Thursday, April 7, 2011

Answer: What's that mysterious building near Geyserville, CA?

Quick answers:  It's the River Rock Casino, run by the Dry Creek Rancheria band of Pomo Indians.  The site is located 260 feet above the valley floor.  

It took me about 2 minutes to figure all this out.  Here's what I did.  

1.  I wanted to be able to spot the building on a Google Maps aerial image.  So, go to Maps and search for

 [ De Lorimier winery near Geyserville, CA ]   
Toggle into satellite image mode and you can quickly spot the bright whitish spot. 

Once you're there, you can zoom in a bit and see that the popup tells you it's the River Rock Casino.
(A quick image search for
[ River Rock Casino California ] confirms that this is the same place.)  

2. Now that I knew what it was, I wanted to figure out how high it was above the valley floor.  For this I needed the Terrain layer.  Click on the Maps icon and find the Terrain layer, then select it.   

This topographic map then lets me figure out the altitude of the casino.  In this case, you just find the major contour line below the casino and count up by 40s (the contour lines are 40 feet apart).  

This quickly tells you that the casino is located on the 4th contour line (that is, just 40 feet below the 500 foot contour, which is a bit hard to see at this location) -- so it's 460 feet high. By looking at the map on the valley floor you can immediately see that it's at 200 feet.  Therefore, the casino sits 260 feet above the valley.  

One last thing--how to figure out who owns it?  In this particular case, I turned on the Wikipedia layer (the same way I turned on the Terrain layer) and found that there was, conveniently, a Wikipedia entry on the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.
 (And yes, I did a search on
[ Dry Creek Rancheria ] which took me to the official tribal site.) 

What's the search lesson here? 

Search lesson:  Maps are often a great coordinating device for layers of information; use them when search for location-based information.  

In this case we were able to go from aerial photo to the map, then from map to the terrain layer.  We picked up clues from the Wikipedia layer (of geo-located articles) and measure altitude by counting contour lines.  

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