Tag Archive: maps

Street View Time Lapse


Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 6.42.00 AM

I’ve been enjoying creating time-lapse videos while driving. Unfortunately, I’ve just been driving back and forth to work or rehearsal, so the scenery doesn’t change much.

So while I was looking at Google Earth the other day it occurred to me – I could use the images from Street View to create the same type of time-lapse. (more…)

How Many Greenvilles?



Perhaps it was the fact that I’ve crossed several state lines recently. More likely it was because I’ve spent several late nights wide awake and coughing. Being sick can make you think weird things, but for some reason the following aphorism popped into my head…

There is a town called “Greenville” in every state. However, Tennessee is the only only one that spells it as “Greeneville.”

I don’t even remember where I heard that the first time. My first intent was to take this at face value and create a Google Earth KML file showing the location of each town called Greenville. (Did I mention that I’ve been sick lately?) That turned into a challenge to test the validity of this statement, and learn a bit more about Greenville, where ever it might be found. (more…)

Local Paddling Venues


Lily Fields

After a spring full of multiple paddling trips, some on consecutive Saturdays, we finally had a weekend to ourselves with no paddling trips planned. Well, actually, I could have gone with my Lowcountry Unfiltered friends to Little Tybee Island on Saturday, but Laura and I really needed a weekend to ourselves at home. Even so, paddling still entered the picture.

I got a call from a friend saying that she wanted to take her boats out for the afternoon, and was looking for some good local venues. She had paddled Lakes Saluda, Robinson, and Cunningham, and was looking for something else. As I described some locations for her, it occurred to me that I don’t have a good collection of local venues. That started another quest.

When Laura and I got our kayaks nearly 15 years ago we would often take off up to Lake Cunningham above Greer. We could be there and on the water within 30 minutes, so it was a great quick escape. However, there are others about as close.

So, describing a few places to my friend on the phone, I set out to to make a list of local paddling venues. My locations had to have the following criteria:

  • Close – within an hour or so from Greenville
  • Easy access – a boat ramp or some other easy way to get to the water, no steep throw-ins.
  • Out-and-back – in other words, flat water.  Simple is better, and a shuttle requires more than one vehicle.
  • Suitable for solo paddling – This also eliminates shuttles.  Although solo paddling isn’t really a safe thing, I was still looking for simplicity.

I created a Google Map showing the locations of various access points.  I came up with quite a few, some I had paddled, and some that I haven’t had a chance to explore.  I haven’t listed all of the boat ramps on Lakes Hartwell and Keowee, but there were a couple that bore acknowledgment.  These venues included the following:

  • Saluda River
  • Lake Lyman
  • Lake Cooley
  • Lake Jocassee
  • Lake Oolenoy
  • Lake Adger
  • Parr Shoals
  • Monticello Reservoir
  • Lake Croft
  • Lake Julian
  • Lake Greenwood
  • Tugaloo River

…and several others.

The map is editable by the public.  I’m taking suggestions for other locations I might have missed.  Consider this a work in progress.

View Local Paddling Venues in a larger map

Also see Paddling South Carolina’s Rivers.

Google Earth and Google Plus


I hadn’t realized how far behind the times I’ve been with Google Earth until I ready on Frank Taylor’s blog that there is an update out for a version beyond the one I’m using. That means I’m two versions behind.

Version 6.2 makes some changes to the overall appearance of the map, with a “pretty Earth” effect. At wider zoom ranges, the surface of the map appears uniform, unlike older versions that showed rectangular swaths that mirrored imagery acquisition and satellite routes. As you zoom into the surface, more details emerge.

While this is all looks nice, the more functional improvement is the addition of enhanced sharing features in Google Earth. You can log directly into your Google Plus account, which opens lots of options for sharing GE data.  In the top right part of the screen you can now find a Share Button and a button to log into your G+ account.

GE Google Plus

From the drop-down menu you have five options:

  1. Share a screenshot in Google Plus
  2. E-mail an image
  3. E-mail the current view
  4. E-mail a placemark (one must be active to use this function)
  5. Share with the Google Earth Community

You can still save screenshots as JPG files.  That’s what I had been doing, uploading the images to Flickr when I wanted to share on this blog.  Now I’ll just pop them into G+ and link from there.

GE Google Plus

Google has acquired the online image editor Picnic. That product is being phased out, but the service itself is being incorporated into other Google products. If you open your Google Earth screenshot (or any other image, for that matter) in the Lightbox view, you will see a link to the “Creative Kit”, which is what Picnic has become.

GE Google Plus

Unfortunately, not all of Picnic has been ported over to the Creative Kit. I couldn’t find any of the shapes, arrows, and lines that made image mark-up a breeze in Picnic, so I had to draw lines manually (and rather squiggly, I might add.)

GE Google Plus

Still, it’s a nice, quick way to share Google Earth data, and I’m looking forward to doing more with it.

Little River Blueway


While we were on our photo trek to McCormick Houston and I were scouting paddling locations. We both liked the Clark Hill area, and we were intrigued by the Little River branch, especially where it starts at Calhoun Mill. One of the comments on that post was from Kirk Smith, who pointed me in the direction of the Little River Blueway website.

Little River Blueway has put together a great collection of information about the area. There are descriptions and maps of paddling trails, as well as other information about the area.

I’ve taken the paddling descriptions of Little River and Long Cane Creeks and have added them to my overall Google Earth collection, Paddling South Carolina’s Rivers. I’ll definitely want to try one of these, especially if the water levels come back up.

A Matter of Maps


Fairfield District

I have been enjoying going through the old maps in the Robert Mills 1825 Atlas of South Carolina. However, last weekend’s photo trek to Old Pickens Court House brought out some problems with relying solely on Mills’ maps to find ghost towns. The maps are too early to catch many towns that developed after 1825, only to fade away by the time of the Great Depression. Never fear, though. There are other online resources that can cover later time periods.

Topographical Maps of South Carolina, 1888 - 1975 - Digital Collections - Thomas Cooper Map Library - USC.png by RndConnections on Aviary

The University of South Carolina’s online digital library has an extensive collection of historic topographic maps of the state. The maps cover from 1888 to 1975, but not all quadrangles are available for this time period. For example, the collection contains three maps for the Abbeville quadrangle – 1900, 1918, 1943. The 236 maps in the collection include a mix of 30 minute, 15 minute, and 7.5 minute projections. I haven’t checked to see how extensive the state coverage is, but I’m sure there are parts of the state that are not covered. (more…)

Robert Mills’ Atlas of South Carolina


State District

I was talking with my brother Houston sometime back about my Ghost Towns project, and he suggested that in addition to using the GNIS historical data, we should look at old maps of the state to see what towns might have been listed. I agreed that it was an excellent idea, so I set off in search of the one resource I knew would have everything we wanted – Robert Mills‘ 1825 Atlas of South Carolina.

A native of Charleston, Robert Mills was the quintessential Renaissance Man, along the same lines Thomas Jefferson. Mills studied architecture first in Charleston, then later in Philadelphia. Anyone familiar with South Carolina history is aware of Mill’s contributions to South Carolina – the many court houses and civic buildings designed by him. Perhaps, though, he is most famous for his designs for buildings in Washington, D. C., including the Washington Monument.

In 1818…

“…the General Assembly adopted resolutions looking to the preparation of a map of the state, showing a separate map of each district thereof. In 1818 an appropriation of $9,000.00 was made toward procuring such a map, and in 1819 a like amount was appropriated for the same cause.”

-from the Introduction to the 1839 reprint of the Mills Atlas.

In 1820 Mills was appointed commissioner for the Board of Public Works for South Carolina, and was tasked with creating the atlas. He commissioned surveyors to create the separate maps for the then 27 districts in the state. He then personally rescaled the surveyors’ work for inclusion in the atlas, and added a legend reflecting the new scale. He also edited place names, adding or omitting as needed. The legend of each map bears the original surveyor’s name and notes the map was “improved for Mills’ Atlas, 1825.”

Greenville District


Coffee Shops vs Churches



Every time one of Laura’s family visits from the West Coast we get the inevitable comment about there being a church on every corner. The comment is valid. Even as a native I’m surprised when I turn a corner to find a large Greek Revival structure I’d not spotted before – and that doesn’t even include the store-front churches that pop-up just about everywhere.

So, I guess my friends here in the Pacific Northwest have the same reaction when I comment about there being a coffee shop on every corner. I’m stating the obvious. After all, this is the home of Starbucks.

I’m accustomed to seeing the larger walk-in shops such as Starbucks. What strikes me here are the tiny drive-up espresso shops that seem to be on every corner. If they are mostly independent, they tend to be tiny, such as this one…


Those with a bit more corporate backing tend to be a little more elaborate…


…and of course, there’s Starbucks. At one intersection in Burlington I could see no less than four different Starbucks places – three separate shops and one in a supermarket. Going back to our church analogy, I guess they would be the equivalent of the Baptist church, in terms of density and distribution.

I wanted to do a Google Fusion Table density map to compare the number of coffee shops at home with the number here. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get an accurate data list, and I couldn’t get Fusion Tables to display the data like I wanted. However, I was able to use from data National Coffee Guide. It has some major gaps and is woefully incomplete, but it’s adequate for a comparison. Here’s Upstate South Carolina…

South Carolina Coffee Shops.csv - Google Fusion Tables - Mozilla Firefox_2011-07-01_10-01-56

…and here’s roughly the same geographic area around the Puget Sound…


Of course, there’s a greater population density around a major city such as Seattle. (more…)

More Obsessions and New Tools


Chick Springs Springhouse and Gazebo

Photo by Flickr photographer markemark4

I have yet another location-based obsession, possibly even several more. First it was fire towers, then old schools, and lately it’s been ghost towns. You would think I’d have enough abandoned historic stuff to go traipsing about the countryside to photograph and document. But wait! There’s still more!

While visiting Laurens County recently we stopped by Stomp Springs, and this past weekend we found the Shivar Springs bottling cisterns near Shelton in Fairfield County. That got me thinking about mineral springs, and where these might be located.

A 2004 Department of Natural Resources report by H. Lee Mitchell (PDF) gives some of the background of the springs and their locations. The report mentions the historical significance of springs, as well as the development of resorts and bottling facilities. These dot the state, but most are located inland of the Fall Line, as indicated by the map in the report (which I’ve imported into Google Earth as an overlay.)

Mineral Springs GE


GNIS Dilemma


The Geographic Names Information System(GNIS) is one of the greatest boons to those of us who love maps. It’s an extensive database of place names created by the US Geological Survey, and includes cities, towns, communities, crossroads, schools, churches, mountains, rivers, etc,. etc. Basically, any place in the US that has a name is in the database. The database includes coordinates, county, and other basic information about that location.

I’ve used and referenced the GNIS data on this blog many times. The raw data is freely available for download, and I have downloaded just the South Carolina data to create my South Carolina Place Names application. If you’ve ever used a GPS or looked up a location on an online mapping system, you’ve encountered GNIS data. Unfortunately, some companies use this freely available data to flood the web with crappy websites that pollute search results and interfere with the ability to do any meaningful online research about an area.

Here an example…

Yesterday my sister Glynda and I drove through the communities of Stomp Springs and Renno on our way back from visiting our parents in Prosperity. It’s a historical area, and we snapped a few photos and looked at the ruins of the old towns. When I got home I wanted to find more information about the area, so I did a quick Google search for Renno, SC. Here’s the first page of results. You’ll want to click to enlarge…

Renno1.png by RndConnections on Aviary

Most of the pages are for “hometown locators” and various real estate companies. There were even multiple websites for various cable companies. This goes on for multiple search pages – basically a spamming of the Internet based on the GNIS data. (more…)

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