More on Activities

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Yellowstone Up Close and Personal Chat Page Version 1.60 ] [ FAQ ]

Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 18:45:35 02/16/16

In Reply to: June 9-12 posted by Erin K


In the interest of full disclosure, I have worked as a seasonal interpretive ranger in Yellowstone, thus the familiarity and passion for that mission. I also did interpretive work as a volunteer at Rocky Mountain National Park for a decade, prior to moving north. I also owned and operated a Yellowstone-centric tour business. I also worked as an NPS temp employee in the Environmental Education office on the electronic field trip program (Windows Into Wonderland).

So, back to NPS-orchestrated activities: You may or may not be familiar with the Junior Ranger program, which is featured in most of the larger national parks and historic sites. Your 10 year old, particularly if she is a good student, with lots of intellectual curiosity, might get a kick out of participating. Candidates pay a nominal fee (a few bucks), and for that, they get a Junior Ranger tabloid full of activities they need to complete to qualify for their Junior Ranger certification. When they fulfill the requirements, they turn in the paper at any Visitor Center, where it is checked by one of the rangers on duty. If it is not real busy, frequently, the rangers will ask a few questions to insure that the candidate did their own work, and did not get undue assistance from mom and/or dad. It is a great opportunity for kids to interact with a ranger. I can't remember if the program goes as high as age 14. I'm thinking it might go to about age 12, but I could be wrong. Once the candidate is certified by the ranger, there is an impromptu ceremony held right on the spot, where all the other visitors in the Center are encouraged to participate, and offer recognition to the new Junior Ranger. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of interpretive ranger work. Most rangers really get into it. Be aware that for the older kids, like your 10 year old, the typical activities detailed in the tabloid require visitation to many of the major park features. Also, there are usually certain activities that can only be satisfied by getting out and seeing the park in general. It actually can be quite beneficial to the entire family. If there is interest in participating in the Junior Ranger program, I would suggest you stop at the first Visitor Center you come to, on the first day, and get started. Also, this program usually requires attendance at at least one ranger-led activity, after which all the Junior Ranger candidates queue up to get their tabloid signed by the ranger that led the program.

I'm going to piggyback on what Granite Head suggested regarding wildlife viewing. If you have binoculars, DEFINITELY bring them. If you have spotting scopes, or can borrow one from a family member of friend, DO IT. Once you are in Yellowstone, you will see why. Quite often, you will be pulled off the road in one of the broad meadowed areas, and there will be some charismatic megafauna (like bear, moose, wolf, etc.) off in the distance. Having to borrow other people's scopes gets old after a while. Now, given that this is your first trip, and you have lots of other things to do, in addition to wildlife watching, don't fret the absence of a spotting scope.

A quick advertisement for the value of networking: One of the best ways to find out what is going on in the park is to network with (1) employees and (2) other visitors. This could be info on where everyone is seeing a particular grizzly or what rare geyser has been going off frequently lately. When I say employees, I mean those who get off their derrieres and get out. Some do. Some don't. The only way to find out is to ask. If you are in a restaurant or store, chat up the employees. It doesn't take long to figure out who has the real skinny, and who doesn't. When you meet other visitors, do the same thing. If you want info on wildlife sightings, the best place to get it is at other wildlife sightings. That's where the passionate "critter people" are going to be. Same thing for geysers. Chat up the "geyser gazers" in the geyser basins. Some are kind of reclusive and shy. Many truly enjoy sharing their passion with those new to Yellowstone. You will get a sense of "recruitment", as folks with different primary interests attempt to lure you into their obsession.

More to come.


Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

Optional Link URL:
Link Title:
Optional Image URL:
Please enter the following value as your Submit Key:     
Submit Key:
Note: The Submit Key is Case Sensitive. Do not Copy and Paste!

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Yellowstone Up Close and Personal Chat Page Version 1.60 ] [ FAQ ]