Google’s Street View Showcases Colorado River

We have all used Google’s Street View to navigate unfamiliar streets and cities. Now, we can use it to explore a river.

In a partnership with American Rivers, Google went on a nearly 300 mile whitewater rafting trip to showcase 360-degree views of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. This was the first time Google has used the Street View technology on a river in the U.S.

grand canyon colorado river

pic courtesy of

The eight-day float through the Grand Canyon brings renewed attention to the natural wonder as well as the challenges facing the Colorado River’s poor health. The Colorado River was named America’s Most Endangered River in 2013 because of outdated water management, sustained drought, and over-allocation.

Nearly 40 million people from Colorado to California drink water from the Colorado River. The river irrigates four million acres of land, which helps grow 15 percent of the nation’s crops. Lower river flows threaten endangered wildlife and fish, along with the nearly $30 billion dollar tourist and recreation economy that relies on the Colorado River.

In combination with the release of the Colorado River Street View project, American Rivers called on Congress and President Obama to support federal programs that assist farms and cities in getting smarter about running their water supplies.

Google used two types of cameras mounted on two rafts to capture the imagery in August 2013 and then pasted it together. The crew of nearly 20 people, including guides snapped photos of whitewater rapids, side canyons and waterfalls, while savoring the solitude. Members of the team also wore the trekker camera to capture several endangered species of the river.
In 2011, Google captured images of the Rio Negro as a tributary of the Amazon.

Colorado River rafting trips are pricey; they can cost from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars a person. Each year, Grand Canyon National Park limits the number of people who can go on a self-guided Grand Canyon trip through a highly competitive lottery and has an annual limit on the number of motorized, commercial trips.

One of the first things Google Street View visitors might notice is the remoteness and solitude of the canyon; it’s a place where cell phones don’t work and rafters pack only what they need for their Grand Canyon activity.

The Google endeavor reminds us that rivers are alive, beautiful and dynamic — places for wildlife, discovery, recreation, connection and peace.