens of shipments and underwater structures that have been there from day one. so this allows you to actually see something of that so you can participate with something under the water,” Abrahamson said.

Covering the underwater portion are West Florida Marine Archaeology graduates and students. including local Kenyan Murell.

“I now appreciate it a whole lot more once you find out the history and you just find out the resources this area has culturally,” said Murell.

For the boy from Bagdad, the project opened his eyes to the sanctuary and hopes his work will do the same for others.

“I want to try to have my part and find out as much as I can and bring it for everyone to see,” said Murell.

The virtual tour project was made possible by grants from the Santa Rosa tourism development council, a state grant, and money from Florida Coastal Management.

Group to map virtual tour of the Blackwater River

On Thursday, the nonprofit Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership Inc. will be part of a boating expedition that will highlight heritage tourism while covering much of the river that’s known for its tannic water and sandy bottom.

BAGDAD — By early next year, outdoor and history enthusiasts who have an internet connection could be able to explore much of the Blackwater River without leaving home.

On Thursday, the nonprofit Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership Inc. will be part of a boating expedition that will highlight heritage tourism while covering much of the river that’s known for its tannic water and sandy bottom.

The organization will partner with the Richmond, Virginia-based Terrain 360 to obtain high-resolution, 360-degree images of the river for a digital-image map. About 25 miles of the 58-mile-long Blackwater River will be photographed to create the virtual Blackwater Maritime Heritage Trail.

The river’s headwaters start in south Alabama, and 49 miles of the waterway meander through Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties.

Overall, the creators of the virtual trail aim to protect and help educate people about the cultural resources of Santa Rosa County.

“The concept for the trail is basically built on the large number of shipwrecks on the river,” said Doug Lasater, president of the Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership. “This is not only a trail, but a historical documentation of what’s in the river.”

The state-supported partnership works to protect and enhance the Bagdad Waterfront, which encompasses the Blackwater River, Pond Creek and Oakland Basin.

Lasater said many ships that continue to rest on the river’s bottom sank during and well before the 1930s. They include vessels that were destroyed during the Civil War.

“We won’t tell everyone where they’re at,” Lasater said of the wrecks, “but we’ll give general directions. “The beauty of the river is, it’s very dark in color from natural tannins, but the water quality is very good. It’s preserved a lot of these wrecks and (the dark water) has stopped them from being looted.”

Graduate students from the University of West Florida will be an important part of Thursday’s endeavor, Lasater said. They’ll share with other trip participants various details about the historic uses of the river while also helping to document the waterway.

“Students will be able to come back years later to document the sunken ships and see how things deteriorate in freshwater,” Lasater said.

During Thursday’s trip, members of Terrain 360 will photograph the river with six cameras mounted 10 feet above the water’s surface while cruising on a pontoon raft. Images will be taken every 40 feet and later joined together to create the digital-image map.

Lasater said the virtual trail will enable a wider audience to enjoy the Blackwater River in the form of an immersive, 360-degree, web-based “choose your own adventure tour.” During the tour, users will be able to learn about historic sites, including old industrial mills that now are public parks, such the Bagdad Mill Site Park.

The virtual trail could later be expanded to include the Yellow River and other waterways in the local region.

Funding assistance for the roughly $32,000 first phase of the trail project comes from the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council, the state Office of Greenways and Trails and the Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership. Members of the Blackwater Pyrates, a community service-based organization serving the Bagdad and Milton areas, have donated labor and boats to help map the trail.

“Barring any weather issues, we should have something to the public by January,” Lasater said of the virtual trail. Unveils New User Interface

Terrain360 announced today the release of its new graphical user interface for The website for interactive panoramic 360° tours of trails, waterways and national parks now boasts an improved user interface, a set of useful new features, easier and faster navigation, taking user experience to a whole new level. The improvements have been designed to provide the ultimate user-friendly experience with better functionality throughout.  Continue reading Unveils New User Interface

2017 Free Admission Days in National Parks

For these ten days in 2017, all national parks across the country will waive admission fees, so grab your calendar and start making plans.

The 2017 free entrance days will fall on:

  • January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 20: Presidents Day
  • April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

Enjoy views of the Potomac at home with new virtual tour

It might be a little cold out to take a real cruise down the Potomac River, but a new virtual tour can remind you of the waterway’s beauties from your own home.

The Chesapeake Conservancy has released a virtual tour of the Potomac River comprising nearly a half-million 360-degree images taken from a pontoon boat operated by Richmond-based  Continue reading Enjoy views of the Potomac at home with new virtual tour

Chesapeake Conservancy’s Latest Virtual Tour Takes Viewers down the Potomac River

Terrain360’s Custom Pontoon Raft Fitted with Six-Camera Array Captured Images of Entire River

Today, Chesapeake Conservancy released a virtual tour of the Potomac River, including the north and south branches. As part of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail Riverview series, users can virtually travel down the Potomac from the perspective of a paddler with their computer, smartphone, or tablet, and also have access to a number of conveniences including geographic locations, historical information, and recreational amenities. Continue reading Chesapeake Conservancy’s Latest Virtual Tour Takes Viewers down the Potomac River

31 Waterways in 31 Days

fb4We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.” ― David Brower

As yet another new year beckons (entirely too quickly for our liking) we may be reflecting on the things we have made this year but also on what we aspire to in the coming year.

Take the challenge! Let’s make 2017 a year to explore the beauty of Virginia – in snow or sun. When winter hits, it’s easy to just forego the outdoors and stay home close to the fire. That’s fine if you live somewhere that dumps three feet of snow in your front yard every other day, but we don’t have that problem, right? So…to light your inner fire, in the next 31 days we’ll take you through 31 absolutely amazing waterways. Of course, they will be that much more beautiful to experience live, yet another option available for the stay-at-home nature-lovers… ->

Winter may not be the most popular season for boating or fishing … But another year comes, and warmer seasons …

Chesapeake Insider: RYAN ABRAHAMSEN

Ryan Abrahamsen is the creator of Terrain360, a company that creates virtual tours of hiking trails, national parks, and rivers throughout the United States. Similar to Google streetview, these tours use 360-degree panoramic images, taken every 40-60 feet, to put visitors into iconic places such as Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. Using custom-built pontoon boats with six cameras mounted 13 feet high, Ryan and Terrain360 have travelled the Chesapeake’s many rivers as part of the Chesapeake Conservancy’s John Smith Chesapeake Trail Riverview Virtual Tour series to give you a firsthand look at the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail from the perspective of a boater in the water. Continue reading Chesapeake Insider: RYAN ABRAHAMSEN