U.S. National Parks Junior Ranger Program: Links to Every Park

Junior Ranger Programs

What is the Junior Ranger Program?

The Junior Ranger Program is an educational program offered at national parks and other public lands across the United States. It’s designed for kids to learn about the environment, history, and culture of our public lands.

Kids can participate by completing activity books, attending ranger-led programs, and volunteering at their local park. Once they’ve completed the program, they can earn badges and certificates as a reward for their hard work!

How did the Junior Ranger Program begin?

Believe it or not, the Junior Ranger Program actually has its roots in the 1960s. During this time, the National Park Service noticed a decline in the number of visitors to national parks, and they wanted to find a way to engage more people, especially kids. They came up with a program called the “Junior Naturalist” program.

The Junior Naturalist program was a simple activity book that kids could complete while visiting a national park. It included questions about the park’s flora and fauna as well as information about park history and geology. Once kids completed the book, they could turn it in to a park ranger and receive a badge as a reward.

The Junior Naturalist program was a hit with kids and families, and it helped to increase interest in national parks. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that the program really took off.

In 1989, the National Park Service officially launched the Junior Ranger Program. This expanded upon the Junior Naturalist program and added more activities and learning opportunities for kids.

Today, the Junior Ranger Program is offered at over 200 national parks and other public lands.

So, next time you visit a national park or other public land, be sure to ask about the Junior Ranger Program. It’s a great way to engage kids in learning and exploring, and it’s a tradition that has been going strong for over 50 years!

Junior Ranger Books

While these books are often available for free at National Park System visitor centers, there are some exceptions. A few parks now charge a small fee for the printed booklets. Additionally, some parks do not have visitor centers to distribute the books. Some visitor centers are simply not open year-round.

If you have an upcoming adventure planned to a park, if you’ve lost your junior ranger book, or if you simply want to preview the activities you will enjoy, we have compiled a list of links to all printable or downloadable booklets offered by each of our 62 United States National Parks.

It is important to note that not all Junior Ranger booklets are available for download from the NPS sites. You may have to email a ranger for a copy prior to your visit.

For those rangers-to-be that are not able to stop back at the visitor centers and be sworn in, most parks allow you to mail copies of the completed booklets. Be sure to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the rangers to return your booklet and the badge you have earned!

We had to go that route after we visited Biscayne National Park during a government shutdown. Thank goodness those rangers have the hearts of educators and always do their best to honor our young learners!

For some parks, availability may be limited for those not able to visit in person. We strongly suggest you check out the Junior Ranger pages for the parks you plan to attend.

Some have wonderful, additional links and learning to help captivate your Junior Ranger’s curiosity prior to the big trip.

Another option is to check out the EDsplorers NPS courses. These were created to inspire a love for each park!

List of links to each of the major 63 United States National Park Junior Ranger Programs:

The National Park System also publishes many Junior Ranger programs that are not about a specific national park, rather they are about other NPS objectives including nature, history, and culture. Check out their website to explore these options.

Don’t forget to inquire about the Junior Ranger programs any time you visit a National Monument, Battlefield, or Historic Site! The NPS is committed to making education fun!

As you can tell, the Junior Ranger Program is an incredible educational opportunity for kids to learn about the environment, history, and culture of our public lands. From its beginnings as the Junior Naturalist program in the 1960s, to its current form, it has been engaging and inspiring children for over 50 years.

By participating in the program, kids not only learn about the world around them, but they also develop a love and respect for our natural and cultural resources.

The mission to become a Junior Ranger is often a driving force of educational opportunities in children. They love achieving their badges. They love getting “sworn in” as Junior Rangers. And they LOVE the fun promises that the rangers often make them include in their pledges:

“Do you promise to always join your sister when she gets the sillies?” These rangers sure do know our kids!

So, the next time you visit a national park or other public land, be sure to check out the Junior Ranger Program and encourage the young people in your life to become Junior Rangers themselves!