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East Spring landslide / earthflow, Owyhee River, OregonOK, so maybe I am late on really appreciating the whole high-resolution airborne laser swath mapping (LiDAR) thing….are you?

Holy crap. I finally got my hot hands on some LiDAR data from a field area very near to my heart. I have worked with some LiDAR data sets for some field areas that have been nice to have but were impossibly bloated and very slow to view in ArcGIS (yes…I am exploring ways to minimize that issue). That changed rather abruptly last week when the coveted hard-drive with LiDAR data for the middle Owyhee River showed up on my desk. This is a field area where I have spent a lot of time  let alone 100s of hours in the office creating a geologic map.  As an aside, I should note that it is a geologically amazing area that is worthy of a parallel research group-focused blogging effort that I maintain at: yeehowcentral. I could go on and on about that…but that is what the other blog is for.

The point here is that now I have finally gotten a LiDAR data set (courtesy of the NCALM program…thank you, thank you, thank you NSF) that covers an area I know very well. I feel like Homer Simpson in the Land of Chocolate.

Bottom line, it is effing amazing. I am so on board with this as a geomorphologist / geologic mapper that I am nearly at a loss for words (yeah, right). To think, I was once thrilled with the results of the hillshaded 10 m dem on the right side of the image. Just check out the obscene detail in the image on the left side of the pair. The anatomy of the landslide complex is laid bare, as are the various features of interest to me along the river. The lower photo by a colleague shows the reality of the prominent earthflow near the center of the image.  It once blocked the river, created a lake, and subsequently breached catastrophically and created the prominent flood bar in the lower right corner of the elevation model figures.

Recently, I heard a colleague report that he would not map without LiDAR again because everytime that he got LiDAR coverage that spanned an area he had mapped using ‘traditional means’, he ended up doing so much remapping and refinement that it didn’t make economic sense to not get the data in the first place. Maybe that is true…but I do work in the largely barren desert and he works in the Pacific Northwest. Nonetheless, I have been severely scrutinizing the data with a critical eye and have made numerous discoveries, confirmations, and locally significant linework modifications. It will take many hours to evaluate the entire map, but the result will be well worth it. Did I mention that every-freaking-where you click on the data set you get an accurate elevation? Yikes. That falls in the realm of extremely useful in my business.East Spring earthflow



  1. That’s very nice! Want to get me some, too.

  2. Kyle,

    About time 🙂
    I thought I gave you the 60 cm Virgin River dataset…
    Too bad that effort has passed under the bridge, yet again 😦


  3. I have the virgin river images (thanks to you) but no digital data that I can recall. Blast the funding…maybe I will look at this as part of the ND2MP!

  4. This is amazing. Well, not everyone is familiar with LiDAR technology. It is also used by other agencies such as NASA to check planetary objects.

    LiDAR is also used for search and rescue since it can precisely sensor even distant and small objects.

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