|Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012|
Lava Beds National Monument is well known for its high concentration of lava tube caves. With over 777 caves, it has more underground chambers than any other area in the contiguous 48 states. This year’s Junior Ranger Day theme, “Lava Beds, More Than Just Caves,” focused on the other unique aspects of the monument.
The goal of the Junior Ranger program is to introduce children to the natural wonders all around them and their role in preserving these wonders for the future. As they learn about the monument and have fun, Junior Rangers become stewardship representatives to their friends, family and schoolmates back home. Junior Rangers spread their new knowledge about parks and continue to use good environmental practices.
Over 50 new Junior Rangers earned their patches at the sixth annual Junior Ranger Day on Saturday, August 18th. Kids participated in five of eight fun and educational activities to receive their patch, with most completing all of the stations.
Lava Beds National Monument is within the homeland of the Modoc Indians and their ancestors, who inhabited the area for the past 11,000 years. In keeping with ancient cultural traditions, aspiring Junior Rangers knapped arrowheads, just as the Modoc knapped tools of obsidian from nearby Glass Mountain. Petroglyph pendants were carved and worn proudly by the youngsters and the young at heart. Lava Beds National Monument is home to 5,000 petroglyphs, one of the largest groupings in California.
The Junior Rangers also learned about and recreated one of the pastimes of prisoners in the Japanese American segregation center near Tulelake – making shell bracelets.
Known as the “Land of Burnt Out Fires” by the Modoc, the lava beds of the monument were created by eruptions of Medicine Lake shield volcano, the largest in surface area in the Cascade Range. Rangers described how the lava created this landscape and how different animals have adapted to this dry, rugged environment. Kids learned that bugs are fun and important creatures and created their own creeping, crawling critters. Staff from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought ducks on a stick to teach about waterfowl of the Klamath Basin. Smokey Bear even managed to step away from all the fires burning on surrounding Modoc National Forest to make an appearance.
That evening, soon-to-be-retired lead interpretive ranger Nancy Hadlock charmed Junior Rangers and parents alike with stories of coyote and his friends. A graduation ceremony and certificate rewarded the young stewards for “Exploring, Learning, and Protecting” – the Junior Ranger motto.
For those unable to attend this special day, the Junior Ranger program is available throughout the year as an interactive booklet (available at the visitor center) that guides children through various activities designed to enhance their experience at Lava Beds National Monument.