James River mapping project launches in Clifton Forge

June 23, 2014 · 1 minute read

It’s a huge day for RichmondOutside.com, our sister enterprise Terrain360.com, and the James River Association. This morning on the Jackson River in Clifton Forge, months of preparation finally came to and end and the journey to map the entire James River in 360-degree panoramic images began. Last fall, Google sent their Trekker on a raft down part of the Colorado River, but no one has mapped an entire river this way. The 340-mile James River will be the first.

Ryan Abrahamsen and I hatched the idea and pitched it to the JRA back in January. They loved it, thought the resulting content would be perfect for their Envision the James (EnvisiontheJames.org) efforts, and decided to fund the operation. This wouldn’t be happening without their support.


Setting the camera array to the correct height.

Terrain360 co-founder Ross Milby will be in charge of our custom pontoon raft from Clifton Forge (just upstream of where the Jackson and Cowpasture come together to form the James) all the way to Richmond. He’ll do most of the piloting, and Mike Harris will sit below the telescoping camera array snapping pictures — all six cameras fire at once — every 30 feet or so. The resulting images will be stitched together to give web users a one-of-a-kind way to experience America’s Founding River. We’ll then use those images to create what we call “augmented reality” maps of different sections of the river, including the falls of the James. Click here to see and here to read more on the trip’s backstory.

Ross and Mike will be Tweeting from the boat for the entirety of the trip, which we expect to take about two weeks. You can find those tweets at the Terrain360 and RichmondOutside Twitter accounts. When they arrive in Richmond, Ryan and I will take over and pilot the boat through the tidal James to its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay (In fact, we’ll do it twice: running along the north and south banks separately because the river is so wide below Richmond.)