Aerial Photography, Remote Sensing, Lidar and Mapping

Many counties have aerial photographs and Lidar photos of their county available at no charge on their web site. These may be better quality and more recent than those available on Google Earth Pro.  The systems are different in each county so no general instructions can be given.  Links to several, but not all, counties are listed below.  If the county you want isn't listed, search by county name + assessor.  Once you are there, look for property or parcels information. First you will want to do a search on a particular parcel.  Once a map has loaded, you may have to look hard to find the aerial photos.  Look for a button for layers or an option for imagery or basemap gallery.

Clallam Clark Cowlitz Grays Harbor
King Kittitas Lewis Mason
Pacific Pend Oreille Skagit Snohomish

Google Earth Pro is has more features than Google Earth and is now available free. The license key for Google Earth Pro is GEPFREE. It allows saving high resolution photos and has historical as well as current photos.  Click here for detailed instructions on downloading Google Earth Pro, using it to save photos and viewing historical photos.  Click here to watch an instructional video from WSU Extension about how to use Google Earth Pro.

The American Tree Farm System hosts online webinars that are available free, at any time, for your use.  The webinar titled Leveraging the power of Google Earth is 1-1/2 hours long and may provide some useful information on this valuable mapping tool.

Google Maps provides satellite photos online, and if you install GoogleEarth on your computer, you can see them in 3D.  However, the maps are not dated and often are several years old. You will need to find the Layers box in the lower left of the screen and choose the satellite view to see aerial photos.

Bing Maps also provides photos and bird's eye views online.  Like Google maps, they can be several years old and are not dated.  To get aerial photos, locate the menu on right side of the screen and choose Satellite.

Forest Practice Application Mapping Tool is available online from the Washington Department of Natural Resources for when you are preparing a FPA.  For a video tutorial, watch this webinar presented by WSU Extension.

Lidar (light detection and ranging) is the latest technology for viewing land from above.  It has many uses, but one of the most interesting for tree farmers is its ability to see the landform beneath a stand of trees.  Visit the Lidar Portal from the Washington Department of Natural Resources to access Lidar images.  In addition to Bare Earth Lidar, which shows the ground without any vegetation or structure, Top Surface Lidar shows the first object that the Lidar hits, so shows vegetation and structure. 

Another source of information on public domain high resolution Lidar is the Puget Sound Consortium.