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Time Travel at Homestead National Monument

If you want to experience time travel, go to the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska!

The National Monument is located at 8523 West State Highway 4 Beatrice, NE 68310

While there you can tour the land that was part of the first Homestead claim, see the oldest restored tallgrass prairie in the National Park Service, and tour the longest-running one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska!

Buddy and I visited for their Homesteading Days program. While I was there I made corn husk dolls, churned butter by hand, and learned how to wash clothes by hand. 

Here are my favorite things to do at Homestead: 

Learn About the Homestead Act of 1862- Settlers could get 160 acres of land for free!  Each homesteader had to live on the land, build a home, make improvements, and farm for five years before they were could own the land. The Homestead Act gave 270 million acres of public lands to settlers  

The Monument is where history was made–  Come see the land where  that Daniel Freeman homesteaded.  Freeman was one of the first people to file a claim under the Homestead Act of 1862. Legend has it that Daniel Freeman filed his claim 10 minutes after midnight on January 1, 1863 – the first day of the Homestead Act. 

Find Homesteaders in YOUR Family Tree– Wondering if your relatives were homesteaders? Come to Beatrice and search their homestead records for free.  They have records about homesteaders in Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, Oho, Wyoming, and Utah.

See the Last Homesteaders’ Tractor – the Homestead Act ended in 1976, but allowed homesteading in Alaska until 1986. The last person to receive a Homestead Act patent was Ken  Deardorff in May of 1988. The tractor he used on his Alaska homestead is now on display at the Homestead National Monument.

See the Longest Running One-room schoolhouse in Nebraska– there was a time when an entire school fit into one room! It’s hard to imagine kids of all ages gathered in one room to learn from a single teacher.  The Freeman School, officially known as School District Number 21, provided education for Nebraska children from 1872 until 1967. Stop by to tour the school, which has been restored to look like it did in the 1880s. 

See the Tallgrass Prairie– According to the National Park Service, 96% of the tallgrass prairies that were in our country are gone. That’s why Homestead preserves 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. This prairie restoration at Homestead National Monument began in 1939, making it the oldest in the National Park Service and the second-oldest in the country!  Visit Homestead to hike on two miles of trails through the prairie!

Check the calendar for more events! Homestead has events throughout the year. I’m looking forward to giving a helping hand by helping collect seeds there on October 12th. Visit t or call (402) 223-3514 for more information.


Spring Break Fun in North Carolina

Hello everyone!

It’s Audrey and I’m back with another Buddy Bison blog. I have been on Spring Break and have been to some great parks. First, my family and I went to Moores Creek National Battlefield (Currie, NC). While there I earned a Junior Ranger badge and learned about the park’s history. Moores Creek was the first significant battle that the Patriots won in the American Revolution, in February of 1776. It was cool to learn about the history of the park.

Next, we went to Carolina Beach, NC! It was so much fun to go and play in the ocean and to just look at the waves. The ocean was so cold it could give you hypothermia if you weren’t careful. I got in the water pretty deep and just sat there. Of course I took breaks because I didn’t want to get sick, but overall it was very fun!

Then lastly, I went to Carolina Beach State Park and we did a hike on the “Kids In Parks” Track Trail. My family and I love to also do Track Trails, which are short trails for kids and adults of all ages. They have brochure activities for you to do while you are on the trails and when you get home you can submit your activity and earn prizes.

From your BBF [ Buddy Bison Friend ],

                 Jr. Ranger Audrey


Historic Whitesbog Village: Exploring New Jersey’s Agricultural History

Do you like cranberries and blueberries?  Did you ever wonder where they come from? This winter I got to find out how these berries are grown when I visited the Historic Whitesbog Village in Browns Mills, New Jersey. I learned that cranberries are grown here in a special type of land called a bog. The cranberries grow on vines and when they are ripe the bog is flooded with water and the cranberries float to the top of the water.  In the beginning of the 1900’s, Whitesbog was the location of the largest cranberry bog in the state of New Jersey, and cranberries are still grown here today.

Whitesbog Village is also famous for being known as the “birthplace of the blueberry.”  Elizabeth White, who worked here with her father, grew the first highbush blueberries here in the early 1900s. This is a type of blueberry that farmers still grow in many different states today. She partnered with Dr. Frederick V. Coville to use different types of blueberries that were growing wild in the area and bred them together to make the first cultivated blueberry bushes in New Jersey.  Today, the blueberry is the state fruit of New Jersey. In one part of the village you can see the many different types of blueberries that Elizabeth White developed here at Whitesbog.

The Historic Whitesbog Village is part of Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, which is one of the amazing state forests that we have here in New Jersey.  It is also part of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.  The Pinelands National Reserve is part of the National Park Service covers over one-million acres of farms, forests and wetlands. It is the home for many different types of animals and plants that only live and grow here in the Pinelands. In the pinelands, many of the trees are pine trees and the soil is sandy.  

The Historic Whitesbog Village is a great place to visit if you like nature, history, or both!  In the Village you can visit the General Store, some of the houses where the workers at the cranberry bog lived, the Barrel Factory, and a Blueberry and Cranberry Museum.  You can also visit Suningive, which is the house that Elizabeth White lived in. It is decorated to look like the 1920’s, when Elizabeth lived here.

Near the Village there are also lots of great hiking trails where you can walk around the cranberry bogs and through the forest.  The cranberry harvest takes place in the fall, but we were still able to see some cranberries floating around the edges of the cranberry bogs.  This is also a great place to see many different types of birds and other wildlife.

The Historic Whitesbog Village has a day each month when volunteers come to help with different projects, so on our visit  we helped with organizing and cleaning up in one of the buildings, and then we took a hike to look at the historic buildings and the bogs.  I’m really looking forward to coming back soon to volunteer and coming to the Blueberry Festival that they have every year in June!


Practicing Outdoor Survival Skills with Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah

Have you ever wondered if you would be able to build a fire or a shelter to keep yourself warm in the wilderness? Or if you would be able to find your way without using your phone?  This winter I got to visit some parks to learn about different outdoor survival skills, including building a shelter, cooking over a fire, and orienteering.

At Brandywine Creek State Park (Wilmington, DE) I got to learn about shelter building and how to cook over a fire.  In the shelter building class, I got to help build two different types of shelters: an A-frame shelter, and a lean-to shelter. The first step to building a shelter is to find all of the materials that you will need, including different sizes of tree branches. The main idea of the shelter is to protect you from rain, snow, wind, or other types of weather.  

Once you have all of the branches in place, you can fill in any openings with leaves, pine needles, bark, moss, or any other materials that you can find. The types of materials you can use depends on what types of plants are where you are building the shelter. The most important thing is keeping yourself warm and dry.  Luckily, Brandywine Creek State Park had lots of branches and leaves to help us build our shelters. My shelter was just big enough for one person to fit in!

In another class at Brandywine Creek State Park, I learned about building and cooking over fires.  The two types of fires I learned about were the teepee-style fire and the log cabin style fire. For both types of fires, you need to collect different materials. The tinder is very important because that is what you will light first. On top of the tinder you would put kindling, which are smaller sticks and branches, and finally you would add the largest pieces of wood. After learning about how to build a fire, I learned about cooking on fires.  One important thing that I learned is that if you are cooking meat, like chicken, you need to make sure that the meat is completely cooked, because some parts of the fire may be hotter than other parts.

I also learned that fire safety is very important. When you choose the place that you are going to build your fire, you want to make sure that there are no branches hanging close to the fire, and that the area on the ground where you are building the fire is clear. After you are done cooking and you are ready to put the fire out, you need to use lots and lots of water to make sure that all of the flames are out and that the hot ashes are cool. After learning about building fires, I got to cook pizza pocket pies over the campfire, and they were delicious!

The last outdoor skill that I learned about this winter was orienteering. At Estell Manor County Park (Atlantic County, NJ) I got to take an orienteering class. The class started indoors, where I learned how to use the orienteering compass. Knowing how to use a compass can be very helpful, because if you are in the wilderness your cell phone might not work, and a compass never needs batteries. I learned how to use the orienteering map and the compass to figure out what direction I needed to walk to go in a certain direction. I also learned how to figure out how many steps I would take to travel a certain distance and how to use the map scale.

After learning how to use the compass, I went out into the park to try out the orienteering trail. I used to compass and map to find the different checkpoints on the trail. Each of the checkpoints was marked with a white and red square. As I found each checkpoint, I would use the compass and map to figure out what direction to travel next and how many steps I should be going.  

Learning about shelter and fire building, cooking over a fire, and orienteering was so much fun, and I feel like I will be more prepared the next time I will be taking a trip in the outdoors.  There are lots more outdoor skills to learn, and I am looking forward to taking some more classes soon!

Student Ambassador Tigran Attends the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit

Charting a Path to Success, the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit

This Fall, my friend Billy from the National Park Trust contacted me and told me about the Northwest Youth Leadership Conference in Seattle, WA. I trusted that Billy knew what the summit was all about, so I quickly signed up. The free, two-day conference was for 150 young adults between the ages of 14 and 26. The first day was dedicated to field trips in the local area, and the second day was the actual summit.

My trip did not start as smoothly as I had hoped due to many flight delays. It was 2:30 in the morning when my Dad and I finally got to Seattle, on the first day of the summit. After getting a few hours of sleep, I was ready to begin the field trips!

The first field trip of the Summit was to a ropes course at Camp Long, which is where the first American to climb Mt. Everest, Jim Whittaker, learned to climb. I had no idea that Mr. Whittaker had

Tigran on the high ropes course

trained there, which was really exciting.

The original plan was to do the low ropes course, which did not require any safety ropes. However, because our group was so small, our group leader decided to put us on the forty-foot tall high ropes course instead. Buddy Bison and I looked at each other nervously; we hadn’t planned to go on a giant course like that. Yet, we put on our helmets and harnesses and hiked over to the course.

We started by practicing clipping into the safety wires that would hold us up. After that, we walked on a long wire out to all of the challenges. A great feature of the course was how it was set up. It was shaped like a spider web, allowing you to choose which challenges you wanted to do. There was everything from zip lines to moving wooden boards. This ended up being extremely fun, and Buddy and I enjoyed every second of our time there.

After our trip to Camp Long my family and I went on an exciting field trip to Klondike National Historical Park on our own. This park preserves the history of the 1897 Gold Rush in the Yukon province of Canada. We started at the Visitor Center, which had great interpretive displays. There were exhibits on the equipment that prospectors used, the routes “stampeders” took, and even some exhibits on the significant figures that participated in the gold rush. The dedication people needed to succeed back then was amazing; they traveled through freezing snow, bad weather, and tall mountains.

After taking a quick look at some of the exhibits, we were introduced to Ranger Kelsey gave us a tour of the park with Ranger Jane. We were completely surprised to learn that our tour group was just Buddy Bison, my Dad and me! Ranger Kelsey gave us a presentation on the effects of the Klondike Gold Rush in the United States as a whole, and Seattle in particular. In her opinion, there are four things that make a national park; history, culture, nature, and people. On the tour, each stop represented one of these things. It is surprising how much there is to see there–you would never guess that many of the buildings are important to the history of Seattle! Ranger Kelsey’s presentation was amazing, and pointed out many incredible things that we would never have spotted ourselves. You may be wondering, why does Seattle have a national park dedicated to a Canadian gold rush, for the answer, you will have to visit!After the tour was over, we went back to the visitor center, where we were introduced to Superintendent Charles Beall, who was also at the summit the next day. I gave Ranger Kelsey her own Buddy Bison and she squealed with delight. We also met Ranger Kayla, who would be my group leader at the summit.

Tigran at Klondike Gold Rush NHS

Buddy and I had no idea what to expect from the summit, but we were very excited. The summit was held at an incredible rock climbing and mountaineering center called The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center. There are incredible artificial indoor and outdoor climbing walls and even some real basalt rock to practice climbing on. Just before the summit began, Buddy and I checked in and my dad started to explore the area. There, we met up with Ranger Kayla again, who like us was really excited.

Each summit group was named after a nearby mountain peak. My group was after Shuksan. I think this name represents the journey we will have to take to take to become a ranger; they both require training, perseverance and dedication. The summit began with a huge welcome ceremony, with all the participants in a large hall. Then, we all were able to choose a breakout session,

Tigran, Ranger Kayla, and Buddy Bison at the Youth Leadership Summit

which were hour-long classes about a certain topic. There was everything from career planning to team challenge courses. Everyone chose three breakout sessions. I chose a session about becoming a ranger, a session on the effects of climate change in Mount Rainier National Park, and climbing on a huge rock-climbing wall.

After the three breakout sessions, it was time for one of the main attractions of the summit, the opportunity fair. This was an event for us to meet with a huge number of outdoor related organizations. Several of these groups offered internships and other opportunities for young people who want to pursue a career in the parks. There were many different national parks represented, including Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Mount Rainier National Park and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. There were also Forest Service Rangers but we didn’t get to see Smokey Bear on this visit. Many local and national non-profit volunteer groups were there as well, offering a wide variety of different opportunities.

The final activities were large group discussions about different topics; Buddy and I chose to participate in a discussion about how to connect people who have never experienced the outdoors with park related opportunities. When the summit ended Buddy and I said goodbye to Ranger Kayla and our other new friends.

The Northwest Youth Leadership Summit was a great experience, and addressed one of the biggest challenges for the parks; getting the next generation of park enthusiasts involved in creating the next generation of park stewards. It is important to engage the next generation, whose responsibility it will be to take care of our parks in the future. Events like the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit give an opportunity to youth to get involved and chart a career path in the parks. It was great to meet so many amazing people who are working to protect our parks, and to meet other like-minded young adults interested in working in our public lands.

I think happiness and success comes from following your passion. In the parks, there are almost endless opportunities to pursue your passions, either as a volunteer or as a career. Buddy Bison and I will be looking for other Youth Leadership Summits and we hope to see you there!