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Trip Planning with Google Earth

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Schessl | Green Wave Forum
Published Thursday, March 13, 2008

Have you tried Google Earth for trip planning? If not, we can help get you started with this tutorial on how to use Green Wave Forum and Google Earth to plan your next paddling adventure.

Fort Matanzas Trip on Google Earth

Step #1: Get Google Earth

Google Earth lets you view geographic data - maps and locations - in a way you've never seen before. To get started, download and install Google Earth. You can get it here.

Step #2: Find a Green Wave Forum Trip

We have over 80 locations and 100 trip reports online (as of March 2008). This provides years of exploring without ever leaving Florida. Of course, we're adding more trips so when the original list runs out, expect another 80. Use the Trips link on the left side of this page to select a region and location that you're interested in.

Trips Menu Item

Step #3: Send Location information to Google Earth

After selecting a location (we picked Fort Matanzas National Monument for this example), find the Google Earth link and click on it.

Trip Location

Step #4: Save to your PC

When the popup window appears asking you to open the file or save to your PC, select Open with Google Earth.

Save As Dialog

Step #5: Viewing in Google Earth

After a few moments Google Earth will start and the globe will zoom to the location selected. You can move the map around by clicking on the map and dragging with your mouse. Clicking the yellow thumbtack shows a description of the location.

Google Earth First View

Step #6: Zoom, Tilt and Pan

You can change the zoom level in or out using the controls on the upper right side of the page (vertical slide control). The compass lets you change orientation, while the horizontal slide control lets you tilt the map for a more 3D look. In our example we have zoomed out far enough to see the entire island, making it easier to add waypoints and plotting a path.

Google Earth Zoom

Step #7: Adding Waypoints

Most trip locations in Green Wave Forum have waypoints on either the put-in or the area of interest (in this example Fort Matanzas itself). You can add additional waypoints (called placemarks in Google Earth) by following these instructions:

  1. Click on the Placemark tool on the Google Earth toolbar
  2. Click on the map at the position you want marked. You can click and drag the marker as necessary to reposition it.
  3. In the popup window, enter a name for the new waypoint, e.g. put-in.
  4. Click OK to save the waypoint

Marking Waypoints

Step #8: Adding a Path

In addition to waypoints, you can add a path to your map so everyone knows the exact route. Be sure to click around objects that you can't go through and follow known paths and/or roadways (for land navigation). Here's how:

  1. Click on the Path tool on the Google Earth toolbar
  2. Starting at your put-in, click on the map. Each click drops a tiny square marker and connects the line to the previous point. Continue clicking until your route is marked. It may be necessary to move the popup window out of the way while you are working on the map.
  3. In the popup window, enter a name for the new path e.g. Rattlesnake Island Loop. Optionally, add a description that will appear when someone clicks on the path's name.
  4. Click OK to save the path

Marking a Path

Step #9: Saving your Waypoints and Route

When you have finished adding waypoints and paths, you should save your data. To do so, right click on the "Green Wave Forum" item on the "Places" panel. A popup menu should appear. Select Save to My Places to save it on your PC.

Optionally use the Save As to save to a KML file, or pick Share, Post or Email to share the map with your friends.


Step #10: Measuring Distances - the missing step

One of the big problems with using Google Earth for trip planning is there is no easy way to measure the length of a path drawn using the "Add Path" tool. Hopefully Google will add this feature to the free version in the near future. Until then, here are a couple of workarounds so you can calculate number of miles to your trip before hitting the water.

Workaround #1: Retrace the path using the Measure tool on the Google Earth toolbar. It's tedious, but works. The measure tool looks like a little ruler on the toolbar.

Workaround #2: The Free Geography Tools website ( has links to Java and Windows programs that you can install on your PC. These read the KML file that you saved in Step #9 and calculate the distance.

Workaround #3: The Whaleycopter Blog ( has a measurement tool for PCs. This blog has a really nice example of creating paths and using his KML Path Measurement tool.


So there you have it, Trip Planning with Google Earth. I'd love to hear from you to see how you use Google Earth or Google Maps for planning your kayak and canoe trips. Drop a comment in the space below.

Have a great trip!

Google Earth is a registered trademark of Google, Inc.

Last update Thursday, March 13, 2008

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Cmt Trip Planning with Google EarthLogin to Post   
You are in the public comment zone. What follows is not from Green Wave Forum; it comes from other people and we don't vouch for it.
paddlesolo on 3/13/2008 7:07pm
O.K. I followed those directions and that works, and I have looked up zip codes for a few of my trips and added them, and the weather pops up. I think this is way cool! I am forever checking the weather before I paddle. I will work on doing this for most of the NW locations at the end of April and early May.
admin on 3/13/2008 5:01pm
Glad that you got Google Earth loaded. I think the weather map that you are talking about is on the trip locations, right? If so, it and the Google map (along with waypoints for Google Earth) are created by editing the Trip Location.

Login and go to the NW region. Click on the pencil icon to edit the location. Enter a GPS coordinate and ZIP code. The weather report uses ZIP codes. The Google Map uses the GPS.

If you don't know the GPS try entering some text in the GPS field, e.g. "Panama City Beach FL" and see if Google can return the lat/long. Another way is to find the lat/long using Google Earth and then plug the numbers into the trip location on Green Wave. Let me know if you have problems and thanks for asking!
paddlesolo on 3/13/2008 11:56am
Ed: This article finally motivated me to install Google Earth. The most interesting part of the new features is the weather map that appears on some of the sites. When I clicked that link it allowed me to see weather predictions, and know the weather in the area I was examining. But not every site has that feature. What do I need to do so that I could see the weather on all the NW Florida spots. This is a task that I am willing to undertake.