National Park Week is being celebrated this year from April 20 through April 26, and many parks are celebrating Junior Ranger Day at some point during the week. Across the system there are dozens, if not hundreds, of special events planned. Here's a look at some of them.
* Stones River National Battlefield. Personnel from the battlefield as well as the Civil War Preservation Trust will celebrate Park Day on Saturday, April 19. There will be a project at the McFadden Farm (Tour Stop #6) at 8:30 a.m. Volunteers and park employees will work to remove modern fencing and trash from battlefield property at the McFadden Farm Unit. They will also be planting native plants in the in the same area. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Tour Stop #6 parking lot. Project coordinator Jim Lewis will give a brief talk focusing on the historical significance of the property. Volunteers must wear heavy soled work boots and work clothes and are encouraged to bring work gloves. The National Park Service will provide lunch at 12:30 p.m. The first 50 registered adult participants will receive commemorative T-shirts provided by the Civil War Preservation Trust. For information on volunteering for the Park Day project, contact Park Ranger Jim Lewis at 615- 893-9501
* Mammoth Cave National Park. Wildflower Weekend at Mammoth Cave coincides with the kickoff of National Park Week. The surface side of Mammoth Cave is home to more than 1,000 species of plants; those that bloom in the spring present an elaborate display. Wild iris, celandine poppies, trillium, larkspur, Dutchmans’ breeches, and jack-in-the-pulpit can been seen on many park trails. Visitor are invited to head out on their own or join one of the many ranger-led activities. A wildflower checklist is available at the visitor center and most presentations and walks begin there. For the complete Wildflower Weekend schedule, check out this site.
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Great Smoky will celebrate the second annual National Junior Ranger Day on April 26 with special activities at the park’s three visitor centers from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children and their families can join in a variety of free hands-on activities at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina; and Cades Cove’s Cable Mill Visitor Center near Townsend, Tennessee. Activities planned will range from searching for salamanders to making dinner bells at a blacksmith shop. Historic toymaking, weaving, wildflower searches, and cornhusk doll making are a few of the other natural and cultural opportunities that will be available. Information on the specific programs is available at the visitor centers.
* Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These two parks will celebrate National Park Week and National Junior Ranger Day with a Fee-Free Day and Special Programs. This year's National Park Week is themed “Kids in Parks." On April 26 both parks will waive entrance fees to commemorate of National Park Week. Also on April 26 a special event to celebrate National Junior Ranger Family Day will be held at Hospital Rock in the Foothills of Sequoia National Park. Park Rangers will host a variety of exploration stations that include: mule packing, journal writing, bear ecology and much more! Junior Rangers will get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the work of a Park Ranger while earning their own National Junior Ranger Day patch. Exploration booths with games and activities will be set up from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Bring a lunch and water.
* Cabrillo National Monument. Special Junior Ranger Day activities will be marked on Saturday, April 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Activities include a special, self-guided scavenger hunt that children may do with their families. Junior Rangers of any age who complete the program will receive a Junior Ranger Day 2008 button and certificate.
* Acadia National Park. A day full of activities is planned for Saturday, April 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children from ages 5 to 12 can enjoy a variety of events including games, arts and crafts, nature hikes, cultural activities, and more while exploring, learning about, and protecting Acadia National Park.
* Gulf Islands National Seashore. Earth Day and Junior Ranger Day will both be celebrated on April 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. More than a dozen groups are planning exhibits and activities inside, outside and around the Gulf Islands Visitor Contact Station in Ocean Springs. Kids can take part in free activities including a scavenger hunt, throwing a cast net, making block prints, navigating a “Turtle Hurdle,” interacting with live animals, creating artwork, and kayaking the bayou. This year’s special guests are the “Blues Rangers” from De Soto National Forest. This group will present two sets of traditional blues music. The first set begins at 11 a.m. and the second set at 1:30 p.m.
* Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. This unit of the park system has the following on its calendar: April 19 at Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., kid-sized Battle of New Orleans uniforms to try on, take-home craft project, scavenger hunt; April 19 at the French Quarter Visitor Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., treasure hunt, take-home craft project; April 22 at the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., scavenger hunt; April 26 at the Acadian Cultural Center, mini-cruises on the bayou in a traditional Louisiana wooden boat (fee) and scavenger hunt.
For a schedule of when other park units will be marking Junior Ranger Day and Earth Day activities, as well as other programs now under way with spring arriving, check out this site. Check each park's specific web site for time and location of activities.