Historic Potomac River Exploreable in VR

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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.

The Conservancy partnered with Richmond-based Terrain360.com to deploy their one-of-a-kind, custom-made boat equipped with six cameras mounted on the vessel 10 feet above the water’s surface which captures high-resolution 360-degree images. The cameras are controlled by a central computer, which also automatically captures GIS data, weather data, light data and directional data at 40-foot intervals.  These images were then stitched together to create a digital image map of the Potomac River, accessible by anyone with an Internet connection.  The virtual tours are available to the public on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s web site at www.chesapeakeconservancy.org.

“The recovery of the Potomac River over the last 50 years, from when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared it a ‘national disgrace,’ gives us great hope for many rivers of the Chesapeake. Since then conservationists and organizations like the Potomac Conservancy have made progress in restoring the health of the Potomac. It is great to see people out paddling and enjoying the nation’s river, but we must remain vigilant about pollution and land use changes,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said.

“We captured more than 450,000 images along the north and south branches of the Potomac, and counted more than 160 bald eagles in the tidal section. We were stopped by the Coast Guard three times, understandably so with our odd looking pontoon and equipment traveling on this river that flows through the heart of our nation’s capital. At Colonial Beach, we nearly lost our boat due to a squall line, it was quite an adventure,” Terrain360 cofounder Ryan Abrahamsen said.

The Potomac is the only river in the country with a claim to portions of three national trails within its geography: the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.

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