'Nature at its finest': Google Street View maps Canadian national parks
A Parks Canada staff member carries the Google Street View Trekker backpack in Nahanni National Park Reserve.
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, April 19, 2018 6:00AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 19, 2018 1:21PM EDT
For anyone planning their next summer camping trip or for those who prefer to appreciate the great outdoors from the comfort of their couch, Google Street View has you – and most of Canada – covered.
With a backpack-mounted camera called the “Street View Trekker” strapped to their backs, employees from Parks Canada and Google have captured images of Canada’s most breathtaking parks in a collaborative effort to bring even the remotest destinations into view with three-dimensional panoramas.
In anticipation of Earth Day on Sunday, Google Street View added seven new parks to its catalogue of digitally mapped parks on Thursday to bring the total number to 167, or approximately 75 per cent of Parks Canada spaces. The latest additions include Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve, Terra Nova National Park, the Lake Louise area in Banff National Park, Glacier National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, West Coast Trail in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and Nahanni National Park Reserve.
Mapping the soaring granite spires and winding river in Nahanni National Park Reserve is a particularly impressive feat given its remote location in Northwest Territories’ Dehcho Region, located approximately 500 kilometres west of Yellowknife.
The 30,000 square-kilometre park features some of the deepest canyons in Canada, breathtaking alpine vistas and the South Nahanni, a Canadian Heritage River. It’s also one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites, awarded the designation in 1978 after it was given national park reserve status by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1972.
Jeff Bolingbroke, a new media officer for Parks Canada, had the opportunity to wear the Street View Trekker backpack in both Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve and Nahanni National Park Reserve and described the experience to CTVNews.ca on Thursday.
“The backpack weighs around 50 pounds. It’s a little bit awkward to carry around, but once you get the hang of it, it sort of just feels like a second part of your extended exoskeleton,” he said. “Sometimes it was nice, easy walking on nice trails and other times it was sort of hopping from boulder to boulder and just about everything in between.”
Bolingbroke said the most memorable location he visited during the project was Victoria Falls, which is also called Náilicho, in Nahanni National Park Reserve.
“It’s about twice the height as Niagara Falls and it’s really just a spectacular place,” he said. “There’s water pounding down and there’s this big beautiful rock right smack in the middle of it that just sort of funnels the water around in different directions. It’s just a really amazing place to witness nature at its finest.”
Despite its many attractions, travelling to Nahanni National Park Reserve isn’t for the faint of heart and often requires a float plane, which means many Canadians have been unable to explore its natural wonders. That is, until Google Street View and Parks Canada set out to record the area using its mapping technology.
During the mapping expedition, the Google Street View Trekker camera captured images of Nahanni National Park Reserve’s beautiful scenery from the vantage point of a hiker. For example, a Google Maps visitor can click to move through the trees along a hiking trail near the Rabbitkettle (Gahnîhthah) Hotsprings and Tufa Mounds in the park.
“We’re kind of bringing the parks experience to people who might not otherwise be able to actually have that experience for one reason or another,” Bolingbroke explained. “A lot of these places are very remote. They’re a bit hard to get to. The terrain is very challenging sometimes so not all Canadians are able to actually have that experience on the ground.”
For anyone planning a trip to one of Canada’s national parks, Bolingbroke said Google Street View will be useful in determining where to go and what routes to take to get there.
“It’s definitely a good way to figure out what kind of footwear you’re going to require for that hike,” he said with a laugh.
The Google Street View and Parks Canada collaborative project to document the country’s national parks began in 2013 in an effort to “help connect Canada’s increasing urban population with their national treasures that are often remote from our urban cores.”
Bolingbroke said Parks Canada plans to continue working with Google to map out the remaining 25 per cent of the country’s national parks, but they haven’t confirmed what locations will be next yet.
Click here for a list of Parks Canada destinations currently available via Google Street View.