DNR teams up with Google Maps to provide online views of Michigan’s wilds

DNR Wildlife Division employee takes the Google Trekker through rivers and waterfalls for a Street View for partnership between Pure Michigan and Google. (Photo via Facebook)

DNR Wildlife Division employee takes the Google Trekker through rivers and waterfalls for a Street View for partnership between Pure Michigan and Google. (Photo via Facebook)

Last week the state conservation officials announced that more than 44,000 panoramic photos of the Michigan’s natural resources are now online for the public to enjoy free.

The images were taken in a partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Pure Michigan tourism board and were obtained over a four-week period by a team of a dozen volunteers who walked, kayaked, climbed and hiked their way across the state in an effort to chronicle the outdoors for posterity.

“For the first time ever using Google Trekker technology, attractions such as Mackinac Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – not previously accessible on Google Street View – now have 360 degree, fully navigable imagery that will allow potential travelers to explore these destinations to inspire and plan a visit to Michigan,” reads a statement from Pure Michigan obtained by Michigan Sportsman.

The volunteers, drawn from DNR and Pure Michigan, borrowed the Trekker backpack camera systems through a loan program set up by Google that makes the devices available to non-profits, outdoors enthusiasts and others who want to take them into hard-to-get areas and obtain images that are posted into the Google Maps database which already contains more than 6 million miles of images.

Michigan is only the third state to chronicle its natural resources in such a way, following in the footsteps of such picturesque climes as Florida and Hawaii.

According to information from Google, each 42-pound Trekker device utilizes more than a dozen 5-megapixel cameras that each autonomously record an image every 2.5-seconds. The images are stored, tied to GPS information, and then stitched together once they are downloaded to form panoramas.

In recent years, the Trekkers have been used to photomap places as diverse and remote as the Sahara Desert, isolated volcanos in the Pacific, and the famous but rarely seen Galapagos Islands. One adventure seeker even skied down the 7,000-foot Whistler Blackcomb Mountain in British Columbia with a device on their back.

“We want to remind people of the planet’s amazing diversity and get them out there exploring,” Google product manager Evan Rapoport explained in an interview with Men’s Journal last year.

“Trekker lets anyone get a feel for what it’s like to walk through these places, which is a great know-before-you-go tool. Lots of people love hiking but want to know, ‘What are these trails going to look like? What am I getting myself into? Is it safe?’ Trekker lets us go to the magical places cars can’t,” said Rapoport.

With donated time and equipment, the Michigan initiative was not a drain on the public treasury.

While most of the 45 locations covered are recreational areas such as the Island Loop Route National Water Trail, Palms Book State Park, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park, there are obvious possibilities for sportsmen in the state to utilize the images to help scout some public areas and in planning fishing trips and off-season camping.

You can visit http://www.michigan.org/GoogleTrekker to view the images.

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