Maryland river conservation highlighted via virtual maps

ON THE PATUXENT RIVER | First mapped by John Smith in 1608, Maryland’s serene Patuxent River now is being carefully photographed to create a virtual map that can be accessed via smartphones and computers.

Today’s high-tech mapping of the Patuxent is part of a project to create a virtual tour of the 3,000-mile Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail, which the nonprofit Chesapeake Conservancy has undertaken with Ryan Abrahamsen of Terrain360.

“What we’re doing here is groundbreaking,” Mr. Abrahamsen said last week as he directed his custom-made pontoon raft down the river during a mapping expedition. “No one’s mapped waterways like we have.”

Since 2012 his company, Terrain360, has specialized in creating 360-degree views of trails and parks, and has produced virtual tours of nature attractions in California, Utah, Georgia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Virginia — and now Maryland.

To photograph and document the river, Mr. Abrahamsen has built a watercraft that supports a tower with six fisheye-lensed cameras. As he travels the length of the waterway, a computer program he has designed monitors and synchronizes the cameras when they take photos.

Users accessing are treated to a virtual reality of some of the nature preserves around the country, “walking” a trail or “sailing” down a river by moving their mobile devices left or right. Desktop computers allow users to explore all aspects of the documented trails.


Jody Couser of the Annapolis-based Chesapeake Conservancy said that creating a vivid, easily accessed presentation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is a key component of the group’s conservation efforts.

“A few years ago we started this project to try to connect people — at least virtually — to the Chesapeake Bay’s great rivers, because we know that you’re not going to help protect the Chesapeake and fight for it and try to restore the Chesapeake if you’re not familiar with it,” Ms. Couser said.

Terrain360’s views of the Patuxent are also available on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s web site.

“We thought of several ways to try and connect people at least virtually to these places. These virtual tours are one example, and another is our wildlife webcams, Ms. Couser said. “What we’re hoping is that will be maybe an entry point for people, but we definitely want them to come out and experience the real thing.”

The conservancy is conducting several projects that monitor and map key areas to sharpen understanding of conservation needs such as water quality, fish survey count, land use and conservation. Other programs to engage the public include the webcams that are placed in the nests of ospreys, great blue herons and peregrine falcons.

Of its virtual tours, one of the conservancy’s most frequently visited sites is Mallow’s Bay, famous for its “ghost ships” — a veritable graveyard of destroyed seacraft, many from World War I, that were built quickly and in excess, Ms. Couser said.

“When you build something quickly, they’re often not the best quality, so after the war they decided they no longer needed them. Back in those days, they discarded them in the Potomac River — which we would never do today, of course,” she said. “But over time, now the shipwrecks have become thriving ecological habitats.”

Ms. Couser and Mr. Abrahamsen said the virtual tours are useful tools for people to research or plan a visit.

Stretching some 115 miles from the Piedmont region to the bay, the Patuxent is the longest river completely within Maryland’s borders. It separates Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles and St. Mary’s counties on its west side from Howard, Anne Arundel and Calvert counties on its east.

John Smith, who helped settle Jamestown, Virginia, explored part of the Patuxent and the Chesapeake with the aid of American Indians, and created maps that were used by travelers and traders for hundreds of years. 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

Take a virtual tour of the Patapsco River, Inner Harbor

WASHINGTON — The Chesapeake Conservancy has teamed up again with a Richmond virtual tour company to map and record 92 miles of the Patapsco River, including Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

 The virtual footage includes 360-degree views of the river and follows the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
 The conservancy has also worked with Terrain360 to provide virtual tours of other waterways that feed into the bay including the Rappahannock and the James rivers and Mallows Bay, which is home to what is known as the “Ghost Fleet.”

Continue reading Take a virtual tour of the Patapsco River, Inner Harbor

This virtual tour offers a boater’s view of Inner Harbor

After traversing the Susquehanna River last summer, Terrain360 decided its small boat with lots of cameras was ready for urban waters this year.

The Virginia-based firm and Chesapeake Conservancy came to the waters of Baltimore for their latest virtual tour, which has 360-degree views of Inner Harbor and the Patapsco River. Continue reading This virtual tour offers a boater’s view of Inner Harbor