|Junior Ranger Program
This page discusses the Junior Ranger program in detail.
This program at National Park Service sites is about
completing a booklet or other activity and receiving a
badge, patch, or pin. In the process of doing this you
learn interesting facts about nature and history. In the
last few years, since I started this Web site, the National
Park Service has made many improvements in its Junior
Ranger program as part of its efforts to upgrade it. Some
of them are discussed here.
|(New York) do not mention that they have Junior Ranger booklets at their sites for kids
to complete to get badges.
When you have some sites near each other there may be one Junior Ranger booklet
covering more than one site. An example is the one given out at the National Mall in
Washington, D.C. The activities cover the different monuments, some of which are
separate units in the 391 count of units of the National Park Service. For completing this
booklet you will get one badge, which says "National Mall." Another example of this is a
situation in Washington state, where there is one Junior Ranger booklet covering three
National Park Service units: North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National
Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The booklet covers all
three but the badge says "North Cascades National Park." The Junior Ranger booklet
for George Washington Memorial Parkway has activities about different sub-units within
it but at least one sub-unit, Great Falls Park, has its own booklet also.
Some park sites which are very large can have different Junior Ranger booklets at
different sub-units in it. An example is Gateway National Recreation Area. For the
Staten Island, New York sub-unit there is a booklet, and for the Sandy Hook, New
Jersey sub-unit there is a different booklet. They award different badges and patches,
even though they are all part of one park site. At Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in
Alaska, the booklet available at the visitor center at Copper Center is different from the
one at the Slana ranger station in the Nabesna District of the park; at Copper center you
will get a badge with the park's name on it but at the Slana ranger station you will get a
pin with the park name and "Nabesna District."
At Colonial National Historical Park
(Virginia), their Yorktown and
Jamestown sub-units have distributed
different booklets and patches for
many years. At Fredericksburg and
Spotsylvania County Battlefields
Memorial National Military Park
(Virginia), there are separate booklets
and badges for Fredericksburg and
In addition to most National Park
Service sites having the Junior
Ranger program, several affiliate
sites also have it and you can earn
badges there. Those affiliates which
have it that I know about are Fallen Timbers & Fort Miami National Historic Site (Ohio),
Oklahoma City National Memorial (Oklahoma), and the Inupiat Heritage Center (Alaska).
The Lewis & Clark National Heritage Trial, not one of the 391 National Park Service
sites but affiliated through the national trails system, has one which must be submitted
In some parks, they have different Junior Ranger booklets for different age groups. This
was the case at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland). In
others, inside the same booklet, there may be different pages for different age groups.
Probably the most elaborate Junior Ranger booklet in terms of its printing and production
which I have encountered was the one at Fort Frederica National Monument. It was in
full color and contained pop-ups and inserts. You had to pretend you were delivering a
message to Gen. Oglethorpse, Georgia founder and governor. In the course of doing
this, you walked around the site and learned what life was like in Frederica, Georgia,
during British colonial days.
Overall, the quality of the Junior Ranger booklets has improved in the last few years.
Using a grant from the National Park Foundation, the National Park Service every
summer sends college interns called "Junior Ranger ambassadors" to some parks to
redo those parks' booklets. The results have been new Junior Ranger booklets which
are colorful, less complicated, and more pleasing in appearance. Much of the
improvement has been due to the hard work of Corky Mayo, retired NPS Program
Manager for Interpretation and Education, and Wendy Davis, current NPS Servicewide
Education Program Coordinator. They have worked tirelessly over the last few years
and the results are appealing, pleasant-looking, and colorful Junior Ranger booklets for
youngsters to complete.
At some sites, they have special programs so that instead of completing a booklet you
are awarded the badge or patch. For example, at some parks if the kids go on a hike
with a ranger they will be awarded the Junior Ranger badge or patch. At some sites,
they may have a badge or patch but no booklet to complete. This happened to me at
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (New York). After taking a tour of
the house and looking at the photos and artifacts on
display the ranger asked me two questions which I
answered correctly. I then got the badge. At Home
of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site (New
York), a ranger told me that they were in the process
of revising their booklets so he would award me the
badge after I took a tour of the house.
Most National Park Service sites award you a badge
for completing the Junior Ranger program. Some
award a patch. A few award a pin (button). Some
sites award both a badge and a patch. Some will
give you either one or the other depending on your
age or the program you complete. The park with the
most different patches seems to be Grand Canyon
National Park (Arizona), where they award patches
for different age groups and for different special
programs. At some units, like Richmond National Battlefield Park (Virginia), you will
have a choice of a badge or patch. Some parks will award you a badge if you complete
a certain number of pages, and a patch if you complete all the pages.
At Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (New York), they now have different booklets,
one each for Theodore Roosevelt's house, the museum, and the nature walk. If you
complete a booklet they award you a badge. If you complete all three, they also award
you a patch. A similar situation exists at three southern Florida units. Everglades
National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Biscayne National Park have one
joint Junior Ranger booklet. Some activities in the booklet can be completed at more
than one park. If you complete enough activities at one of the three parks you will get
that park's badge, but if you complete enough activities for each of the three units, you
will get a patch containing the names of all three on it.
Most sites will also give you a certificate in addition to the badge or patch. The
certificate will either be separate or in the booklet. Some certificates are very fancy and
others are quite plain. Some may have a stack of preprinted certificates and fill in your
name and others will produce them individually on their computers. It depends on the
individual park site.
At Fossil Butte National Monument (Wyoming) and a few
other park sites they etch into the back of the badge a
number. That way they keep count on how many kids
have completed their Junior Ranger program.
A few park sites even keep a list of all the kids who ever
became Junior Rangers there. I remember that they did
this at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (North
Carolina). They entered my name into the list of
thousands of other Junior Rangers kept in their computer.
You could see that at that park site they took the Junior
Ranger program very seriously. At Shenandoah National
Park (Virginia), each visitor center maintains a book in which
they enter the names of those completing the Junior Ranger program.
Most of the Junior Ranger badges awarded by National Park Service sites are standard
ones with the same design in the middle and the name of the site at the top. Some
award deluxe badges. These are badges that have an image in the middle that shows
something about that park site. For the deluxe badges the name of the park site can be
either at the top or around the unique image. If a Junior Ranger badge in my collection
is a deluxe one I indicated this in the chart on my National Park Service Sites page.
More and more, park units are awarding deluxe badges. This change is part of the
National Park Service's efforts to improve the Junior Ranger program.
Junior Ranger patches are always unique for the park site which awards them. There
will usually be a picture of something about that park site on their patch. Some sites will
give out different patches, based on how old you are. I've noticed that a few more parks
are awarding patches over the last few years.
I personally like getting patches better than badges because of the different pictures on
Some park sites will award a badge or pin without the name of the park on it. Home of
Franklin D. Roosevelt (New York) awarded me a Junior Secret Service badge when I
was there. It did not have the unit's name on it. Eisenhower National Historic Site
(Pennsylvania) used to do this but now its unit name is on the Junior Secret Service
badge. Fire Island National Seashore (New York) was awarding pins with deer on them
at one point if you completed their Junior ranger booklet focusing on the problem of the
overpopulation of deer. They awarded these pins to make children conscious of the
dangers of feeding the deer, which has become a critical problem. They also have a
badge and patch for their regular booklet. James A. Garfield National Historic Site
(Ohio) awards a badge but the words “Junior Ranger” are not on it. For completing its
booklet, Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah) awarded me a pin on which it says
"Jr. Engineer." So you can see that between the different types of badges, patches, and
pins, you can build up a nice collection of things for having completed the Junior Ranger
programs at sites of the National Park Service.
At some parks the program may not be called “Junior Ranger.” At Delaware Water Gap
National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania & New Jersey), they call one program “Junior
Naturalist.” As I just wrote, at Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah) they call it
“Junior Engineer.” At Eisenhower National Historic Site (Pennsylvania) and Home of
Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site (New York), they call it "Junior Secret
At a few park sites, by completing the Junior Ranger program you get a discount on
something you buy at the gift shop. I remember that this was the situation at Bandelier
National Monument (New Mexico) and Coronado National Memorial (Arizona).
When I first started collecting Junior Ranger badges and patches, I kept them in a
shoebox. In 2005, at Grand Canyon National Park, I saw these beautiful banners on
sale in the gift shop with Junior Ranger badges and patches on them. My parents
bought them for my brother and me so we could display them nicely. The banners were
made by a company called Adventure Banners and their phone number was (877) 202-
On the page called “National Park Service Sites” (use the button on top or click on the
underlined words) I am listing all the sites for which I have a Junior Ranger badge, patch,
or pin. (If there is no listing for a site for which I have displayed a badge, patch, or pin on
the opening page, it is because I have not gotten to it yet.) The listing is in a chart. The
chart will also tell you whether a copy of the Junior Ranger booklet for that site is
displayable from my Web site and whether the park site specifically permits you to
participate in the Junior Ranger program by mail. In the chart, you would click on the
name of the park site. That will get you to my Web page for that park site. If the Junior
Ranger booklet is displayable you would click on the image for it on my individual Web
page for the park site. When you click on the image you may be taken to the Web site
for the park site, to where they display their booklet. Or the booklet will be just on my
Web site because I scanned it in.
I displayed the individual park site Junior Ranger booklets for a few reasons. Firstly,
some sites will let you do the program by mail so you can use my Web site to display the
booklet and print it out. You would then complete it at home and mail it back to the park
site. They would then mail you their Junior Ranger badge or patch. Remember, only
some park sites specifically permit you to do this by mail. Some are quite insistent that
the booklet can be completed only at the site.
Other park sites might permit you to do the Junior Ranger program by mail but they don’t
say this on their own Web sites. If my chart in National Park Service does not show a
“Yes” as to whether a particular park site permits mail-ins, you probably should contact it
and ask first if they’ll send you the badge or patch by mail. If they say yes then you can
print the booklet off my site.
If you do a Junior Ranger program at home, you must be willing to look up things on the
park site’s Web page. There you will find a lot of the information you will need to
complete the pages of the booklet. The page for that park site on my Web site
(reachable through National Park Service Sites) will have a link to the park site’s Web
One park site, Petroglyph National Monument (New Mexico) will permit you to do the
Junior Ranger program on the Internet. You do not print anything out. You go from
page to page on their Web site, reading paragraphs about their site and answering
questions. At the end you are prompted to enter your name and address and they will
send you the Junior Ranger certificate and badge. You can also do their Junior Ranger
program in person at the park site.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail connects different affiliated places, all having to
do with the famous exploration. You can get their badge only by mail. You can’t do it in
It is a good idea to try to do as many Junior Ranger programs by mail as you can
because it is virtually impossible to visit each and every National Park Service site
having such a program. If you live on one side of the country, chances are it will be
difficult for your parents to take you to all park sites on the opposite end of the country.
Take advantage of the fact that some park sites will let you do it by mail.
Another purpose for my displaying Junior Ranger booklets was so that you could print
out a copy before your parents take you to the park site. This way you can see in
advance what types of activity pages there are in the booklet. You can even start to
research information on the park to complete some activity pages before you get there.
Knowing things about the park before you get there makes it more interesting.
Even if you don’t print out the booklets to complete them, it is still interesting to go
through them to get an idea of what our National Park Service sites are about.
Please remember that the booklets which are displayed are as of when I did the Junior
Ranger program. This could be as early as 2004. By now the booklet may have been
changed by the park site. If you get a copy by linking from the image on my park page to
the park Web site the booklet is probably their latest. If you see a copy which I
downloaded into my Web site, you may want to ask the park site if my version of the
booklet is the one they are using. (They could look it up on their computer and tell you.)
Remember, my park page will have a contact telephone number for the park site, as well
as their address.
Some booklets are quite long, with many activities to complete, and others are short.
One of the longest which I completed was at Prince William Forest Park in Virginia,
outside Washington, D.C. I had to complete 13 activities, one for each year of my age.
In some parks, they will give you a sheet of paper or a card to complete instead of a
Always look first at the instructions in the booklet which are usually inside the front cover
or on the first page. Do this before you start completing anything.
Most park sites have films which you watch inside the visitor center. If you are at the
park, it is a good idea to watch their film before completing any pages in the booklet. In
the film there might be answers to some of the questions in the booklet. But you should
familiarize yourself with the questions before you watch the film so you will know what
information you're looking for.
The booklets (or sheets or cards) have different types of activities for you to complete.
They are designed to teach you stuff about the park, including trees, plants, rocks, fish,
and animals. Historic sites and historical parks teach you stuff about the famous events
that occurred there. The different activities include: information-type questions about
that site, hidden word puzzles, crossword puzzles, hidden picture puzzles, jumbled word
puzzles, linking words with pictures, drawing activities, bingo where you circle things
you’ve seen in the park), and writing a paragraph about what you saw.
Sometimes, the things you do on one page of a Junior Ranger booklet can help you with
another page. For example, the words they give you to find in a hidden word puzzle may
be answers you’re looking for on the crossword puzzle page.
I would have to say that the questions asked in most Junior Ranger booklets are suitable
for kids to answer based on what you learn from watching the park site film, going
around the visitor center, and walking or driving around in the park site. But I must say
that a few are like college exams. If that is the case, just do as much as you can and
when you return the booklet to a ranger in the visitor center tell him or her that you tried
your best but found the rest too hard. I am certain that they will still award you the
badge or patch because at least you tried. You should know that over the last few
years, the National Park Service has been urging the individual units to make their
booklets age appropriate.
Also you should know that most park sites permit parents to help you when you are at
the site working on their Junior Ranger booklet.
Learning about trees, plants, animals, history, and culture is fun. When you see nature
in person you want to know what you are looking at. One thing I learned from Junior
Ranger booklets is to identify tracks. Different animals leave different tracks. Many
Junior Ranger booklets have activity pages on animal tracks. After you have done
several you can become an expert on the subject.
For me, history is interesting, so I especially like to go to national historic sites and
historical parks. It’s fun to see how things looked like a hundred or two hundred years
Although some kids think it is not cool to learn all this stuff I disagree. The stuff I learned
at National Park Service sites has come in handy for school. Some school projects I
have done came from things I learned at these sites. I even did well on some tests in
school because I knew the answers from having gone to National Park Service sites and
completed the Junior Ranger booklets.
At some parks, you will be required to attend a ranger talk or go on a trail. A few require
you to pick up some trash. If either of these are the case, it will tell you on the Junior
Ranger booklet instruction page.
In many parks, when you return your Junior Ranger booklet to get the certificate and
badge or patch, a park ranger will go over it. This is good so that you will learn if you
got the questions correct or not. If you got some wrong, it’s good to know the correct
answers. At some parks, the park ranger will conduct a small ceremony where you raise
your right hand and take the Junior Ranger pledge to keep national park sites clean, not
bother the animals, and not touch what you’re not supposed to. Probably the most
memorable ceremony a park ranger ever conducted with me was at Rocky Mountain
National Park (Colorado). The park ranger made an announcement to everyone in the
visitor center, about 200 people, to watch the ceremony. Everyone was looking at my
brother and sister and me as the park ranger swore us in as Junior Rangers. He did it
for other kids also. It kind of makes the program a little more meaningful because you
are being honored for your achievement of completing the program.
Ever since I started this Web site at the end of 2005, I have received inquiries asking
whether adults can earn Junior Ranger badges. The answer technically is that although
nearly all National Park Service units publicly state that the program is for children up to
a specified age limit, adults are supposed to be permitted to complete the booklets if
they ask for them. Nonetheless, I have been informed that at some park units, they still
refuse to give booklets to adults asking for them. It is interesting that at a few units,
there are booklets specially available for adults. For example, at Acadia National Park
(Maine), there is a Senior Ranger program. At Bandelier National Monument (New
Mexico), adults can earn Deputy Ranger patches; my parents earned them there and I
have displayed them on the page for that unit.
I have also received a lot of questions about WebRangers. This is a program which the
National Park Service began several years ago. It is much improved now. WebRangers
involves completing online games and activities at the following Web site: www.nps.
gov/webrangers. It has a spiffy look. You create your own ranger office. From there
you can link to the different activities (nearly 40). The activities range from helping a
salmon swim upstream to fitting out a dog sled in Alaska. As you complete the different
activities, your progress is displayed. If you complete all available activities the National
Park Service will mail you a patch (displayed on my home page). I recommend that
everyone who is interested in the Junior Ranger program also try their hand at
WebRangers on their home computer.
It’s nice to collect the different badges and patches awarded by the National Park
Service sites for completing the Junior Ranger program. It’s also great to be able to
learn things in a fun way. I hope that if you are into the Junior Ranger program my Web
site was helpful to you. If you’re not into Junior Ranger, maybe you will now become
interested. Good luck and maybe we’ll meet at a national park site.
|When you arrive at a National Park Service site, you can
usually ask for the Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor
center. If there is no visitor center but there is a ranger
station, ask there. Over the last few years, more parks
have displays at their visitor centers, promoting the
availability of the Junior Ranger program. Wherever you
get the booklet is usually where you return it to get the
|badge or patch. In some parks, usually very large ones with
more than one visitor center, you can obtain the booklet in
one location and submit it at another.
Not all National Park Service sites have Junior Ranger
programs. If you were to go on the Websites for the various
units of the National Park Service, reachable at www.nps.
gov/parks.html, you would see that some have a “For Kids”
page. On that page they are supposed to tell you if they
have a Junior Ranger program. However, they are not
100% accurate. For example, the Web pages of the
National Park Service for Martin Van Buren National Historic
Site (New York) and Castle Clinton National Monument