river

Boaters travel on the Susquehanna River this past summer.

The Chesapeake Conservancy has launched a virtual tour of every mile of the Susquehanna River from the perspective of a kayaker, highlighting flora and fauna, access landings, historic and cultural sites, current weather conditions and river depths.

The virtual tour is available at www.chesapeakeconservancy.org/apps/susquehanna/

Similar to Google’s Street View, the tour allows users to digitally explore the 464 miles of river by examining its geography, recreational amenities and ecological resources through a computer, phone or tablet. Starting at the Glimmerglass State Park, Cooperstown, N.Y. on the North Branch and Keating Access near Renovo on the West Branch, the tour takes users all the way down to the Havre de Grace, Md., in the Chesapeake Bay.

Andrew Miller, executive director of the Lewisburg-based Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, was so impressed with what he saw on the virtual tour that he immediately sought to find out how to partner with the organization.

"We consider ourselves to be ambassadors of the river," Miller said. "I’m anxious to hear back from them. We can add that component of history and culture."

Stitched images

Earlier this summer, the conservancy and Richmond-based Terrain360 deployed a one-of-a-kind handmade boat, equipped with six cameras mounted 10 feet above the water’s surface to capture high-resolution, 360-degree images every 50 feet. Terrain360 built and operates the pontoon and stitched the images together to create a digital image map of the Susquehanna.

"I was pleasantly surprised and thought it was very cool," Miller said. "We’re always excited when something embraces and promotes the river."

The tour also includes data such as elevation, latitude and longitude and current temperature and wind speeds.

He was happy that the tour includes the entirety of the river with both the north and west branches, a natural feature that often gets overlooked.

"I liked that it’s from a viewpoint of the riverboat," Miller said. "It’s a whole different perspective seeing it from the water as opposed to passively being on the shore. Those who never get on the river can enjoy the perspective without ever getting in a boat. They can literally tour the river from its beginning to the end at the Chesapeake."

If not for the Susquehanna, the area wouldn’t have the towns or the history of Fort Augusta and American Indians in this area, Miller said.

A unique resource

Tim Kinsey, manager of Sunbury’s River’s Edge Pedal & Paddle on Market Street, Sunbury, believes "100 percent" that the virtual tour will help with tourism in the Valley and can see his customers using the digital tool.

"How beautiful is this river? How lucky are we to have it?" Kinsey said. "I drive across five times a day and I see people boating and kayaking. I see a lot of eagles now. The fishing, the camping. A lot of times, we’ll put in at West Milton State Park and come down to the marina. It’s just beautiful."

The virtual tour would allows users to prepare for dams, check for islands and inspect the area for campsites and legal stopping points, Kinsey said.

River’s Edge is mostly bicycle service and sales, but about 20 percent of purchases are for kayaks and other river equipment, Kinsey said.

"But it’s getting bigger and growing all the time," he said.

Flowing from headwaters in western Pennsylvania and northern New York, the Susquehanna River drains more than 27,500 square miles of land before reaching the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. American Rivers has named the Susquehanna one of America’s most threatened rivers twice in the past decade.

"The mighty Susquehanna is an ancient river that is full of history, wildlife and adventure," Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said. "It also provides nearly half of the freshwater entering the Chesapeake Bay. While making the Susquehanna virtually accessible to everyone, we also want to inspire people to visit the unique natural and historical resources and become stewards of the river to protect it for future generations to enjoy."

The Chesapeake Conservancy’s mission is to strengthen the connection between people and the watershed; conserve the landscapes and special places that sustain the Chesapeake’s unique natural and cultural resources; and restore landscapes, rivers, and habitats in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Email comments to jstrawser@dailyitem.com. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinLStrawser

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