Joel DunnJoel Dunn is the president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy.
Chart your paddle route with a virtual tour
Dreaming of spring on the Captain John Smith Trail
Outside, the wind is rattling cold rain against my windows. But inside, I’m warm enough and thinking of my kayak, spring breezes, a serene stretch of river and the next section of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail that I want to explore.
But which section? I’m torn. Should I go south, to the James River, where Smith helped found the first permanent English settlement in what became the United States of America? Or, back to the Nanticoke, one of my favorite rivers, to soak in its quiet beauty? Or north, to the Susquehanna?
I’ve been reading “A Boaters Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.” It’s easy to access on Smithtrail.net, the National Park Service’s excellent website — full of information about the trail and how to explore it by small boat. But I can’t see in my mind’s eye what the river stretches look like and where the access points lie. So I flip on my computer and call up The Chesapeake Conservancy’s website and its Riverview web page (chesapeakeconservancy.org/riverview).
The Chesapeake Conservancy, where I work, is building the Riverview project with a Richmond-based company, Terrain360. Riverview is an interactive virtual tour of the Captain John Smith Trail that allows viewers to see firsthand what a paddling experience or other adventure on the trail might be like.
To obtain the images for the Riverview project, the Terrain360 crew built a one-of-a-kind boat. As the boat floats down a river, the crew takes high-resolution, 360-degree images every 50 feet, using six cameras mounted 10 feet above the water. These images are stitched together to create a digital image map of the river. It includes information on public access points, history, recreation and points of conservation value along the river.
Using Riverview, I can navigate through seamless images of the water trail right from my desk — slowly gliding down the Susquehanna, James, Nanticoke or the Mallows Bay section of the Potomac even on the coldest, darkest, wettest nights. I can see just what the river looks like, where the access points are, and what they look like. I can see the trail. I begin to explore. My spring adventure is taking shape.
The Chesapeake Conservancy brought the Captain John Smith Trail to the computer screen just for people like me and you. I’ve worked on the trail for years. Still, it’s a big trail, thousands of miles long, and Riverview makes it possible to virtually explore large stretches and thoroughly plan your adventure before the day you launch.
While the Susquehanna, Nanticoke, James (sponsored by the James River Association), and Mallows Bay section of the Potomac River have been completed, we plan, with support from donors and partners, to bring you the entire trail.
My mind drifts back to the Susquehanna. But it’s a big river — 700 miles long. I can tour all of it on my screen, but it’s getting late, so I jump up to Cooperstown at the headwaters, to the access point on Glimmerglass State Park on Lake Otsego. I begin my trip, but I wonder — what does it look like way downstream near the Conowingo Dam? So much river to see!
I’ll keep exploring and, before long, I’ll be back on the water for real. Join me when you are stuck inside these winter months. Check out the Conservancy’s Riverview to learn about the John Smith Trail. Use it to plan your next paddling or boating trip. Explore new stretches of the trail and fall in love with the Chesapeake.
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