Monday, October 5, 2009

Internet Resources for Backcountry Navigation

Navigation through the Adirondack backcountry can be difficult. Out of the way rivers, streams, geologic features, ponds and even mountains are not always accessible by paths or readily described in books. The internet provides a number of valuable visual resources that help take some of the guesswork out of locating and navigating to a remote location. Some of the most helpful sites include ortho-imagery (aerial photographs digitally adjusted for topography, camera tilt and other details), latitude/longitude specifics, compass orientation and 3-D modules.

Flash Earth displays the latitude and longitude in relation to an on-screen crosshair. These details can be input into a GPS to further narrow the margin of error. Several satellite aerial photograph choices with scaling allow an in-depth study of the earth’s features. A compass in the upper right of the screen provides accurate orientation as well as map rotation if desired.

Terra Server USA adds a topographic map to the mix, but narrows the aerial photo choices to one source. Latitude and longitude information is displayed and can be used to display a general location. The lack of a cross-hair or other relative on-screen marker makes it a bit more difficult to tell what section part on the map corresponds to the latitude/longitude.

Virtual Earth uses either a “road” view or an “aerial” view with several powerful features. Latitude, longitude and altitude correspond to the cursor’s location on the image and work in both the two and three dimensional modes. The 3-D module allows the user to truly study the area’s topography by using the zoom, tilt, rotate, pan and altitude functions. A special “Bird’s Eye” view overlays photographs (where available) of specific areas.

State Lands Interactive Mapper or SLIM is located on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s site. Map details are manipulated by about twenty different layer options that can either be added or removed from the map via the map contents pane. Layer choices include trails for mountain bikes, hiking, snowmobiles, horses and cross country skiing. Waterways, roads and areas accessible by persons with disabilities may also be selected. Several boundaries including state land boundaries help the back country explorer avoid private lands. Ortho-imagery or topographical maps may be chosen as well.

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