The project, likened to "a Google Street View of the river," aims to get people to use the area, and protect it.

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FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — People will soon be able to go online and get a virtual tour of a Virginia river system that Capt. John Smith explored in the 1600s.

The Richmond-based cartography company Terrain360 is using a one-of-a-kind boat equipped with six cameras to create a digital image map of the Rappahannock River, the Free Lance-Star reported ( ).

“It’s sort of like a Google Street View of the river,” said Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy. It should be ready in August.

His nonprofit worked with the National Park Service to create the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail a decade ago. Smith was a 17th century explorer who helped found Jamestown in the Virginia colony.

According to Dunn, the 3,000-mile water trail has limited access by land.

He hopes that showing images of the river and its wildlife on the Conservancy website will help encourage people to get out and enjoy it, as well as learn to protect and conserve it.

“Physical access is important, but you also have to give people mental access,” Dunn said. “You have to get them inspired to get a boat on the river or a kayak on top of their car. Once you get going, you get the wonderful experience.”


Information from: The Free Lance-Star,