Completed: September 13, 2015
This is another favorite park and I was looking forward to completing their Junior Ranger program. After picking up the Field Journal from the main visitor center in Medora I reviewed the requirements. To complete this program I would be going on a hike, attend a ranger program or watch the park movie, find litter and based on my age, complete the entire Field Journal.
This program is considered Senior Friendly as there is no upper age limit. The four age groupings and symbols are; Hiking boot for ages 6 and under, Ranger badge for ages 7-10, Ranger hat for ages 11-13 and no symbol for ages 14 and up. The symbols indicate which activities are appropriate for the specific age groups.
For the hike I walked the Nature Trail at Painted Canyon. It was warming up quickly, but the one mile loop was enjoyable. Part way through there was an additional side trail to an overlook which provided nice views.
The activities to be completed are; Hike, Ranger Program, I Spy with my Little Eye, A Badlands Prairie, Nature Detectives, Where Do I Belong?, Layers of Color, Types of Rocks, What Makes a Butte?, Listen to the Breeze. . ., Smell the Prairie Roses. . ., Gaze at the Stars. . ., Underground Prairie Dog Town, Test Your Prairie Dog Knowledge!, A Keystone Species, Fossils, Understanding the Clues, Ranching in the 1880’s, Theodore Roosevelt -The Rancher, Theodore Roosevelt – The Conservationist, The American Bison, . . .A Grocery Store?, Symbol of the National Park Service, Tough Choices, Scenic Drive Bingo.
A lot of a activities, but most were relatively easy to complete. I spent two days in the park and was able to finish the entire Field Journal. In place of a ranger program I watched the park movie, “Refuge of the American Spirit”. Besides giving the background information about Theodore Roosevelt and his time spent in the area, it gave some great information about the environment. Six native tribes have hunted and lived in the area, it takes 50 years for disturbed prairie to recover and the elk were re-introduced by the NPS. I found a quote by President Roosevelt to support my belief that the natural environment is critical, “What happens when we use up the natural resources that made us great?”. The balance between use and conservation is critical.
The buttes throughout the park are colorful and show a pattern. The activity Layers of Colors helped me understand how the colors developed over time, including how burning coal seams created the upper red layer. Several activities focused on the prairie dogs found throughout the park. I learned that they are considered a keystone species, meaning that other animals within this ecosystem rely on them for their health and survival. Their burrows are used by other animals and the plants inside a prairie dog town are healthier than outside which provides good nutrition for the grazing animals.
While driving the 36 mile Scenic Drive I completed the 25-square bingo activity and was able to find almost everything pictured on this activity. By completing the . . . A Grocery Store? activity I discovered that one bison could provide; string, blanket, cup, tools and food for the native people. This made me realize how important the bison were to this area and the impact of hunting them almost to extinction must have had on the local tribes.
Once I had completed all of the activities, including picking up litter in the campground, I brought the Field Journal back to the Medora visitor center. The ranger on duty reviewed the journal and had me recite the Junior Ranger pledge, then awarded me the enhanced badge.