You’d recognize park rangers anywhere, with those distinctive, broad campaign hats. These uniformed professionals patrol and protect natural and historic areas and landmarks, from the mighty geysers of Yellowstone National Park and deep folds of the Grand Canyon to the beaches of a local state park and the trails of a nearby state forest. The duties of a park ranger vary greatly, just as the types of parks and landmarks at which they are employed.
General Park Rangers
Aptly named, general park rangers serve as generalists in their home parks. Duties vary according to where they are stationed, but may include general campground operation, trail maintenance, permit compliance, emergency medical services, fire protection, search and rescue, educational programming, gathering of natural or scientific information, and visitor services. In National Parks, some general rangers work in the “back country” where they patrol more remote locations; these positions often require overnight camping and technical climbing.
Mix a love of nature and educating others and you get an interpretation ranger. National, state and local parks often have sites and features with stories behind them — and this type of ranger brings those stories to life for visitors. Interpretation rangers specialize in research, development and presentation of programming such as guided walks, demonstrations and talks. Additionally, interpretation rangers can staff information centers or set up at popular scenic gatherings to be available to answer questions or give impromptu presentations.
Not everyone who visits a national or state park has nature’s best interest in mind. Think litter, forest fires or theft of natural resources. Rangers can also serve in the law enforcement capacity to, at a basic level, help to educate park visitors on rules for safety and proper enjoyment of the park. Protection rangers also enforce park rules, including detection and investigation of violations, and apprehension and detention of violators.
Many park rangers begin their careers as park guides. Similar to an interpretation ranger, park guides provide tours, give formal talks on natural or historic features of the park and answer visitors' questions.
Since 2000 Donna T. Beerman has contributed to newspapers and magazines. Her expertise includes higher education, marketing and social media, and her presentations and writing have won industry awards. She has an MFA in creative writing, is the integrated marketing manager at a Pennsylvania college and founded "Hippocampus Magazine."