How to Find New Camping Sites
Google Earth Images

Finding and getting to new camping, fishing, prospecting, bushwalking, hunting, photographic or painting grounds can be a frustrating exercise and time consuming exercise.

Similarly, hitting the highway in the hope that a magic track will appear and lead you to a previously undiscovered paradise is fairly optimistic.

Don’t get us wrong – an unplanned, unscheduled and spontaneous expedition will often bring about the discovery of a fantastic place that you may end up visiting for years to come. But when your mission calls for finding a specific location a little research can ease a lot of frustration – especially as the sun sinks and a campsite has yet to be found.

New Technology

There are purpose built GPS navigation systems from companies like HEMA (the map people) that specialise in highly detailed tracks and routes not included on regular maps. Cost can be upwards of $1000 with ongoing charges for updating newly reported terrain.

One method that can offer surprising success is to use "Google Earth". For those that don’t use it Google Earth offers a free, scalable image of planet earth and the ability to zoom in and view remarkable detail depending on the location. Google Earth has a host of features but it is the ability to make your own unique maps that are of interest to us. Oh, and it's free.

Google Earth

Figure 1. shows us an aerial shot in Google Earth. The option to show roads and highways has been selected and the visible yellow line (a.) is Australia’s Highway 1 in the North West of Western Australia.

In Figure 2. in the bottom right corner (b.) we can see what appears to be a large dam - in fact it's an abandoned mining pit. By using the simple ‘Path’ drawing tool within the program we can trace a clearly visible dirt track from the highway to the dam.

We can then use the ‘Ruler’ tool (c.) to trace our path and calculate the distance from the highway to the dam.

Now we have to determine where to turn off the highway. Zoom in to the intersection of the highway and our dirt track.

Figure 3 By selecting the ‘New Placemark ’ tool and placing the yellow pin icon at our desired location (d.) we are automatically given the GPS coordinates in the dialogue box that opens with the tool.

If you don’t use a GPS then you can simply backtrack down the highway and locate a landmark that will be easy to find as you approach the area. For instance we can zoom back out and Google Earth informs us that the highway crosses the "The De Grey River" about 30km before our turnoff.

We use the ruler tool again and we know that after we cross the Bridge over 'The De Grey River' we must travel 31.02km to reach our turnoff.

In Figure 3 you can see a camera icon (e.) on the highway. This is ‘Street View’ and when we click on the camera we are able to view the 360 degree photograph that was taken on the day. We can see our track turning off on the left.(Figure 4.)

By looking for signs, posts and landmarks on the photo we can be reasonably certain on arrival we are in the right place.

old pit at Goldsworthy W.A.

Bear in mind the images on Google Earth are a snapshot in time. Images could 2 years old or more and may have been taken in summer while you may be searching in winter with a completely different set of geophysical circumstances - creeks and rivers may be running that could be dry in summer etc. By looking for signs, posts and landmarks in the photo we can be reasonably certain on arrival that we are in the right place.

So by using a combination of the tools Google Earth has to offer we can take a birds eye look at an area we may never known existed and plot and print a highly accurate, customized map. In this case it’s the abandoned mining town of Goldsworthy.

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