Take Me to the River (Without Leaving My Desk)

The Sacramento River is a lifeline for California.

A new project to visually map American waterways will start with California’s Sacramento

The Sacramento River is a lifeline for California.

By the end of the summer, you may be able to float down the Sacramento River from your computer, thanks to the Riverview Project. It’s an initiative to document and map rivers, using similar tools to the ones Google used to create Street View, and with similar results: the ability to drop into a place on a map, click to move down the street (or float down the river), and take a look around.

“There’s reams of data (about rivers),” Jared Criscuolo, one of the founders of the Riverview Project told me. “But the thing we’ve noticed we’re missing is a visual piece.”

He aims to change that by documenting 27 American rivers from headwaters to mouth, over the next five or six years. First on the bucket list is the Sacramento, where Criscuolo plans to start shooting this summer. The website will begin growing after that and include a crowd-sourcing element: a companion project called Streamview, also launching this summer, will offer a smartphone app you can use to upload images of any river or stream.

Criscuolo is collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey on the project. Beyond being a good workplace distraction for those who’d rather be fishing or paddling, he says it has the potential to aid our understanding of changing river ecosystems.

When it's up and running, The Riverview Project will shows maps and images of rivers, like this sample from the Susitna River in Alaska.

“Things are changing,” he says. “Humans have an impact. We can show land eroding. Over time, we can see how vegetation changes.”

Criscuolo says he wants to create a visual record of how rivers look and are used now. And if he can get the funding, he’ll go back and do it again, to keep up with how they change.

The New York Times‘ Green blog also profiled the project this week.

Take Me to the River (Without Leaving My Desk) 14 February,2012Molly Samuel

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Molly Samuel

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.

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