No paddles needed: Ottawa River now navigable on Google Street View

A scenic stretch of the Ottawa River that runs past Parliament Hill can now be navigated on Google Street View, thanks to the efforts of the Ottawa Riverkeeper and a Chelsea, Que., photographer.

Opens up stretch of river to 'almost anyone on the planet,' says photographer

Ottawa Riverkeeper Laura Reinsborough stands at the stern of a patrol boat while photographer Brian Redmond sets up his six-lens camera at the bow. They recently filmed a stretch of the Ottawa River that's now able to be navigated on Google Street View. (Meredith Brown)

You no longer need a boat and a lifejacket to traverse one stretch of the Ottawa River — just a good internet connection.

Thanks to the efforts of The Ottawa Riverkeeper, an organization that advocates for the watershed, and Chelsea, Que., photographer Brian Redmond, a scenic stretch of the river that runs past Parliament Hill can now be navigated on Google Street View.

On Oct. 7, Redmond and a small team from The Ottawa Riverkeeper took a patrol boat from the Rockcliffe Yacht Club near Kettle Island upriver past Parliament Hill to Victoria Island.

In the bow of the boat, Redmond set up his "unique" six-lens camera, the one he uses to document places he visits as one of Google Street View's "trusted photographers."

More accessible

"It was a perfect day. We'd been waiting for some time for good weather," he recalled. "And these Riverkeeper people, these are some of the nicest people you'd want to spend a day on the river with."

The project was actually the brainchild of former Riverkeeper Meredith Brown, said Laura Reinsborough, who took over as the head of the organization last month.

The idea to showcase a portion of the Ottawa River on Google Street View, Reinsborough said, is to offer people a new perspective on the region — especially those who can't get out on the river themselves.

"To see our capital city from the river puts a very different lens on it. We think that Ottawa and Gatineau as well are very densely populated cities, and they are. But when you see it from the river, you realize just how much natural shoreline there is very close by," Reinsborough told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"This is a great way for people who don't have access to a patrol boat, let alone a canoe or kayak, to be able to have that experience. You can do that from the comfort of your own home."

'Heritage for the future'

For Redmond, documenting his travels for Google Street View is a way to capture "heritage for the future," allowing people years from now to experience the Ottawa River as it was in 2021 and use that imagery in ways still unimagined.

A self-described "outdoors kind of guy," Redmond said the trip also gave him a new appreciation for the river, which he'd never seen before as a recreation opportunity.

"It opens up access to the Ottawa River to almost anyone on the planet that has access to a computer," he said.

"In a sense, it showcases the Ottawa River to the world in a way it hasn't been done before."

A person takes a photo from the shores of the Ottawa River in Ottawa this past summer. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)