Grandfather Mountain has an elite team of rangers, dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the park’s numerous ecological communities — and the flora and fauna that call them home.

But they can’t do it alone.

Looking to the future, the mountain also relies on its ever-growing team of Junior Rangers, “graduates” of the nature park’s celebrated Junior Ranger program.

Designed for ages 5-12, the Junior Ranger program offers young visitors a unique, hands-on experience at Grandfather Mountain, including a scavenger hunt, trail exploration, plant and animal identification and more.

Participants simply pick up a Junior Ranger booklet from the park’s nature museum and complete various tasks around the mountain to receive an official Junior Ranger badge and certificate.

The park will celebrate its Junior Rangers and welcome more to its numbers with the inaugural Junior Ranger Day, taking place Saturday, Sept. 8, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Grandfather Mountain.

“Junior Ranger Day was created to provide programming for younger kids,” said Amy Renfranz, director of education and natural resources for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Linville, N.C., nature park. “The programs offered during this time are designed to ignite a fire of curiosity about the natural world.”

Throughout the day, kids can search for salamanders, dig in the dirt and examine insects. There will also be arts and crafts programs that aren’t a part of Grandfather’s typical programming.

“This program is designed to excite, inspire and entertain all participants about the vast ecosystem that so many people brush over every day,” Renfranz said. “The overachieving goal is to inspire youth to want to explore the natural world. It’s a great day for families to get something extra during their visit to Grandfather Mountain — programming designed to entertain and enlighten their children!”

Any day of the year, children can complete the Junior Ranger booklet to earn their badge and certificate.

But Junior Ranger Day is special.

“On this particular day, any kid that participates in a program will automatically receive a badge,” Renfranz noted.

 

Schedule

Can You Find a Salamander?
From 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. at the Woods Walk Picnic Area, Junior Rangers in training will join Grandfather Mountain naturalists on an adventure to find what is slipping around underneath the park’s many rocks. The object? To meet one of the most interesting organisms that call this mountain home: the salamanders.

Make Your Own Caterpillar
From 11:30 a.m. to noon, kids can meet at the Let-It-Rain Picnic Shelter for a special craft session, in which they’ll put their own unique spin on making a caterpillar, while learning about the fascinating creatures.

Bug Hunt!
From 1 to 1:45 p.m., participants will quest for the creepy, crawly critters that roam the forest floor. Naturalists will have scientific tools to help explorers get up close and personal with the decomposers that make up the ecosystem of Grandfather Mountain. Meet outside the Fudge Shop.

Make Your Own Butterfly
From 2 to 2:30 p.m., kids can meet at the Let-It-Rain Picnic Shelter for a craft session that explores another stage of a caterpillar’s life — becoming a butterfly.

Diggin’ in the Dirt
From 2:45 to 3:30 p.m., aspiring Junior Rangers can roll up their sleeves and get dirty. With the help of the park’s naturalists, participants will take a closer look at what is commonly known as “dirt.” What is it? What did it used to be? Through this experience, kids will conduct investigative work to figure out its origin. Meet outside the Fudge Shop.

Junior Ranger Day and all its activities are included in admission to Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (828) 733-2013, or email amy@grandfather.com.

The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325.