Junior Cave Scientist – multiple sites

Dixon Cave at Mammoth Cave National Park

Junior Cave Scientist
Geologic Resources Division – multiple sites


Completed: August 13, 2016 @ Cumberland Gap NHP – Kentucky

While traveling in northern California during June 2016 I visited Lava Beds National Monument and was offered this booklet. It is produced by the Geologic Resources Division, Cave and Karst Program (www.nature.nps.gov/geology/caves/index.cfm). This is a program which can be completed over a period of time and at multiple park sites. I ended up turning in the boomlet at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in Kentucky.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as there is no upper age given. The three age groups are: Flashlight, ages 5-7, Lantern, ages 8-11, and Helmet and Headlamp, ages 12 and up.


To earn this badge you are to complete the number activities equal to your age and in your age category. In total there are nineteen different activities, they are; What ate Caves and Karst?, Be Cave Safe!, How to be a Careful Caver, Name that Cave, Icing on the Cave, Troglofauna Trio, Reveal the Mysteries of The Cave Dwellers, Cave Microbiology, Flying Mammals, Zones of a Cave, Dispelling Batty Myths, Uncover the Mystery of the Bat Killer, Finding Fossils in Caves, Evidence of Ancient Animals, Travel Back in Time with Cave Archeology, Karst is All Around You, Living with Karst, Find a Solution to the Pollution and Caves Need Care.

Some of my favorite activities were learning about Troglofauna Trio, the different animals which live in caves, Bat Anatomy on the Flying Mammals page and labeling fossils found in caves as body or trace. There is a lot of information within the pages of this booklet, most pages include some background information which helps you to complete the activity. You do not need to visit any one park site to earn this badge.

A Collapsed Cave at Lava Beds National Monument

The ranger at Cumberland Gap NHP was very enthusiastic to review my booklet and award me the unique wooden badge and certificate. I had stamped the booklet with the NPS passport stamps at Lava Beds NM, Mammoth Cave NP and at Cumberland Gap NHP. This was a very educational program which provided me with lots of valuable information about caves; their ecology and geology.


Big Thicket National Preserve – Texas


Big Thicket National Preserve


Completed: March 29, 2016

Senior Friendly

This was a return visit for me, my third time here. When I was here last, in November 2013, I was able to explore more, including a hike along the Kirby Nature Trail. The Preserve is made up of multiple sections of land along the Eastern edge of Texas.

The cooler and drier weather made the time outside enjoyable. Today was overcast, the area had experienced recent flooding and mosquitos were thick. This time I wanted to complete the Junior Ranger, I combined my hike from the previous visit with time spent watching the park movie and exploring the visitor center displays.

This program is Senior Friendly, it is even stated in the introduction that “any person of any age can become a Junior Ranger”. I like that they specify ‘any person of any age’! I believe this is the first program, of almost 100 I have completed, that clearly includes all ages.

In the introduction the booklet looks fairly simple, you are expected to complete two of four activities; watch park movie, complete Visitor Center scavenger hunt, hike a trail and complete back of brochure and explore one of two areas by boat. I was able to complete 3 of the 4 activities, using the hike from the previous visit. The scavenger hunt seemed it would be easy, however once I started working on the Visitor Center Habitat Match I found it challenging. I also learned that there are nine distinct habitats within the Preserve. I needed help with placing an animal in their habitat with at one of the animal/habitat matches, the ranger was helpful.

For the hike section I completed it based on exploring the area outside the visitor center, as I couldn’t remember many of the animals or plants I saw in November 2013. I found a small strawberry plant with a berry turning red, I drew that in the ‘Express Yourself’ section.

The ranger on duty reviewed my completed booklet and had prepared a very professional certificate, with my name printer-generated. He initially gave me the standard Junior Ranger badge, but before I left he switched it out for an enhanced badge, featuring the Longleaf Pine of the Preserve.

Booklet, certificate & badge.

Arizona Trail National Scenic Trail – BLM

North Kaiba Trail – Grand Canyon National Park

Completed: January 19, 2016

Senior Friendly

The Arizona Trail almost runs through my backyard in Tucson, about 10 miles to the east. I have hiked short sections throughout Arizona; the whole trail is over 800 miles and reaches from Mexico to Utah. Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders are able to cover the entire distance either as a through-trip (taking a long time) or done in sections.

The trail passes through private and public land; public lands managed by state and federal agencies. Some of the federal agencies are; Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and Department of Interior. An important resource to enjoy the trail is the Arizona Trail Organization which can be reached at http://www.aztrail.org.


This program has a a very attractive handbook with excellent graphics and detailed information about what you would see along the 800 mile route. I was fortunate to find this booklet at the REI store in Tucson, however the entire handbook can be completed online. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) provided this Junior Explorer program. It is considered Senior Friendly as no age range is given. With the information provided in the reading the material in this booklet is advanced. With adult help younger children could answer the questions and earn the patch.

Another unique part of this program is your answers are submitted online. Once you complete the handbook and submit the answers an attractive patch is mailed to you. I was surprised when my patch arrived within a week. I celebrated by hiking a 3-1/2 mile section, Marsh Station Road to Colossal Cave Mountain Park.

But before I earned my patch I had to complete the booklet. The trail for this activity begins at the southern border, the border with Mexico and works north. The page titles are; Arizona-Sonora Borderlands, Following Water: from top to bottom, The Sky Islands, Biotic Communities: along the Arizona Trail, The Gila River, Tracking Felines: on the Arizona Trail, Mogollon Rim, Cream-Filled Cookie:Plate Tectonics, San Francisco Peaks, Anatomy: of a Volcano, The Grand Canyon, Build Your Own Trail:along the Arizona Trail, The Arizona Strip, Create A Sound Map:along the Arizona Trail, Share The Trail: with other trail users!, and More Places: to Play and Learn.

Not all of your answers will be submitted online, some drawing activities are included, as well as a demonstration of Plate Tectonics which you can eat after you are done! There are a couple of charts to complete and time spent listening outside to create a sound map. Only the online answers count towards earning the patch. I found answering all of the required questions nefoe I went online worked much better than The great part about this program is you can complete anywhere, without ever setting foot along the trail. I think if you did do this program without experiencing the trail itself, you would make it a priority to visit Arizona and enjoy some portion of the trail in the future.

A Junior Explorer Oath on the back of the handbook provides a certificate for you to complete. And as mentioned before, your attractive patch will arrive shortly just by submitting your answers online.

Montezuma Castle National Monument – Arizona


Montezuma Castle National Monument


Completed: October 7, 2015

Senior Friendly

Online booklet

Montezuma Castle National Monument includes two locations; the ruins, known as the castle, and a well, a few miles north. The castle is actually a set of ruins built by the Sinagua around 1400 CE (current era), it contained 45-50 rooms. This site was the first place to be named a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The well has ruins built into the walls of a sinkhole and a walking trail that connects to the year-round Beaver Creek. Over the years Montezuma Well has always been a favorite place to visit. It is not as popular as Montezuma Castle, but well worth a visit.

This Junior Ranger Activity Guide includes pages for both the castle and the well. It is considered Senior Friendly as there are three age groups; turtle symbol for 6-7 years old, sycamore leaf symbol for 8-9 years old, and macaw symbol for 10 years or older.

This booklet allows you to complete activities towards becoming a Junior Ranger at Montezuma Castle or Montezuma Well or both sites. The age symbols indicate which activities each group should complete. The activities include; Explore the Museum, Where would you build?, Getting Around, Knowing your Neighbors, Living at theWell, That’s a lot of water!, Nowhere Else on Earth, Surface Water: Swallet, Outlet, & Ditch, Sit, Look & Listen, Poetry Corner, and Share with a Park Ranger. . .
Montezuma Well

The museum at the Visitor Center had the answers for the crossword puzzle titled Explore the Museum. I learned about the different Native American tribes that called this area home. I appreciated the information provided about using current terminology to identify timekeeping by archeologists. CE, Common Era, is now used in place of A.D. and BCE, Before Common Era, in place of B.C.

Math skills were needed to complete the Getting Around page, this activity had you calculate how long it would take you to walk to Phoenix from the Verde Valley. Based on my calculations it would take me at least 12 days to walk the 125 miles.

Once at Montezuma Well the activity Living at the Well has you collect dates at the different kinds of homes lived in over the years, then calculate how old is the oldest house at the well, almost 1000 years. Nowhere Else on Earth has you identify the unique plants and animals, in this case very small specimens.

For the Poetry Corner I wrote a cinquain-style poem about the well.
Deep, Living
Breathe, Evaporate, Cool
Relaxing place to be
Booklet & badges
Before leaving the Montezuma Well I had the ranger on site review what I had done, he then presented me with a colorful button as their Junior Ranger badge. Back at Montezuma Castle the booklet was reviewed and the standard badge was presented. The inside back cover of the activity guide contains the Certificate of Achievement.

Canyonlands National Park – Utah


Canyonlands National Park


Completed: September 24, 2015

This national park is very large and spread out over several districts. I visited Islands in the Sky and Needles Districts on this trip. While visiting Islands in the Sky area I picked up the Junior Ranger booklet to begin working on the activities. A couple of days later I had the booklet reviewed while visiting the Needles area.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as there are 3 ages groups and the oldest does not have an upper age limit. The groups are; Leapin’ Lizard ages 5-7, Rowdy Rabbit ages 8 – 10 and Bouncin’ Bighorn ages 11 and up.

To complete the program you are to complete the activities for the specified age group; at least 4 for the first age group, at least 5 for the middle age group and at least 6 for the upper age group, watch the the park video, attend a ranger program or pick up litter and have a ranger check the booklet.

Islands in the Sky

The activities include; Ready, Set…Hike!, Where in the World, Canyonlands Crypto, Connect the Dots, Star Search, State of Erosion, Layering Logic, Protecting Our Park, Who Am I?, The Ancient Ones, Cowboy Maze, Park Poetry, Discovery Walk Bingo, Puzzling Plants Crossword, and Our National Parks.

Canyonlands Crypto helps you understand the importance of staying on trails to protect the unique and fragile soil in the SouthWest. By using a word back you fill in words in a paragraph that describes cryptobiotic soil. State of Erosion has you identify pictures of different types of landforms and use the park map to find names that match four landforms found in the park.

Ancient Puebloan Granary

For Park Poetry you are to write a cinquain poem about something you saw in Canyonlands. This is a simple style of poem that does not have to rhyme, but describes a subject you chose. I wrote about the vistas, which are vast and beautiful. Discovery Walk Bingo is always a great way to keep you looking as you travel through the park. Instead of finding specific animals, plants or objects the squares ask you to write or draw ‘something’. Something – soft, prickly, beautiful, you smell and 12 other description.

The Puzzling Plants Crossword had a twist from other crossword puzzles, the words in the word bank were anagrams (letters mixed up). So besides figuring out the answer to the crossword statement you had to unscramble the letters. The statements gave good information about plants to this unique environment.

After spending a couple of days in the area I had a ranger check my booklet while visiting the Needles District. The ranger signed the Certificate of Completion in the back and the booklet and awarded me the badge.

Booklet & Badge

Arches National Park – Utah


Arches National Park


Completed: September 23, 2015

Senior Friendly

Booklet Online: http://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/upload/ArchesJrRanger.pdf

I picked up the Junior Ranger Program booklet as I entered the park the first day I arrived in the area. There are no age requirements so it is considered Senior Friendly. Inside the front cover the instructions indicate that you should attend a ranger program or watch the park movie, pick up some letter, complete 3 starred activities plus one additional activity.

The activities are; A Place of Your Own, Draw a picture of the place you chose, Arches Rocks, What They Leave Behind, Rock Art Record, Plant Pursuit, and I Was Wondering.

Overall the this Junior Ranger program is fairly easy to complete within a day’s visit. I watched the park movie and learned that there are over 2000 arches within the park, the greatest concentration on Earth. Later, from a ranger we learned that most of the arches have been discovered since the 1980s.

For A Place of Your Own I chose The Windows area to identify 3 reasons why it is my favorite place; towering rock walls, many colors and a variety of geologic formations. I drew a picture of the wall of rocks up behind the visitor center. I was surprised at the variety of rock types and colors which I learned when I completed Arches Rocks.


Other activities involved animal tracks, rock art, and plants. The final activity had you come up with a couple of questions that you thought about while visiting the park, and two things to research after your visit. When I turned in my booklet for review by the ranger he had me ask the questions and we had a very nice discussion. I really liked having this interaction with the ranger. The ranger signed my certificate of completion and issued an enhanced badge.


Dinosaur National Monument – Utah & Colorado

Dinosaur National Monument


Completed: September 21, 2015

Booklet online: http://www.nps.gov/dino/learn/kids

On a previous visit to this site I completed the Junior Paleontologist program.

The activities are; What Can You Find at Dinosaur?, What is Important to Protect?, How Did the Fossils Get Here?, Can You Find the Skull?, What Was That For?, What Do Dinosaur Names Tell Us?, Can You Visit Without a Trace?, Animal Tracks Guide, What Do Animal Tracks Tell Us?, What Have You Discovered?, Why Should Echo Park Be Protected?, Who Lived Here First?, How Did Homesteaders Survive?, and How Will You Explore, Learn & Protect as a Junior Ranger?

Most of the activities are fairly easy to complete, but interesting. I enjoyed translating the dinosaur names from Latin to English for the activity “What Do Dinosaur Names Tell Us? The page for Animal Tracks Guide was useful, as this is frequently needed for many Junior Ranger programs, and provided good drawings and details of nine different animals. I observed some prints near the campground, after sketching them I was able to use the guide to identify them as rabbit prints.

I like to try my hand at drawing and carry colored pencils with me as I travel. I completed a drawing of the rocks across the river from the campground for What Have You Discovered? activity. There were many layers and levels to include in the picture. The simple crossword was based on homesteading terms, specifically for the Josie Bassett Morris homestead within the park. The maze for Can You Visit Without a Trace? was very well designed. Besides finding your way through the maze, you had to make decisions to avoid harming the environment by following the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.

Quarry Exhibit Hall

After visiting the Quarry Exhibit Hall on my last morning to finish the booklet I turned it in at the visitor center. A ranger reviewed the booklet, had me recite the pledge and awarded me the enhanced Junior Ranger badge.

Booklet & Badge

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado


Rocky Mountain National Park


Completed: September 19, 2015

Booklet Online: http://www.nps.gov/romo/learn/kids

Senior Friendly

A number of park sites have their Junior Ranger booklet available online. I prefer to get the printed copy at the park, however sometimes I feel as a Senior completing the Junior Ranger booklets I should provide the copy myself. Knowing that we would be going through Rocky Mountain along our trip, I checked and found their booklet was available online, so I printed off the entire booklet. This was very helpful for this park site as I arrived in the area on a Friday and learned that campsites would be full all weekend. I ended up camping near Fort Collins and had to drive through the park the next day.

The program is divided into two age groups; younger than 12 and you complete 8 activities and for those 12 or older are to complete 10 of the 11 activities. As there is no upper age limit this program is considered Senior Friendly. I found many of the activities to be very well done and helpful to appreciate this very special park.

The activities included; Ranger Tips, Trail Ridge Road Map, Wildlife Watch, Food Web Connections, Animal Signs Treasure Hunt, Tree Finders, Ranger Programs, Weather Worlds, Alpine Tundra Adaptations, You Are A Junior Ranger!, plus 4 Ecosystem activities. The ecosystem pages were filled with excellent information specific to the four systems; Montane, Subalpine, Alpine Tundra and Riparian.

View from Moraine Park

For several activities I was able to complete before I arrived at the park. Along the way I had picked up the park brochure which was helpful. Once in the park I was able to complete the other activities and enjoyed a perfect late Summer, almost Fall, day! The Tree Finder activity was very helpful to place the big trees based on where they are found in the park at different elevations. The crossword puzzle focused on weather, something that this park experiences routinely and at times dramatically.

Alpine Ridge

A focus of this program was understanding the four major ecosystems found within the park, as mentioned earlier. This information was useful to complete the Trail Ridge Road Map activity. Traveling from the east side of the park to the west side you experience all of the different ecosystems. When we arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center, at 11,796 feet, I had a ranger check my booklet. She signed the certificate and had me recite the Junior Ranger pledge in front of the window, overlooking the meadow below. This was a special moment for me, several years ago I saw 3 twenty-something young men recite the pledge at this same place. It was then that I decided I would start doing Junior Ranger programs, and so I have!

Booklet & badge

This is 100th anniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park. Besides having a special,passport stamp at the visitor centers they also have a special sticker for the Junior Ranger program which they add to the certificate on the back of the booklet.

Centennial sticker

Fort Laramie National Historic Site & Guernsey State Park – Wyoming


Fort Laramie National Historic Site
Guernsey State Park


Completed: September 18, 2015

Senior Friendly

This is a very unique Junior Ranger program, a state park partnered with a National Park Site, in one booklet with a special award if both programs are completed. I have been to Fort Laramie NHS on several occasions, but had not visited the state park. It turned out to be a wonderful combination of places to visit.

One booklet contains both programs. Neither programs indicate an age, upper or lower, so it is considered Senior Friendly.

I started at Fort Laramie NHS with the activities; Visitor Center/Museum, Fort Buildings (10), Trash and Artifacts, People from the Past, Scavenger Hunt Bingo. In order to complete the booklet I walked the perimeter of the fort to visit the buildings and get the requested information. At first I thought counting the fireplaces and stoves in Old Bedlam was busy work until I learned that stoves were ordered for every room, even though there were fireplaces in all of the rooms. The first winter was so cold and the fireplaces did not heat well enough so the stoves were added. In order to complete People from the Past you had to ask a ranger, which provided additional information about the history of the fort.

A ranger reviewed my booklet and stamped the certificate with the Fort Laramie NHS passport stamp. This finished the part of the booklet for Fort Laramie NHS. I received the standard Junior Ranger badge and purchased the embroidered patch before leaving the fort.

Before heading over to Guernsey State Park there were two places away from the park that had information I needed for their program. I had visited the Oregon Trail Ruts site previously, but enjoyed walking the short interpretive trail again. From there I drove back to Register Cliff to view the many names engraved in the cliff. Unfortunately many other names have been carved, some very recently. With some effort the names from the 1800s could be identified.

Oregon Trail Ruts

These sites are between Fort Laramie NHS and Guernsey State Park, south of the town of Guernsey. Both places are open to the public and free. We left Guernsey and headed west on US 26 to enter the state park where we camped for the night. The next morning we went to the Civilian Conservation Corp museum, built in 1936 by the CCC. It is an amazing building, frozen in time. The displays are original to the building, as is the lighting. Walking through the museum is like stepping back in time. The Junior Ranger booklet has you find information inside and outside of the museum.

Guernsey State Park – Civilian Conservation Corp Museum


The staff member in the museum reviewed my booklet and stamped the certificate with the Guernsey State Park stamp. She presented me with an attractive metal Wyoming State Parks Junior Ranger badge. Because I had completed both programs she awarded me the special coin commemorating both sites.

Double booklet, pins, coin & patch
Fort Laramie NHS

Guernsey State Park


Devil’s Tower National Monument – Wyoming

Devil’s Tower National Monument


Completed: September 16, 2015

Senior Friendly

Most people relate to this place based on the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I just enjoy the physical feature of Devil’s Tower and the nature found here. While camping here I saw prairie dogs, mule deer, wild turkey, American Robin and Mountain Bluebirds.

Animals of Devil’s Tower

There are only two age groups listed on the cover of this Junior Ranger Activity Guide; prairie dog for ages 4-8 and Devil’s Tower for ages 9 and up. No minimum activities are given in the booklet. A ranger told me to complete as many activities as possible. Because of time available I was concerned about completing this program. The ranger suggested I complete what I could while there, finish other activities after I left and send in the completed booklet. She also told me that they were out of the Junior Ranger badges, so it would have to be mailed at a later date.

The activities in the Activity Guide; draw a picture of a plant or animal, Animals of Devils Tower (word search), The Geologic Story, What Could it Be?, What’s in a Name?, Wildflowers, Technical Climbing ( crossword), Bingo, Fill in the Blank, Fires and Floods, and Tower Journal. What’s in a Name? has to be completed in the visitor center, it involves matching the different Native American languages with their name for the tower. Most of the other activities could be done off site, as the information in the guide was very well presented and complete.

I enjoyed drawing a prairie dog peering out of a burrow and a spiderwort wildflower. I learned that Devil’s Tower was the first National Monument designated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. On the Tower Journal page I recorded that I hiked the Red Beds Trail. On the line “something that made me laugh” while hiking, I recorded ‘ a red squirrel scolding me’. This trail is about 3 miles long and circles the base of the tower, a bit further lower than the popular Tower Trail. I only met two other couples along the trail. The views were enjoyable.

Red Bed Trail

As I didn’t complete the program while there I did not receive the certificate or badge. Once I receive those I will update this posting.
February 2016
Last Fall I mailed my completed booklet back to the monument. In very little time I received the booklet back with the certificate completed and the Junior Ranger badge.