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Google Maps A Boon to Hunters, Anglers, and Other Outdoor Enthusiasts
by: Jeremy Henricks

How many times have you wondered what's on the other side of that mountain or what's beyond the next river bend?

Sure, topographical and road maps provide part of the picture, but to get a real sense of a particular area, I find it easier to use a combination of topographical and aerial photography maps. For hunters, anglers, 4-wheel, camping, hiking, and other outdoor enthusiasts, Google Maps provides a great perspective on the outdoors with its new satellite imagery maps.

On April 5, 2005, Google announced the integration of its Keyhole digital mapping service with the popular Google Maps service. In addition to a great overhead view, Google Maps allow you to click and drag maps with your mouse, zoom and pan, search for specific locations, get detailed driving direction, and more.

How It Benefits Outdoor Enthusiasts

Google Maps benefits outdoor enthusiasts for a number or reasons. The main benefit is that Google Maps allows you to see what you couldn't see before, at least without spending money on aerial maps, as they provide free access to their satellite imagery.

I live in Springfield, Oregon near the McKenzie River and Willamette River. Both rivers are great for fishing trout, steelhead, salmon, and more. With so much river frontage passing less than half a mile by my house, you'd think it easy to find a new spot to fish. The only problem is that the area is riddled with housing and farm tracts, with no easy way to access the river without traveling a couple of miles near the edge of town or several miles outside of town.

Plus, topo and road maps only tell part of the story. In regards to fishing, what about current, trees, weeds, rocks, gravel, and other structure? We all know that aerial maps answer a lot of these questions. With Google Maps' satellite imagery, I've already determined several locations that I'll be trying this year. With deer hunting season around the corner, I'll also be using these maps to scout out some new hunting locations.

I also recently visited Moab, Utah for the 2005 Easter Jeep Safari, and could have benefited greatly from the use of such detailed maps while traversing many of the off-road trails in the area. 4-wheel and off-road enthusiasts, bikers, hikers, and scenery buffs will notice the trails, trailheads, and landmarks such as Lion's Back, Arches National Monument, and other spots of interest.

Check out the following links to see the power of Google Maps:

* Cliff Hanger Trail Overlooking Factory
- overhead view
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=moab,utah&ll=38.524847,-109.648275&spn=0.015814,0.020900&t=k&hl=en
- from lookout
http://www.discusstheoutdoors.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=12&pos=98

* Lion's Back and Potato Salad Hill, Moab, Utah
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=moab,utah&ll=38.576903,-109.531288&spn=0.031629,0.041800&t=k&hl=en

* Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=moab,utah&ll=38.680973,-109.514637&spn=0.126514,0.167198&t=k&hl=en

* McKenzie River in Springfield, Oregon
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=springfield,+oregon&ll=44.064274,-122.905254&spn=0.031629,0.041800&t=k&hl=en

The Good and Bad

Google Maps provides both detailed street level and satellite imagery maps. While the street level maps cover the entire United States, Canada, and the UK, the high resolution satellite images seem to cover only more populated areas. For outdoor enthusiasts visiting urban areas, this is great. But for those visiting rural or wilderness areas, Google still has a ways to go before more detailed imagery is available.

Images seem to be pretty up-to-date, at least within the areas I checked. For example, my house is located near a new housing development, and I can see houses that were started within the last year on the map.

With Google aiming to expand its reach, I'm sure that we'll see maps with greater detail and higher resolution in the future. That's good news for outdoor enthusiasts.

Things to Note

* Image resolution varies by distance. At the lowest resolution/farthest distance, you can identify large landmarks such as mountains, rivers, and large lakes. At the highest resolution/closest distance, you can locate specific cars, buildings, trees, hills, creeks, and more.

* Satellite images are current within a year or so, but they are not in real-time.

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