Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky

Dixon Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park
Kentucky

http://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm

Completed: August 11, 2016

Senior Friendly

I completed Mammoth Cave National Park’s Junior Ranger program during the NPS Centennial Year, 2016. During this year Kentucky NPS sites offered a special award, a patch, if you completed visits to all five of their park sites. Along with this park we also visited; Abraham Lincoln Birthplace NHP, Big South Fork NRRA, Cumberland Gap NHP and Fort Heiman/Fort Donelson NB.

This is a park site we had visited several times in the past, but had never taken the time to complete their program. Due to our travel schedule we were not able take a cave tour, luckily the Junior Ranger program can be completed without taking a cave tour. We were able to explore several trails while in the area.

This program is Senior Friendly, as there are four age groupings, and the upper age group is listed as Ages 12 & up. Their requirements for each age group is listed as Bat Points, each activity earns you one to two bat points and there are 28 different activities. The four age groupings and the required bat points are; Ages 4-5 – Collect 5, Ages 6-8 – Collect 9, Ages 9-11 – Collect 12 and Ages 12 & up – Collect 15 Bat Points.

The activities are; Put Your Ranger Hat On, Arrowhead Challenge, Decode Your Mission, Junior Researcher, Invent a New Cave Critter, Humans & Bats, Trog Word Search, A-maze-ing Cave Exploration, Let’s Go Caving, What’s Wrong With This Picture?, Caving Through Time, Karst-Word Puzzle, Rock Around the Park, Fossilmania, Tick-Tock, Drip-Drop, A Natural Menu, Watchable Wildlife, Animal Scramble, Nature Scavenger Hunt, Notebook Mix-Up, Early Guides of Mammoth Cave, Making Money from Dirt, Are We There Yet?, A Green Visitor Center and A Home To Be Proud Of.

That’s a lot of activities, what I like about this program is the variety of activities, which add up to 39 possible Bat Points. I also think the names of the activities are very well done, intriguing which led me to complete all but two of the activities. Most of the activities were fairly simple, there is a description or information given and then a short activity to complete.

Probably my favorite activities were either based on history, Caving Through Time and Making Money From Dirt, or on geology, Karst-World Puzzle, Rock Around the Park and Fossilmania. I always enjoy completing the scavenger hunt activities, including this one. The Nature Scavenger Hunt had 24 squares of primarily plants and animals. Because we hiked several trails in the park I located quite a few of the items. For the “Free Space! Draw Your Own” I drew a cicada, in August and on a hot day, they could be heard and their shells were found on the ground.

The ranger in the visitor center reviewed my booklet and awarded the enhanced Junior Ranger badge, featuring two cave explorers standing at the mouth of a cave.

 

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Glacier National Park – Montana

Two Medicine Lake

Glacier National Park
Montana

http://www.np.gov/glac/index.htm

Completed: June 17, 2016

Senior Friendly

Be prepared to be amazed – the views, the trails, the lakes, the campgrounds and the plants and animals are all there for your enjoyment. Glacier National Park is big! I have been fortunate to be able to enjoy all sections; west, southeast, east and even a north section when I visited Goat Haunt in 2012. To easily get to Goat Haunt you take a boat tour from Waterton National Park, in Canada. Wherever you find yourself in Glacier – take a deep breath* and take it all in. Their Junior Ranger provides you an opportunity to learn about and experience this spectacular park.

Wild Clematis

This program is Senior Friendly as no age groupings are given. This booklet does separate younger kids activities, from older ones, by designating a bear icon on pages for the younger set and an eagle icon for the older kids. Two activities, The National Park Service and the final activity of the Ranger-led activity or Talk to A Ranger, are required of everyone. Completing at five additional activities, your choice, are required to earn this badge.

Activities include; The National Park Service, Wilderness, Leave No Trace, Native Names, Habitats Are Homes, Up, Up and Away?, Moving Through Glacier’s History, See America First, Making Peace, Four Nations Working Together, Disappearing Glaciers, Geology Hunt, Wise About Wildlife, Living Lightly and Attend a Ranger-led program or Talk to a Ranger.

The activity Native Names highlights the rich history of the region before European settlers arrived. As you travel through the park you will find names that honor the Native Americans which called this land home, such as; Two Medicine, Running Eagle and Chief Mountain. Up, Up and Away? does an excellent job giving background information about climate change. It provides an opportunity by having you write a short paragraph to explain how climate change could impact one of three animals, snowshoe hare, mountain goat or bull trout, found in the park.

Columbian Ground Squirrel

Four Nations Working Together has you indicate on a map of the nations and their flags, their location in this area; Canada, Flathead Nation, United States and Blackfeet Indian Nation. As you travel through Glacier National Park the rocks tell you so much about what you see, Geology Hunt has you identify unique features and list where you saw it in the park. The bright blue-green water we saw along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River is created by rocks crushed by glaciers creating glacial flour. We also saw Horns, narrow rock pyramid peaks carved by glaciers, along US 2, SE of West Glacier as we drove over to Two Medicine.

Sego Lily

While camping at Two Medicine campground I finished the activities and had the booklet reviewed by Ranger Megan. I appreciated her review and discussion about my answers. She then issued the oath and the standard Junior Ranger badge. Every visit to this park brings new views, different weather, as well as a wide variety of plants and animals. I have never been disappointed when I visit, and as soon as I am leaving I am wondering when I’ll return.

*  As I write this, September 2017, major fires are burning around and in this park.

Pecos National Historical Park – New Mexico

Pecos National Historical Park

http://www.nps.gov/peco/imdez.htm

Completed: July 20, 2017

Senior Friendly

Not far from Santa Fe and just off I-25, this site quickly takes you back in time. Once you enter the visitor center and the museum, behind the main desk, the ancient pots on display take you back to as early as 1300. I am always drawn to the pots here, so well displayed and explained. Once outside and walking the trail you can imagine the landscape back in the 1300s when the early Pueblo and Plains Native Americans inhabited this area. The remains of the church that you see at the end of the trail was built by the Spanish in 1717. So much history has happened here; early settlers, the Santa Fe Trail, Route 66, Santa Fe Chief railway, and even a Civil War battle occurred all within the boundaries of Pecos National Historical Park.

The Junior Ranger Guide has no age categories or requirements to complete to earn either the badge in English or Spanish. All that is stated is to “do the activities in this booklet as well as you can.” I was able to complete all of the activities during my recent visit. The activities are; Museum Hunt, Pottery, The Trade Fair, Little Cricket, Ruins Trail Bingo, Red Sky, Two Deer, Cristobal, Maria, Robert, Teresa, and Story Questions.

The activities with names were stories about kids living at Pecos Pueblo in the past, each ending with a simple activity related to the story. I really enjoyed the Bingo activity which named nine items to look for while exploring the area and to make a drawing of the item. My drawing of a grasshopper and raven turned out OK.

The Museum Hunt gave me an opportunity to look at the displays which interpret the rich history of this area. A series of 9 questions covered the time period from Paleo-Indians up to the Civil War. Before leaving the building The Trade Fair activity has you look at paintings in the Reading Room to answer some questions. The paintings were intricate and depicted everyday life in the pueblo.

Once I completed the guide I took to the ranger at the main desk for it to be reviewed. Once that was done I was awarded the standard Junior Ranger badge. After many visits to this site I enjoyed completing their program. Putting together the complex history through the variety of activities was interesting.

 

North Cascades National Park – Washington

North Cascade Range from North Fork of Cascade River

North Cascades National Park
Washington

http://www.nps.gov/noca/index.htm

Completed: July 4, 2017

Senior Friendly

East of Seattle and reaching up to the Canadian border, North Cascades National Park, is remote and spectacular! Actually there are only a couple of places which you can step onto the actual park land, so much of the park is classified as wilderness. For the everyday traveler you can visit this park, or at least a visitor center, at three accessible locations; Newhalem, Hozomeen (entering from Canada) and Stehekin (arriving by boat or seaplane). On this trip I spent time at Newhalem and Stehekin over the Fourth of July weekend. There was still snow up on many peaks with water running high and fast in the lower creeks and rivers making for beautiful views and soundscape. I was fortunate to stay in Stehekin for two nights. If you ever have a chance to spend time in Stehekin, do it! It was quiet, no fireworks, and wonderful to explore this laid-back community.

Bridge Creek at High Bridge

This program is considered Senior Friendly as the upper age group, of four, is listed for ages 12+. The groupings are; Pacific Treefrog – ages 3-5, Black Bear – ages 5-8, Raven – ages 8-11 and Mountain Goat – ages 12+. Each grouping has a theme starting with Exploration of the Natural World, Biodiversity, Cultural Awareness and Public Land Stewardship. I completed the Mountain Goat booklet which requires one place-based and five general activities. I was able to complete two place-based and all ten activities.

The place-based activities included the areas of Newhalem and North Cascades Highway, Hozomeen and Ross Lake, and Stehekin and Lake Chelan. The general activities are; Learn about the North Cascades, Save the Snags, Sounds of the North Cascades, Who Am I?, Return to Wildness, Leave No Trace 101, NPS Research Part I and Part II, Field Notes and Climate Friendly Parks. While traveling through the park stop at six locations, identified on a map on page 5, to ask for their special Junior Ranger or Cascade Explorer (for older kids) stamp. I was able to collect four of the six.

While at Newhalem I worked on What’s In a Name? placed-based activity which had you select at least two of nine local names and determine their meaning. I found some of the information at the Newhalem Visitor Center and asked for help from a ranger while there. I learned that Newhalem means a place to snare goats. While at Stehekin and Lake Chelan I answered questions about the area from information I found at the Golden West Visitor Center. I learned that Native Americans lived in the area as far back as 10,000 years ago and left pictographs. I
kayaked across the lake one morning and was able to view the pictographs at lake level, close enough to touch, which I didn’t.

Upper Lake Chelan, at Stehekin, WA

The activities I enjoyed the most were Save the Snags!, Who Am I?, Return to Wildness, and Field Notes. Snags, a dead tree which is still standing, are always a favorite of mine. So many of them have ‘character’, each is unique and provides homes for wildlife. For this activity I observed a snag and drew a picture which shows the holes drilled into the snag and the plants nestled up against the snag.

 

So many of the animals in this area are new to me, so I am always interested to learn about the animals that live here; featured were the Fisher, Wolverine, Marten and Lynx. I never saw any of these animals while in the area, but I love knowing they are out there! The Return to Wildness activity further supported that North Cascades National Park supports a large portion of wilderness which protects their wild creatures. The Field Journal activity allowed me to make observations at two areas; Newhalem campground and Stehekin. Even though it was 4th of July both sites were relatively quiet, the campground at Newhalem was full, but the sites were far enough apart that each site was quiet.

Mock Orange

While staying in Stehekin I took my completed booklet to the Golden West Visitor Center for it to be reviewed. Ranger Mark was proud of his high standards in reviewing Junior Ranger booklets, even stated that they were the PhD of programs, all in good humor! I appreciated his review and discussion about the activities I completed. Once he signed off on my booklet and presented me with an enhanced badge and patch, both depicting a mountain goat, he told me about a rare plant find.

Not far from the visitor center, an orchid was blooming along the lake trail. I walked up the trail which was dry and rocky, the terrain did not look promising for a blooming orchid. Just as I was about to turnaround I spotted a wet area along the trail, seeping from a rock face and a cluster of Stream Orchids (Epipactis gigantea). The picture below doesn’t show the ‘gigantea’ of this plant, but they stood in a dense cluster, at least 3 feet tall with numerous blooms along each stem.

Stream Orchid

San Juan Island National Historical Park – Washington


American Camp

San Juan Island National Historical Park
Washington

http://www.nps.gov/sajh/index.htm

Completed: June 29, 2017

Senior Friendly

Yes, this is an island which can only be accessed by ferry or plane. We took the Washington State Ferry for a day visit, the weather was great. Once you arrive at Friday Harbor getting to the two sites, the American and English Camps, established from 1853-1872, takes some effort. There are several trolleys or transit companies which make stops at the two sites. The sites are on opposites ends of the island, some miles apart. We chose to rent a car for four hours which allowed us more time at each site and to explore the island. After visiting we did some price comparison and discovered it could have been cheaper to bring our vehicle out to the island. However you get there, visiting both sites is well worth your time.

This site commemorates the Pig War; yep, a pig got shot and the American and British settlers quarreled which led to soldiers from both countries to occupy the island to protect their citizens. No shots were fired, negotiations over 12 years were resolved through a German arbitrator. Each camp is preserved and interesting to visit.

This Junior Ranger program is Senior Friendly, as the only requirement is to

English Camp

complete the same number of activities as your age. There are 16 activities, so I completed all of them. The activities are; The Pig War, Creating Peace, 1860 Uniforms, Food, Archaeology, Tree Rings, Prairie Restoration, Use Your Senses, BINGO – American And English Camp, Life Zones – American and English Camp, Maze, Create Your Own Emblem, National Park Service, and Junior Ranger Quiz.

What I found most interesting was the diverse environments between the two camps. The American Camp was in a less desirable area of the island, colder and wetter during the winter. The English Camp was better situated at the southern end, with a protective cove. The English-style garden was attractive.

The Archaeology page was interesting, creating a table listing comparable items of Prehistoric, Historic and Modern items. As usual I enjoyed the two BINGO cards, different items to look for at each site. The ecosystem of the American Camp was primarily in the prairie and water life zones, and the British Camp in forests, down to mudflats. Some of the activities help you understand the differences.

I really enjoyed the boat trip to and from the island and exploring the island by visiting the two different camps, especially with the diversity of ecosystems. The history is interesting, but the sights are wonderful. Once I completed the activities a volunteer reviewed my booklet and presented me with a standard badge and attractive patch.

Ocean Steward – Olympic National Park, Washington

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Ruby Beach

Ocean Stewards
Olympic National Park & Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Washington

http://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

Senior Friendly

Completed: June 25, 2017

While visiting Olympic National Park this summer I was offered their Ocean Stewards Junior Ranger program. It is a program which focuses on the ocean environment within Olympic NP in conjunction with the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. As we were camping at Kalaloch Beach for several nights I would be able to complete the activities. Camping at Kalaloch campground was wonderful; the access to a wide, sandy beach which had plentiful wildlife to view. One of the highlights was seeing a juvenile and adult Bald Eagle while walking along the beach one morning.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as there is no upper age limit. The instruction are for each person to complete the number of activities equal to their age, and those older than eleven should complete all of the activities.

The activities include; Chart Your Adventure, Field Journal, Leave No Trace, One Ocean, Tidal Zones, Coastal Study Plots, Coastal Word Search, Sea Stack Maze, At Home on the Water, Sea Otters Abound, and Interview a Ranger.

The Field Journal allowed me to explore Kalaloch Beach and record what I heard, saw, felt and smelled. I most enjoyed seeing the eagles and many of the animals in the tide pools. One Ocean activity provided information about marine debris that impacts animals, it included searching the beach and recording debris found.

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As a Desert Rat, the activities taught me a lot about the ocean, especially about the issues impacting sea life due to human interaction, both positive and negative. Learning that Sea Otters had disappeared from this area in the early 1900s, and now there are 1,000 that live in the sanctuary along the coast of Olympic National Park gave me hope for the future.

I returned to the Kalaloch Ranger Station and finished the activities in the booklet by interviewing Ranger Jared about his job. He told me that in the winter it rains sideways, at times, and they had a record 140 inches of rainfall this past year. After he reviewed my booklet he gave me the very attractive Ocean Steward patch. This program was a great addition to the standard Junior Ranger program for Olympic National Park. A similar program focusing on the rainforest would be interesting.

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Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (Jr Ranger) – New Mexico

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
New Mexico

http://www.nps.gov/sapu/index.htm

Completed: May 6, 2017

Senior Friendly

Booklets: https://www.nps.gov/sapu/learn/kidsyouth/index.htm

While traveling through New Mexico I wanted to complete this Junior Ranger program. Before leaving home I had printed the three sections for this program. Salinas Pueblo Missions NM has three sites, miles apart from each other. Each site has ruins of the mission churches built by the Spanish, but each site also gives the early history of the Puebloan people who lived here before the Spanish arrived.

The booklet online is different from the booklet provided on site, either booklet will allow you to earn their Junior Ranger badge. I completed the online booklet, a couple of pages for each of the three locations. The only difference I found between the booklets was the one given on site includes a fourth location, park headquarters in Mountainair. You can earn the badge by only visiting one site, however you can earn ribbons from each site as you complete the site-specific pages. Neither program booklet has any age groupings or upper age limit, so this program is considered Senior Friendly.

I was fortunate to be able to visit all of the sites, the three missions and the headquarters. All of the staff were welcoming of this senior working on their Junior Ranger program. Basically each site’s pages included a story about the site, then some questions to answer and a word search. The online booklet could be completed without visiting the sites, whereas the booklet you can pick up at any of the sites does require completing some of the activities on site.

After visiting all three sites; Quarai, Gran Quivira and Abo and having the booklet signed off at each site I received the Junior Ranger badge.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – New Mexico

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Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
New Mexico

http://www.nps.gov/sapu/index.htm

Completed: May 6, 2017

Senior Ranger

Booklet: https://www.nps.gov/sapu/planyourvisit/upload/Senior-Ranger-Program-1.doc

During our Spring trip through central New Mexico I wanted to visit all three of the pueblos of Salinas Pueblo Missions NM to earn their Junior Ranger badge. I had printed a copy of their booklet before leaving home to make sure I had it when I started my visit, in case one of the visitor centers was closed. Our first stop was at Gran Quivira where I completed the Junior Ranger portion for that site. After visiting there we stopped at the park headquarters in Mountainair for their passport stamps. While talking to the staff and explaining that I was working on the Junior Ranger booklet I was handed their Senior Ranger Program booklet!

The three missions are miles apart and each site is distinct, well worth visiting each site. Salinas means salt and the missions are part of the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway. The sites promote the history of the prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan and Jumano groups, to the 17th century Spanish Franciscan missionaries, and the returning settlers of the 1800s.

The booklet is easy to complete, whether visiting one of the three sites, or all of them. As we had planned to visit all three on this trip, and I was also working on the Junior Ranger booklet, it was easy to complete both programs.

The activities are; Compare Historical Photos of Abo, Quarai and Gran Quivira, Plant & Tree Identification, Wildlife Found at Salinas Pueblo Missions, Pictographs & Petroglyphs, Four Churches at Salinas Pueblo Missions, National Park Service Word Search, and Salinas Pueblo Missions Word Search.
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Completing this program is very easy, the booklet states that you only need to complete one exercise at one of the three sites to earn their attractive park pin. While at Quivira we sat outside the visitor center and completed five of the activities. The wildlife page had photos take by game cameras of an owl, jackrabbit, rattlesnake, elk and coyotes. A series of questions were asked about which animal you would like to see while visiting and how you should deal with wildlife, if seen.

For Pictographs and Petroglyphs you draw an event in your life which can be represented by symbols. I had fun creating a series of symbols depicting my retirement from teaching and traveling.

Once we finished a ranger reviewed our booklets, and we had some good discussion about the activities. I always appreciated when park staff can spend extra time looking over my completed booklets. For their Senior Rangers they award their attractive park pin. I always try to leave a donation when completing either Junior or Senior Ranger programs, but I especially make sure I remember when they provide an extra special award.
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Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Colorado

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Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Colorado

http://www.nps.gov/flfo/index.htm

Completed: July 17, 2017

Booklet: https://www.nps.gov/flfo/learn/kidsyouth/upload/ffb_junior_ranger-pc.pdf

Less than an hour from Colorado Springs, along US 24, you will see amazing fossils in a beautiful setting. I love visiting this site and for the first time completed their Junior Ranger program during this last visit. Their collection of plant and animal fossils is amazing, both inside and outside. The hiking trails range from very short to longer through pine forests and open meadows at 8,100 feet elevation. During the summer, afternoon mountain thunderstorms will move in and the trails are closed for your safety.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as the upper age group is not set. The groupings and number of activities to complete are; 4-7 years – 3 pages, 8-10 years – 5 pages and 11 years and older – 7 pages. With 13 different activities, at a variety of skill levels, there are plenty of activities of interest for all of the age groups.

Activities include; Dot to Dot, Map Maker, BINGO!, Leaf Detective, Learning the Layers, Fly Maze, Email Friends, Be a Paleontologist, Influential Women, From the Ute Perspective, Take A Hike, No Ordinary Homesteader, and Pick Your Next Adventure!

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I enjoyed their BINGO format, 16 squares, with a short description of what to look for and space to draw what you saw, answer a question about the item or complete an activity. Questions were about the color of lichen, bark, type of fossil, and an animal home. Activities were hiking, attending a ranger program, having a picnic and visiting a historic site. Leaf Detective had you sketching a modern leaf and a fossil leaf from their collection in the visitor center and answering some questions about each one.

A couple of the activities, Learning the Layers and Be A Paleontologist, were based on displays in the visitor center. The display area is small, but packed with excellent information. Sometimes too much information is given and it is hard to stay focused, these displays are just right! A word search activity, Influential Women, provided great information about local women, as well as professional female paleontologists who strongly influenced this area. I appreciated that facts about the women were given and key words from the facts were used in the word search.

Behind the visitor center is a covered area with big fossilized tree stumps and picnic tables. After completing the hike and gathering information needed for his booklet I enjoyed sitting outside to put the finishing touches on this program. Once I did compete the booklet I took it back inside for a ranger to check it over. After that I was administered their Junior Ranger pledge and given the standard badge.

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Rainbow Bridge National Monument – Utah

 

Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Utah

http://www.nps.gov/rabr/index.htm

Completed: May 18, 2016

Senior Friendly

*Booklet: https://www.nps.gov/rabr/learn/kidsyouth/upload/RABRJrRanger-2.pdf

In 2014 I visited Rainbow Bridge NM by boat. The ride up Lake Powell to the mouth of the canyon was enjoyable, it was late May and being on the water made it comfortable on a hot day. Once the boat turned into the canyon it felt like a maze of water and rock walls, at the dock it opens up a bit, but the natural bridge remained hidden. From the boat dock you hike to the bridge, currently about 1 mile, each way. In a short distance you can see the bridge, no pictures can describe the grandeur of this natural geologic feature. A hike of 16 -18 miles one way, across the Navajo Nation (permit required), is the only other way to reach the bridge. The boat tour begins at Wahweap Marina, a short distance from the Glen Canyon Dam and Page, AZ.

Prior to visiting Glen Canyon NRA in 2016, when I downloaded and printed their Junior Ranger booklet, I discovered that the last few pages included the program for Rainbow Bridge NM. While writing this post I discovered that the link listed above is a different booklet. It appears to be relatively simple, as the booklet I completed, but the activities are different. For either booklet you can complete the Junior Ranger program without visiting the bridge, however if you aren’t able to visit during your visit I hope in the future you can see this beautiful natural bridge.

The Rainbow Bridge program I completed, at the back of the Glen Canyon NRA booklet, has no age groupings and at least 2 activities are to be completed. The booklet linked above does have age groupings and someone 12 or older is to complete all five activities. Both booklet requirements allow this program to be considered Senior Friendly.

The activities in the booklet I completed are; Forming Rainbow Bridge, Rainbow Bridge National Monument (4 questions), and Rainbow Bridge Sign Scramble. Matching a description to four small pictures helps you understand how natural bridges are formed. The answers to the four questions in the activity titled Rainbow Bridge National Monument can be learned from a park ranger, tour guide or park brochure (available online). I enjoyed the Sign Scramble, it provided a fun way to learn more about the bridge.

Once I completed the booklet I took it to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam, unfortunately the park rangers were in a training session, but the tour staff for the dam gave me the Junior Ranger badge. The bridge is featured on this enhanced badge.

*The booklet provided from this link is different from the one described in this post.