Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Joslyn
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, and she now has bins at additional schools and two libraries. She earned the 2018-2019 Presidential Youth Environmental Award from the Environment Protection Agency for her recycling efforts.
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.
Buddy Bison and I recently traveled to Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota. The Monument consists of 301 acres of land that features quarry pits, tallgrass prairie, a trail, and a waterfall called Winnewissa Falls.
The Monument’s Visitor Center is currently closed because of Covid-19, but Buddy Bison and I were able to tour the area by walking the 3/4-mile-long Circle Trail. The trail took us through a tallgrass prairie with more than 70 types of native grasses, a beautiful waterfall, and past rock quarries.
This land has been used by Native Americans for over 3,000 years to quarry stones made of catlinite. The red and pinkish stones are used by Native Americans to make sacred pipes. That is why the area is called Pipestone. During prayer time and religious ceremonies, the smoke from the pipe will carry prayers up to the Great Spirit.
Buddy Bison wants to make sure visitors know that stones may not be removed from the Monument without a permit. Native Americans who are enrolled members of tribes recognized by the federal government may apply for a permit to quarry at the Monument. There are currently 56 pits on the property where stones can be recovered. Each pit is assigned to an individual for one year at a time, and the individual can choose to renew the permit each year. The waiting list for new applicants to get a permit to quarry is about 10 years.
For those without a permit to quarry, pipes and crafts made from the quarried stone are available to purchase at the Monument’s Gift Shop. Items are also available from their online store which can be found here: https://www.authenticpipestone.com/.
Throughout our journey, we saw many pieces of cloth tied to trees. These are called prayer ties. The ties are a prayer or a spiritual offering.
The Monument’s calendar of events is currently empty due to Covid-19. However, there are usually lots of activities planned throughout the year such as snowshoeing, night sky viewings, a Christmas Bird Count, and an annual Sun Dance Ceremony for Native Americans to give thanks to the Great Spirit. Buddy and I look forward to returning to the Monument when these activities resume.
In Minnesota, there is an area called the North Shore that I visit once or twice a year. The North Shore refers is the 154-mile shoreline along Lake Superior in Minnesota from Duluth to Grand Portage. There are so many places to visit in that area.
Here are a few spots that Buddy and I visited in July:
Grand Portage National Monument
Step back into history and relive the partnership of the Grand Portage Ojibwe and the North West Company during the early North American fur trade.
The area features a replica of the trading post that operated between 1731 and 1804. The replica includes a great hall, kitchen, and canoe warehouse. We were greeted by a reenactor at each building, who was performing activities such as canoe building. Buddy and I were amazed at the size of some of the handmade canoes! I hope to visit the monument next year during the second week of August, which is when the annual Rendezvous Days and Traditional Pow Wow are held. There will be music, dancing, and workshops, and much more!
Grand Portage State Park
This is about as close as you can get to Canada without stepping over the border. The park is located on the Ojibwe reservation. This is the only Minnesota state park located within an Indian Reservation that is on land owned by the Tribe.There are two falls in the park, the Middle Falls and High Falls of the Pigeon River. The river separates the United States and Canada. The highlight of this park is the 120-foot-tall High Falls. This is the highest waterfall in Minnesota, but only a portion of the falls are located within the state. If you want to see the highest falls that are located totally inside of Minnesota you will need to go to Tettegoache State Park, which is also located along the North Shore. Buddy and I followed the ½-mile trail and boardwalk to see the 120-foot-tall High Falls and were glad we did! It was impressive.
Next time we visit this park, I want to challenge Buddy to take the 5-mile round-trip hike to the Middle Falls. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site, that hike is rugged and has elevations changes of several hundred feet. Most people take three hours to complete the hike.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
There are five waterfalls in this park including the upper, middle, and lower falls of the Gooseberry River. This park is a very popular tourist attraction so when we visit, we plan to arrive either right when the park opens at 8 a.m. or after 5:30 pm (the park closes at 10 pm).
There are 18 miles of year-round trails, so each time we visit we find a new trail to take. This time we took a trail to the Fifth Falls, which is the smallest waterfall in the park. It is the least visited of the park’s falls, so we had that area to ourselves.
A great place to take a photo inside this park is by the 300-foot long highway concourse and retraining wall that is called the “Castle in the Park”. It earned that name because it looks like a castle wall from a fairy tale. The wall was built by the Civilian Conservations Corps (CCC) from 1936 until 1940. The CCC had many projects inside the park. Here is a link to a self-guided tour map of projects CCC built inside the park:
Next time we visit this park, I am bringing my bike. I want to ride on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail through the park. I just need to find a helmet that fits Buddy!
You own a what?
No, I don’t own a beach. I am talking about Iona’s Beach near Two Harbors, Minnesota.
Iona’s Beach is one of those places my family loves to visit because we are usually the only people there. Sometimes another family is there at the same time, but there is plenty of room along the 300 yards of beach so we still feel like we have the place to ourselves.
The beach is filled with pink rocks that are made of rhyolite. They are beautiful to look at, but Buddy wants to remind visitors not to take any home.
The beach is named after Iona Lind. She had a resort on the land, but that’s gone now and just nature remains. The land was donated to the State of Minnesota, and it has been designated as a Scientific and Natural Area (SNA).
Being designated as an SNA means that the land is open to the public for recreational activities that do not disturb the land, plants, or animals. Examples of allowed activities include birdwatching, photography, and hiking.
Now that I’ve told you a few of my favorite places to visit, please let Buddy and I know what your favorite places along the North Shore are! Don’t forget to tag the National Park Trust in your posts so Buddy and I can find them!
To celebrate Presidents’ Day, Buddy Bison and I visited the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site in Independence, Missouri. Buddy and I have lots of tips on making the most out of your trip there!
But first, a quick history lesson: Harry S. Truman was the Vice President under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Roosevelt died in 1945, Truman became president for the next three years. Truman then ran for president in 1945 and won. He retired from political office in 1953 and moved back to Independence.
Here are a few of the fun things to do at the National Historic Site:
- Walk in the footsteps of our 33rd president! Known for his strolls around the neighborhood, visitors are welcome to walk the same sidewalks as he did. Truman used a walking stick to count his steps. Sticks are for sale at the Visitor Center, which is located at 223 North Main Street.
- Take of tour of Truman’s Home! Stop by the Visitor Center to sign up for the free tour! Then head over to the Truman Home located at 219 N. Delaware St. A staff member will meet you at the gate when it’s time for the tour to begin.
- See if you can spot Truman’s hat! When touring the Truman house, look for Truman’s hat. It is still hanging on the hook just as he left it. His wife, Bess Wallace Truman, put in her will that the hat should never be moved. So Buddy Bison says that you can look, but don’t touch.
- Make an origami paper crane! The Visitor Center has dozens of colorful paper cranes on display. This is based on the book “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr. The book is a true story about a woman named Sadako Sasacki. She got sick from the effects of the Hiroshima Bomb. Sadako followed an old legend that if a sick person folds one thousand cranes, her wish of being healed will come true.
- Speaking of the Visitor Center, there is a life-size cutout of Truman there. Be sure to take your photo with it! Buddy looks forward to seeing your photos with Truman on Instagram!
Buddy and I hope you get a chance to visit! But, if you can’t visit the park, but want to feel connected to Truman just pick up a book. According to the National Park Web site, he read over 1,100 books. You can find a list of books that were in his house here: https://www.nps.gov/hstr/
–Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Joslyn
Recently Buddy Bison and I got the chance to visit the De Soto National Memorial. The 26-acre park is located in Bradenton, Florida.
After spending the afternoon at the park, Buddy and I came up with a list of five must-do activities at the park:
- Learn the history of the park! De Soto National Memorial is named after Hernando de Soto. He was a Spanish explorer who came to the area in May 1539. I won’t tell you how his exploration ended – you will have to visit the park to find out more.
- Try on European armor! The park has helmets, breastplates, and more to try on. I was surprised how heavy that armor actually was. I can’t imagine walking or running with it on. Buddy tried on the helmet!
- Bring your four-legged friend and together became BARK Rangers!
The dogs must be on a leash and successfully complete four activities. After these are completed, the dog and human companion will be sworn in as BARK Rangers. And the dogs earn a special BARK Ranger Dog Tag!
- Go Bird Watching! DeSoto National Memorial is home to a wide variety of birds such as gulls, great egrets, herons, and American white pelicans. If you are lucky, you might get to see bald eagles looking for food on the Manatee River!
- Take a fishing class! The park offers the De Soto Rancho Fishing Clinic for adults and kids ages 7 and up. Participants learn about fishing equipment, casting, fish identification, and know tying! To sign up, call 941-792-0458. Buddy and I hope to wet a line next time we visit.
I hope you get a chance to visit this park. It is mostly swampland, so don’t forget your bug spray!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air, so I decided to write some reasons why I L❤️VE National Parks.
1) Fresh air! Ahh, the great outdoors! It feels great to breathe clean and refreshing air! (Your lungs will thank you for it!)
2) Fun activities! Hiking, camping, and canoeing are always a great idea! But there are also other ways to spend time outdoors such as bird watching, taking photographs, looking for wildlife tracks. I also like spending the night watching the stars and seeing which constellations I can find. Once you get away from the city lights, you will be amazed by the number of stars in the sky!
3) Meeting new people! The Park Rangers are friendly and very knowledgeable. You will also meet other people who love nature. I have met many new people by attending activities at National Parks!
4) Challenge yourself to see new places! Imagine how satisfying it is to look at the great mountain top view after hiking up it. Or how awesome it is to canoe down a river in search of the perfect spot for a picnic. During a visit to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, I got to see acres of grassland from a covered wagon!
5) Learning new things! Yes, I saved the best for last — learning new things is my favorite! During a recent visit to DeSoto National Memorial in Florida, I got to try on examples of the heavy armor that explorers wore. Buddy Bison tried on a helmet, but it was too big for him! There are always so many things to learn at each National Park!
Of course, there are so many more reasons to love our parks, but if I told you all of them you would be here forever! And that means you wouldn’t be able to get outside and visit our National Parks!
Happy Valentine’s Day from your Buddy Bison Ambassador!
Buddy Bison and I just returned from a visit to Canaveral National Seashore in Florida. We spent the whole day building sandcastles, playing in the ocean, and enjoying the view.
The site is massive! It has 58,000 acres of land and offshore waters. With all that room, there were plenty of places for Buddy and me to explore!
If you are in the area, you should check out Canaveral National Seashore! Here are just a few highlights that are worth checking out:
Visit the Beach – There are 25 miles of beach to choose from! You can visit the seashore in two areas; these are called the Apollo Beach District or Playalinda Beach District. The visitor’s center is at the Apollo Beach District.
Buddy and I visited the Playalinda Beach District. There were 13 piers to choose from. We picked pier #7 and walked along a wooden boardwalk to the sandy beach. With so many piers, it wasn’t crowded at all. The piers next to us had no people in sight. Our pier just had a couple of surfers who were battling rip tides.
Because of the ferocious waves that day, my sister and I didn’t venture too far into the water. Instead, we had a lot of fun sitting next to the ocean’s edge and bracing for the waves to crash over us. I tried to get Buddy to build a sandcastle with me, but he just rolled in the sand.
Watch a Kennedy Space Center Launch – Canaveral National Seashore is located next to the Kennedy Space Center. Fun fact: about two-thirds of the park is overseen by NASA.
Canaveral has a great view for rocket launches! If a rocket launch is scheduled when the park is open, be sure to check here to see if there is any road closings or important alerts: https://www.nps.gov/cana/index.htm. If you are planning to head to Canaveral for a launch, get there early. The park may fill to capacity and incoming traffic will be restricted. Buddy Bison’s tip is to bring a chair!
Watch for Nesting Turtles –Canaveral National Seashore is a vital nesting area for four types of sea turtles. The four types of turtles that nest there are the loggerhead, green, leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley.
To help keep track of the sea turtles, Canaveral has a turtle watch program. Participants count the number of sea turtles that are nesting at Canaveral. Last year, a total of 13,383 turtles were
spotted nesting at the Apollo and Playalinda beaches! The cost is $14 per person 16 years or older. Kids under 16 years old are free. Just like some of my favorite activities at DisneyWorld, reservations are required. Reservations can be made starting May 15th for June; and starting June 15th for July. To take part, call 386-428-3384 ext. 0.
Buddy and I won’t be able to make it back for the summer. But we can still take part in Turtle Watch by going online and watching the Turtle Nest Cam! The camera will show live video from dusk to dawn during the months of June through November. I hope I get a chance to see a turtle when I tune in! Here is the link: https://www.nps.gov/cana/learn/nature/turtle-nest-cam.htm
Explore Mosquito Lagoon And Camp On an Island – Visitors can take a guided canoe tour of Mosquito Lagoon. The Lagoon makes up over two-thirds of the park and is a part of the 156-mile long Indian River Lagoon.
Camping is available on 14 island campsites (how cool is that?!) Reservations for island camping can be made by calling 877-444-6777. A boat or canoe is required to travel to the island. To rent a canoe, contact the Visitor Center at (386) 428-3384 ext. 0.
Well, I hope this article has convinced you to spend a day or more at Canaveral National Seashore. If you visit, don’t forget to post about it on social media! #BuddyBison and I look forward to seeing your posts!
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.
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/
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
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.