Saturday, May 10, 2014

Kid-friendly activities abound in Midwest's popular St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

Interactive exhibits at the Visitor Centers provide
discovery for all ages. Photo courtesy St. Croix
National Scenic Riverway NPS.
Outdoors activities for kids can be found aplenty throughout the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. By participating, you’ll find your children not only come away with great memories but also learn something about nature.

The National Park Service offers the Junior Ranger program, which includes the reward of a St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Junior Ranger patch. To receive a patch, kids must complete a 10-page booklet, available at either visitor center or online, and then successfully demonstrate to a ranger how to put on a life preserver. After a swearing-in ceremony, children receive a certificate and pin along with the patch.

State parks in both Minnesota and Wisconsin also offer a variety of programs for children.

Minnesota programs include:
g Junior Park Naturalist patches/certificates – Download from online a nature activity booklet about pinelands, prairies or hardwoods; when children complete them, they can attend a program at the park and receive a free patch and certificate.
g Park Explorer patches – Kids who’ve completed the Junior Park naturalist program can purchase activity books about nature, history and the earth at the park gift store. Completing the activity book earns the child a Park Explorer patch.
g Project Learning Tree – A number of nature-oriented family games and puzzles are available online via the Minnesota DNR. Volunteers and park rangers sometimes offer nature programs at park visitor centers as well.

Wisconsin state parks offer:
g Wisconsin Wildcards – Kids can collect pocket-sized cards that tell about native species, dangerous plants, and unique spots.
g Wisconsin Explorer patches – Booklets can be downloaded from online that children complete when they visit a park or hike a trail. They then can receive patches for completing the book.
g Special programs – Rangers and volunteers at many parks often offer programs ranging from meeting animals to stargazing at night, from campfire stories to scavenger hunts.

Be sure to check out each state’s park system online (Minnesota; Wisconsin) for a full list of activities on the dates you’re visiting.

Read more about day hiking the scenic riverway in my guidebook Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.