The Junior Ranger Program Connects Youth to Their Heritage
One of the many quality programs offered by the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, the Junior Ranger Program provides children and their parents an opportunity to explore both the natural and human history of their community and their relationship to the Mississippi River.
Children may become Junior Rangers through activities provided by the Park and upon completion of an activity receive a certificate and Junior Ranger badge. Organized Junior Ranger programs include riding a Mississippi River barge, birding expeditions, prairie restoration, hunting fossils on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, among others.
Self-directed options are also available. Six booklets, including three new ones, are available for free throughout the park, including an exciting booklet specific to Amtrak’s Empire Builder, a passenger train, that uses the program to both entertain and teach young passengers on its run between Winona, Minnesota and Chicago, Illinois. Another of the new booklets engage children and youth on the Minnesota Zoo’s Minnesota Trail exhibit.
The program is growing swiftly as the Park produces new programming, but demand is also increasing. The free voyageur canoeing program, in cooperation with Wilderness Inquiry, was so popular that the participation limit was reached within four days of the program’s announcement. A mother of one of the Junior Rangers wrote in regards to the canoeing trip, “I REALLY hope that you can do this again as we don't have a lot of funds to try out nature based things like this.”
The Park is also exploring ways to serve other underserved audiences, such as providing Spanish-to-English interpretation at an evening birding trip this fall.
Did You Know?
The river is so shallow at Lake Itasca that children can walk across the Mississippi. Between Governor Nicholls Wharf and Algiers Point in New Orleans, the Mississippi is more than 200 feet deep.