Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Joslyn

The outdoors and wildlife have been a part of Joslyn’s life from a young age. At 11-years-old, she enjoys hiking, biking, fishing, and helping the environment. She wants to encourage other kids to have less screen time and more green time!

Stay tuned to her social media to keep updated on fun activities at state parks in the Midwest. She will be scouting out where the best places to hike, go horseback riding, and other adventures in our National, State, and local parks. You can follow Joslyn on her NPT blog below, on Twitter @JoslynJunior, and on Instagram @junior_ranger_joslyn.

Joslyn looks forward to touring the places where history was made. Thanks to the National Parks Service, many of our nation’s important sites are being preserved. She hopes to share what she learns about the historic sites in her home state of Nebraska, as well as other interesting sites throughout the Midwest.

Keeping our parks and environment healthy and clean is a goal of Joslyn’s. With the support of her teachers and principal, Joslyn started a Crayola Colorcycle recycling program at her school, which has expanded to locations at three schools, two libraries, a 4-H extension office, and a daycare.

She earned the 2018-2019 Presidential Youth Environmental Award from the Environment Protection Agency for her recycling efforts in 2019. Joslyn also volunteers at her local zoo in the summertime and is an active member of Cass County 4-H. When Joslyn isn’t at a State or National Park, you can find her sporting events– as she has been a Kid Reporter for Sports Illustrated Kids since 2018. Joslyn is available for speaking engagements about National Parks for schools and community groups that are located in Nebraska and Iowa.

Joslyn wants to help get every kid to National Parks, where they can enjoy the beauty of nature and see the wildlife she works so hard to help!


Winter Wonders at the Niobrara National Scenic River 

Winter Wonders at the Niobrara National Scenic River 

Niobrara National Scenic River is known in Nebraska for being the place to canoe, kayak, or go tubing. The river is 76 miles long, so there is plenty of space for visitors!

You don’t have to bring your own gear with you to the river. Visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, and tubes from local businesses and then take a shuttle bus to the river.

I recently visited the river’s headquarters with my family. The headquarters is in Valentine, Nebraska. Because December is a cold month for Nebraska, we stayed indoors. But there was plenty to do at the headquarters! We visited for their annual EPIC Creations of Nature Craft Day. The friendly staff helped my sister and I make holiday crafts. Our creations made perfect Christmas gifts for our parents and grandparents.

While I was at the headquarters, I learned more about the Niobrara River. It has more than 200 waterfalls! Visitors can also see four layers of rocks at different places along the river. These are the Ash Hollow formation, the Valentine formation, the Rosebud formation, and Pierre Shale. The waterfalls and rocks are just a few of the reasons the Niobrara has been designated as a National Scenic River. That’s a special honor because less than 1/4th of one percent of U.S. Rivers qualifies for this! To learn more about scenic rivers, or the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act that protects these rivers visit:  https://www.rivers.gov/index.php.

I can’t wait to return to Valentine next summer to go tubing on the Niobrara River with my family!

To start planning your visit, go here: https://www.nps.gov/niob/index.htm



Exploring Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Exploring Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Buddy Bison wanted to see his herd, so we took a trip to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kansas!

My family and I visited the park during their Harvest Festival. During the event,  I learned how to make apple cider like the pioneers did, how to rope a wooden cow like a cowgirl, and I rode on a covered wagon.

During our visit, we went on a bus tour of the tallgrass prairie too. Here are a few interesting facts that I learned during my bus tour with Lead Park Ranger Eric Patterson:

Most of the prairie isn’t publicly owned. Only 33 acres of the 11,000 acres is owned by the National Parks. The other acres belong to a nonprofit group called the Nature Conservatory. But, the public is welcome to explore all of it!

There are more than 70 species of grass at the prairie. The grass is dormant in the winter. It wakes up in mid-May and starts growing. Fall is when the grass is at its peak. 

There isn’t much tallgrass left. Less than 4% of the tallgrass that was once in the United States still exists. If you want to see what’s left, you need to visit Kansas. There is more in-tact tallgrass prairie in Kansas than any other place in the United States!

Take a hike or the bus tour to see some bison.  There are currently 87 adult bison and 13 newborn bison at the prairie. During our tour, Buddy Bison was excited to see a bison up-close through the bus window! 

Want to study nature? Tour the preserve! There is a lot of life on the prairie. It is home to more than 450 species of flowers, 1,000 species of insects, and 39 species of reptiles and amphibians. There are also educational displays throughout the onsite Visitor’s Center.

There is more than grass at the preserve.  A ranch was built on the land in the 1880s. The public can tour the original 130-year-old barn, house, and nearby one-room schoolhouse. 

Check their online event calendar.  We visited during a special event. Luckily, there are lots of events throughout the year at Tallgrass Prairie. I would like to visit during one of their popular bison round-ups! The next big event is the Candlelight Tour on November 9th. Walking tours will take visitors around the ranch on paths that will be lit up by lanterns. Characters will be wearing historical costumes and talking about what their life on the ranch was like 130 years ago. This event is free, but reservations are required. To RSVP call  620-273-8494. 

If you want more information about the preserve go to: https://www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm

Time Travel at Homestead National Monument

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 thttps://www.nps.gov/home/planyourvisit/calendar.htm or call (402) 223-3514 for more information.