FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Google has taken its all-seeing eyes on a trip that few experience: the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
The search giant partnered with the advocacy group American Rivers to showcase views of nearly 300 miles of whitewater rapids, towering red canyon walls, and rich geologic history.
The 360-degree views that went live Thursday in Google's Street View map option once were reserved largely for rafters who were lucky enough to board a private trip through the remote canyon, or those willing to pay big bucks to navigate its whitewater rapids.
Google project lead Karin Tuxen-Bettman hopes the images educate the public about the U.S. waterway that American Rivers listed as the most endangered in 2013 due to drought and overuse.
"We hope this inspires viewers to take an active interest in preserving it," she said.
Federal officials and environmentalists have been raising alarms recently about demand outstripping supply on the river serving some 40 million people in seven Western states.
The imagery Google captured from Lees Ferry south of Page to Pearce Ferry shows signs of drought in a bathtub ring around Lake Mead, and the impacts of damming the river.
"It's just a valuable snapshot in time of what the river is like right now," said Amy Kober of American Rivers.
Google used two rosettes of cameras mounted on two rafts to capture the imagery in August and then stitched it together. The crew of nearly 20 people, including guides, spent eight mostly sunny days on the river, but got drenched by rain two of those days.
The company said the river views are the first it has published on Street View from the United States. In 2011, Google mounted its Street View trike on a boat and went up the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon, Tuxen-Bettman said.