Denali National Park & Preserve – Alaska

Denali National Park & Preserve
Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly

Completed: April 19, 2020

When I visited Denali National Park and Preserve in June 1998 I was not doing Junior Ranger programs, nor were they possibly available at that time. We camped at Riley Creek campground and took the tour bus into the center of the park. My husband and I drove up to Alaska, spent 5 weeks on the road, and overall the weather was wonderful. During our visit to Denali it was cold and rainy, which prevented us from seeing the full view of Denali, which is is fairly common. It is reported that only 30% of visitors see the top of the peak. The pictures posted are scanned from snapshots I took with a film camera and appear sharper than the originals do now.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine visited Denali and sent me their Junior Ranger booklet. I put it away, while cleaning up my files during #StayHome April 2020 I decided I would complete the booklet. Luckily I could complete enough of the activities, over 20 years later, to earn the badge.

The program is Senior Friendly as the upper age group is listed as Ages 12+. All ages groups need to complete 2 Park Explorations and either 5, 7 or 9 Book Activities depending on your age. My Park Explorations included; ride a bus into the park, attend a ranger program, visit the sled dog kennels and explore the Denali Visitor Center.

The book activities I completed were; Denali Natural World Bingo, Big Five, Your Five, Denali’s Dinosaurs, The Athabaskans, What Type of Ranger, Go Sled Dogs, Go!, Leave No Trace, Detecting Denali’s Changes, Poetry in the Park, Wilderness Word Search and Measuring Up.

By going back and reading my travel journal and looking at my photos I was able to confirm that I saw all 5 of the Big Five mammals while exploring the park; grizzly bear, wolf, dall sheep, caribou and moose. I enjoyed writing a poem about camping in the park. Doing the math to determine the height of the White House, Old Faithful, Statue of Liberty, a redwood tree and the Washington Monument in relation to Denali at 20,310 feet was interesting.

I mailed my completed booklet to the park and soon received the booklet back with a nice letter and their attractive wooden badge. While I always prefer to complete a Junior Ranger program during a visit to the park, I really enjoyed looking at my photos from the visit in 1998, as well as reading my travel journal and reliving the trip. Great memories and now they have been extended by completing their Junior Ranger program.

City of Rocks National Preserve – Idaho

City of Rocks National Reserve

Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly

Completed: April 14, 2020

After six visits from 1998 through October 2019 to City of Rocks National Preserve, I finally finished their Junior Ranger booklet in April 2020, while staying home during the covid-19 pandemic. While organizing my junior ranger files I found the almost completed booklet. Luckily anything I needed to do while onsite I had completed, I just needed to finalize a few pages.

This park site is in the southern section of Idaho and is managed in conjunction with Idaho State Parks and Recreation. On previous visits we have camped within the preserve at NPS campgrounds and state park campgrounds. The beauty of this park can be experienced by camping or just on a day trip. I love the rocks; the variety of shapes, composition and groupings. The Native American history, as well as the California Trail route adds to the visit.

The program is considered Senior Friendly as the booklet is designed for ages 10 & up. There are thirteen activities, and seven are to be completed to earn the Junior Ranger badge. I completed ten activities, and partially did a couple of others. There is a nice mix between geology, natural features, history, map skills and art activities.

Rocky Scavenger Hunt provided excellent background on nine different geologic properties found in the preserve and an activity to match pictures to the terms. Matching animal characteristics, as well as animal tracts were done in the Who Am I? and Name that Track activity. The Map Search page made me realize there is more for me explore on my next trip to City of Rocks Preserve.

After contacting the staff by email I was told to take photos of my completed pages and email them to a designated ranger. I received positive feedback about my work and within a week I received their attractive wooden, enhanced badge.

Southern Nevada’s National Wildlife Refuges – Nevada

Desert NWR

Southern Nevada’s National Wildlife Refuges
Desert NWR
Ash Meadows NWR
Moapa Valley NWR
Pahranagat NWR

Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly

Completed: November 25, 2018

This was a fun program which took a couple of years to complete, and a couple of trips to the four different National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) managed as Southern Nevada’s NWR, and known as Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Each site has a unique ecosystem and well worth spending time visiting. All four are within a days drive of Las Vegas.

The program is considered Senior Friendly as the oldest group is listed for those over 10 years old. This program covers four sites and provides three levels of rewards. You can earn a badge, pins and a patch. By completing the first part of the booklet you earn the plastic Junior Refuge badge for the Desert NWR Complex. This just requires completing 2, 3, or 4 out of 7 pages in the booklet, depending on your age group, which are not site-specific.

Moapa Valley NWR

Each site has 2 activities which are to be completed while visiting. Once the activities are completed you receive a pin for that site. If you are able to visit all four sites and complete the activities you receive an attractive patch. The awards are pictured below, minus the pin for Ash Meadows which I lost.

Over two years I was able to visit all of the sites and complete the activities. The Corn Creek-Tac-Toe for Desert NWR and Springo-Bingo for Ash Meadows NWR were my favorite activities. The Refuge Journal for each site had you record weather data and your favorite thing about that refuge. My favorite things were;
Desert – watching the birds drink from a branch
Ash Meadows – Quiet!, Longstreet Spring
Moapa Valley – water in the desert, desert tortoises also live here
Pahranagat – Vermillion Flycatcher, this far north!
Longstreet Spring – Ash Meadows NWR

I received the badge at Ash Meadows NWR on November 22, 2017 and the patch at Pahranagat on November 25, 2018. Each site has different days and hours that the visitor centers are open, check their websites before visiting. While in the Las Vegas area, or on your way to Death Valley spend some time at these treasured lands.

Wildland Fire Management – National

Photo credit:

Wildland Fire Management
Completed at Tonto National Monument

Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly

Completed: May 8, 2017

While visiting Tonto National Monument I was offered the Wildland Fire Management Junior Ranger booklet. With wildland fires continuing to be a predominant factor in many of the park environments, learning about the management of fires was interesting.

This program has six activities which was easy to complete while I was at Tonto National Monument. This is a Senior Friendly program as no age requirements are given. The activities include; matching, multiple choice, fill in the blank, unscramble and graphic representation of fire hazards. When visiting parks ask a ranger if they have this booklet and badge.

Photo credit:

Once I competed the booklet a staff member reviewed the booklet, gave the pledge and awarded me the unique badge.

Wildland Fire Management Resources;

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – Kansas

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly

Completed: June 22, 2019

Each revisit to this site brings more places to explore, and this late June day had perfect weather to again enjoy Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The Junior Ranger booklet was a great way to learn more about this park site. This is an unique site, it is co-managed by the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy. It was established in 1996 to highlight a tallgrass prairie ecosystem on the Spring Hill Ranch. Once you leave the modern visitor center you can explore the ranch on your own or with scheduled tours.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as there are no age requirements listed in the booklet. The only requirement to earn the badge was to complete five activities. As the booklet has 18 possible activities, this makes completing the program easy. I always appreciate having choices and this booklet gives lots of options, it was easy to find 5 and more interesting activities.

I completed more than five activities, but spent most of my time completing Activity 11: Historic Spring Hill Ranch Buildings. While touring the grounds there are interpretive signs which provide the information needed to complete a series of questions. Badger, the park horse mascot, was out and about and curious as we walked past the barnyard.

As my husband is a retired paleontologist I used his expertise to complete Activity 8: Fossils, Geology, and Rock Fences. After examining the many limestone blocks which make up the ranch buildings I drew pictures of fossils we discovered.

A variety of topics; American Indian Culture, Plants and Grasses, Lower Fox Creek School #14, Get to Know the Preserve (5 Senses), as well as a short essay and drawing a picture, provides lots of way to explore and learn about this site. Once I finished my booklet I returned to the visitor center. Ranger Mary reviewed my booklet, administered the pledge and presented me with a standard Junior Ranger badge. A great place to spend a summer afternoon.

Click to access TPNP-Junior-Ranger-Guide-2019.pdf

Scotts Bluff National Monument – Nebraska

Scotts Bluff National Monument

Completed:June 25, 2019

The best experiences are unplanned. As we were driving towards Scotts Bluff National Monument I saw on my Instagram feed that a fellow Senior/Junior Ranger, and one I had not met in person, was also on his way to Scotts Bluff NM. I made contact with @cliftonwanders, Patrick, and agreed to meet in the picnic area. Once we met we headed off to the visitor center to pick up our Junior Ranger booklets.

The visitor center was closed for renovation, a temporary trailer was onsite for passport stamps, gift shop and ranger contact. We learned that we only needed to hike a trail at Bluff Summit and answer questions related to the trails we hiked.

We drove up to the top and walked the South and North Overlook Trails. Seems like we backtracked a bit to find the places that would yield the answers to the questions posed in the booklet. I think our non-stop talking about our travels and common interests may have interfered with a more organized path. Overall it was a great experience, so fun to share a park experience with another fanatic!

Not rated as Junior Ranger, Senior Friendly as the booklet indicates the program is designed for ages 6 through 12. However, the staff was welcoming for these junior/seniors to complete the program. The requirements may be different depending on access to the visitor center. Upon return to the visitor center the ranger on duty administered the oath and issued us the wooden badge which highlighted the 100th anniversary of this site.

Photo Credits: @cliftonwanders, except for booklet. Thank you for commemorating this visit!

Colorado National Monument – Colorado

Colorado National Monument

Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly

Completed: June 30, 2019

A great place to explore, by car or foot. This site may not be on everyone’s list to visit, I would move it up and make sure to visit next time you are in the area. One thing we have realized over the past few years is Grand Junction, CO is close to Moab, UT which has better known park sites. The access to camping and lower cost lodging is much better in Grand Junction, and only a 2 hour drive away. During the busiest season rooms and campsites may not be available or too expensive in Moab, consider staying in Grand Junction and enjoying Colorado National Monument while in the area.

When I visited we were traveling through the park from West to East, with a stop at the visitor center near the beginning of the visit. When I picked up the booklet I asked if I could mail in the completed booklet after our visit, I was told that was acceptable. When planning to visit you can also print out a booklet in advance, the current link is listed below.

This program is considered Senior Friendly, the oldest age category is listed as Over 10. Other age groupings are 7 & under and 8-10 years old. For the older crowd at least 7 activities with eleven possible are to be completed. Besides completing the activities in the booklet you are expected to take a hike or attend a ranger program.

I took a delightful, short hike from the visitor center on a hot day along the Alcove Trail. I spent time photographing the view, tiny flowers, cryptobiotic soil, a lizard and a prehistoric-looking crane fly. A short trail, which allowed me to focus on the views and critters along the way.

Activities in the book included;
Explore – Trail Report, Learn – Be a Geologist, Learn – The Wear-Away Forces, Learn – Wild Ways, Learn – Living Soils, Explore – Meet the Plants, Learn – Otto’s Dream, Learn – Living off the Land, and Protect this Land Forever. Several activities focused on geology, a main theme of this park. Learning about the through John Otto’s Dream was enlightening. The focus on biology through Meet the Plants and Living Soil was the most interesting for me. Overall the booklet is well designed and was enjoyable to complete.

I finished up some of the drawing activities after I got home from the trip and mailed it to the address on their website. My booklet was returned with the standard Junior Ranger badge aling with a congratulatory letter from Ranger Abby. I really appreciated the persoal comme ts she added to the booklet.

Download the Activity Guide;

Click to access Activity-Guide.pdf

Junior Arizona Archeologist – 18 Arizona NPS sites

Navajo National Monument Archaeology
Navajo National Monument – Betatakin Ruin

Junior Arizona Archeologists
18 Arizona NPS sites

Click to access Junior-AZ-Arch-2016-as-published.pdf

Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly

Completed: October 18, 2018

In 2016 the Southern Arizona National Parks Office and Western National Parks Association created a statewide junior ranger program highlighting archeology throughout Arizona. The Oxford dictionary defines archeology as “the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains“. Without a doubt the Arizona sites provide a wealth of experiences to explore the state’s rich archeological history.

Organ Pipe Cactus NM - Archaeology
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – Victoria Mine

Eighteen of the twenty-two NPS Arizona sites are included in this program. To earn the patch only four sites have to be visited. A site specific ‘rocker’ patch was initially available for all of the sites. By the time I finished it in 2018 several sites had run out of their patch. I was able to get 12 of the 18 ‘rocker’ patches. Every site I visited was friendly to this Senior.

Each site has two pages to complete, one to be done on site and another page that can be done before you arrive. To be honest I found some of these on site activities to be the hardest I have ever done. Matching the picture in the booklet with the items on display in the visitor center was a challenge. The mixture of photo identification with answering questions was a great way to learn about the site’s archeology.

Montezuma Castle NM Archaeology
Montezuma Castle National Monument

I never tire of visiting the many Arizona National Park Services sites. Having this statewide program focused on archeology provided a fun experience.

Arizona Explorer Junior Ranger

Arizona Explorer

22 Arizona NPS sites

Completed: November 20, 2018

Junior Ranger – Senior Friendly


Click to access az-explorer.pdf

Explore Arizona and earn a patch! With twenty-two National Park Service sites scattered across the state this program provides a variety of experiences. Western National Parks Association along with the National Park Service Southern Arizona Office created a state-wide Junior Ranger program. All of the sites were welcoming of this Senior Ranger.

With only four site visits and 7 pages of activities you can earn the attractive patch, with a visit to any of the sites you can earn the small site-specific ‘rocker’ patch. I was determined to visit all of the sites and get all of the rockers! Over seven months I made it to all of the sites, but the final site, Grand Canyon – Parashant National Monument eluded me. We planned to visit the monument and complete the assignment, but the office staff in St. George, UT told us no rocker was made for this site.

Now, for the best part of this program – it is based on photography! At each site there is a specific Photo Challenge. Some of the challenges involved a hike, some were right at the park’s visitor center. Rather than detail the activities in the booklet, you can view them using the link above. Below are some of the Photo Challenges I completed.

Casa Grande National Monument – Hidden Room

Chiricahua National Monument – Volcanic Hoodoos

Grand Canyon National Park – Kaibab Formation

Montezuma Castle National Monument – Historic Diorama

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – Lee’s Ferry Peach tree

Tonto National Monument – Salado Pottery

Tonto Salado

Coronado National Monument – International Border
This hike will also qualify for their ‘I Hike for Health’ pin


As time goes on some sites may not have the ‘rocker’ patch for their site, however the Photo Challenge and learning about the park will make this program timeless. Get Outside and Explore Arizona!

Waco Mammoth National Monument – Texas

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Completed: January 5, 2019

Senior Friendly

Another National Park Service (NPS) site that was open during the January 2019 government shut down was Waco Mammoth National Monument in central Texas. This is another site that is still being managed by the local government and Baylor University, as arranged when it was named a national monument in 2015.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as the upper age group is given as Ages 13 and up. The three age groups are 5-8, 9-12 and 13 and up. Respectively, the required completed activities for the age groups are 5, 7 and 10.

Because this site has their booklet online I was able to print out several pages in advance of my visit and complete them before arriving. This helped to save time while heading home after being on a road trip for almost two weeks. In advance I completed the word search and a crossword puzzle, both had word banks.

While onsite I went on the tour, on a quiet Saturday morning I was the only one on the tour. Ranger Summer was an excellent tour guide, currently a volunteer and college student with plans to become a NPS Ranger. My favorite part of the tour was learning that two boys discovered the first of the Columbian Mammoth bones while exploring the creek bed. Luckily the families took the large bone to Baylor University in 1968. Those boys, now grown men, still live in the area and at times participate in tours. The building covers the massive bone field with some skeletons exposed and fairly complete. The Columbian Mammoth was much larger than the Wooly Mammoth.


As always I enjoyed the scavenger hunt and interviewing a ranger, both favorite activities of any junior ranger program. Upon completion of the ten activities and review by Ranger Summer I was sworn in as a Junior Ranger. What was unique about this ceremony is my hand was placed on Mammoth tooth (replica), how cool! I received their enhanced Junior Ranger badge depicting their signature Columbian Mammoth.

Click to access WACO-Online-Junior-Ranger-Book-508.pdf

Instagram: @Srjrranger