Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Completed: June 23, 2016

Senior Friendly

Be prepared for spectacular views of a river flowing – down in a narrow canyon. There is so much to see and do in Colorado and easy to bypass this park -Don’t! Do turn off the highway and come explore, both the North and South Rim.

Before I arrived at the South Rim Visitor Center I had stopped at the Curecanti National Recreation Area, just east on US 50, and picked up a Junior Ranger Activity Book for Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. I completed the booklet by driving the road along the rim and stopping at several overlooks. When I turned in the completed booklet I learned I had been given the booklet for the youngest crowd (designed for ages 4 – 6), however the staff awarded me the Junior Ranger badge. On my next visit I’ll complete the more advanced program.

The booklet I completed had five activities, and four had to be completed to earn the badge.
The activities are; Draw the Black Canyon!, Are you my Mother?, Explore the Wild Inner Canyon!, Who lives Here? and Tic-Tac-Toe! As with other basic Junior Ranger programs I enjoyed this booklet, especially taking time to work on Draw the Black Canyon.

Are you my Mother? had you match a picture of the young with an adult animal, like a caterpillar with a butterfly. The nine squares for Tic-Tac-Toe were fairly easy to complete three in a row, some of the activities that I completed were; having a picnic, spot a soaring bird, visit two overlooks, smell a sagebrush and take a picture, as well as other activities.

Ranger Amy was enthusiastic in reviewing my booklet, signing the certificate on the back of the booklet and issuing my enhance wooden Junior Ranger badge. The badge depicts steep canyon walls and the Gunnison River.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Colorado


Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Completed: July 17, 2017


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!


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.



Bighorn Canyon NRA – Wyoming & Montana


Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Montana & Wyoming

Completed: June 20, 2016

Copy for download;

Click to access Jrranger%20booklet%20for%20web.pdf

This recreation area spans two states, Wyoming and Montana. The Bighorn River is dammed at the northern end, in Montana, to form a large reservoir. I have camped at both ends, in Wyoming and Montana, most recently in Montana twice in the past year. During this last visit I picked up the Junior Ranger Booklet and was able to complete it during my visit.

This program is not rated as Senior Friendly as the booklet lists two age groups; ages 6-9 and ages 10-12. However, the staff willingly provided the booklet to this senior. Ages 6-9 are to complete four pages with ages 10-12 completing five of seven pages.

The activities in the booklet include; Yellowtail Dam, A Scavenger Hunt, Historic Sites, Bighorn Canyon Word Search, Bighorn Canyon Bingo, The Bighorn River Maze and the final page is journal to record your activities.

Cedar Waxwing

I enjoyed the Scavenger Hunt which is based on information in the park brochure, as well as your observations. The bingo activity included a short description of each item on the page, this provided additional information of the item seen while touring the park. The last page as a journal where I recorded what I saw and heard while at the park, as well as sharing what I enjoyed most during my visit. For me, identifying a new bird, Eastern Kingbird, was the most enjoyable.

I returned to the visitor center at the Yellowtail Dam and an intern reviewed my booklet and administered the pledge. I enjoy meeting the interns that provide important staffing for so many of the parks.

Night Explorer

Night Explorer

Junior Ranger- Senior Friendly

Completed: September 18, 2014 at Chaco Canyon Cultural National Park, New Mexico

One of the great things about many National Park sites is the incredible night sky. I enjoy the night skies when it is clear and there are many stars to be seen, but the specifics associated with astronomy are not something I have spent time learning. So this program was a learning opportunity for me.

In the Fall of 2013 I picked up the Night Explorer activity guide while visiting Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. I wasn’t able to complete the booklet until this past September while visiting Chaco Canyon Cultural National Park. This park has incredible night skies, it is so far from cities that add light to the night skies that on most evenings the sky here is an astronomy classroom.

This is a multi-site program that is provided through the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region. Many park sites have this activity booklet, look around the visitor center or ask a ranger if they have these materials. It is considered Senior Friendly as the upper age group is listed as “ages 8 and up” with 2 stars for their activities. The lower age groups is ‘ages 5 and up’ with 1 star for their activities and 3 star activities are listed as the ‘most challenging’.

So, as a Senior ranger doing this booklet, I focused on the ‘3 star’ activities. Each page had a one star, two star and three star level, basically an extension activity built onto the initial one star activity. The activities included; Exploring other your Senses, Astounding Sun, Smart Stargazing, Where should the light go?, Nocturnal animals, How dark is the sky?, Changing faces of the Moon, Solar system smarts, Navigating at night, Constellation riddles, Same stars, different stories, Deep-sky match, Star formation picture jumble, and A-mazing Galaxy.

I love the dark skies, but the details and terminology have always eluded me. So, this program significantly added to my knowledge base. The booklet is full of information, with lots of definitions and explanations. The activities did an excellent job of connecting the skies to life here on earth, both to animals and daily life. One activity had you identify the constellations, it was the easiest, the ones involving star cycle terms proved to be the most challenging.

A fun, creative activity was creating and naming your own constellation from a star field provided. The ‘3 star’ level was to make up a story about your constellation. The hardest activity was the ‘Star formation picture jumble’ which had you figure out the sequence of a star’s life cycle. I ended up asking for help from a ranger at Chaco Canyon, she found it difficult as well. Together we were able to figure out the last 2 sequences. The jumble is pictured below;

Once completed I had the booklet reviewed while visiting Chaco Canyon Cultural National Park. At the time I finished the program they still had the attractive patch pictured above. Several parks with this program told me soon they would be giving the standard Junior Ranger badge titled ‘Night Explorer’. Earning either item is a great reward for this multi-site, challenging program.