Many people are familiar with Google Street View, the online map that allows you to take a virtual walk or ride through a neighborhood. Now there’s a similar tool that lets you float down local rivers and waterways.
FishViews has just finished mapping its sixth Northwest river, the Stillaguamish. Other tours include Lake Washington, Lake Union, Shilshole Bay and the Locks. They’re all enabled for virtual reality headsets and you can cruise along at your preferred speed, or zoom around the panoramic images with your cursor, like you might on Google. You can even take a peek underwater. There’s definitely a “gee whiz” factor.
But there’s also a practical need for it says co-founder Brian Footen, who used to work as a tribal fisheries biologist.
“I found myself in meetings oftentimes with policy folks, who were recommending restoration projects for salmon recovery. And a lot of the folks had just never really been on the river before or actually been to the places that they were discussing," Footen said. "So I thought, why not just bring the river to everyone?”
The maps are available to the public, but they’re made for science. Each panoramic view comes with a GPS location, an underwater image, depth and 12 water quality parameters such as temperature and pH. Local governments can use them to identify areas of concern.
The first map FishViews made was of the Elwha. It includes an image of one of the first Chinook salmon to swim up the river after dam removal.