Known as the “The Natural State” for its beauty and abundance of natural resources, it’s not surprising that the state of Arkansas has established some of the most scenic state parks in the country. It’s first State park, Petit Jean State park, opened in 1923 and is still open today. As of 2014, Arkansas has 52 State parks in operation throughout the state, governed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
This vast parks system includes everything from the 5,230 acre Cossatot River State park-natural Area complete with Class V whitewater rafting, to the world’s only diamond-bearing site accessible to the public at Crater of Diamonds State park. The parks system also includes several museums and historical sites, including the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources.
Arkansas is no stranger to National Parks either. The state boasts seven national parks, including Hot Springs National Park, so named for the park’s 47 thermal springs, and several sites of national historical significance.
Becoming a Park Ranger with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Arkansas’s park rangers are tasked with a variety of duties throughout the state’s park system that involve preserving natural resources and enhancing visitor experiences. Some of the top responsibilities of Arkansas park rangers include:
- Fire control
- Protecting wildlife
- Public education
- Enforcement of laws and regulations
- Traffic control
- Overseeing visitors and park use
- Search and rescue
Individuals interested in becoming park rangers with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism will be required to carry a valid state-issued driver’s license at the time of appointment.
Other requirements vary widely based on the specifics of the position, though many park ranger positions at higher grade levels require a bachelor’s degree in one of the following areas or in other related fields:
- Natural resource management
- Park and recreation management
- Law enforcement
- Earth sciences
- Natural sciences
- Public administration
Specialized work experience is also often taken into consideration when applying for these positions and can be used to substitute for a degree where applicable.
Many Arkansas state park ranger positions also require candidate to complete a seasonal law enforcement training program prior to the start date of their position.
Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Arkansas
Individuals interested in serving as park rangers in one of Arkansas’ seven national parks or historical sites can apply for positions through the U.S. National Park Service. Requirements vary depending on the duties and responsibilities assigned to specific positions.
There are several requirements that are fairly standard for national park ranger positions:
- Must have U.S. citizenship
- Must obtain a valid driver’s license in the state you plan to work
- Must be able to pass a background/security investigation
- Must be able to pass a medical exam with drug test
While some National Park Ranger positions may only require a high school diploma, most will require at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
Some relevant areas of study include:
- Forest management
- Natural science
- Natural resources management
- Parks and recreation
National park ranger positions may also look for candidates with specialized experience that demonstrate skills and knowledge. Some examples of this type of experience might include:
- Working in a visitor center or as a tour guide
- Law enforcement experience
- Emergency assistance
- Preservation or research experience
- Natural resource management experience
- Program planning or implementation
Fitness and training requirements:
In addition to basic and education requirements, some National Park Ranger positions will require candidate to complete fitness and training requirements including but not limited to:
- Physical Efficiency Battery test
- Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP)
The “Ranger Reads” Series at Hobbs State park-Conservation Area
Of all the varying responsibilities of Arkansas’s park rangers, public readings might not be the first one to come to mind. But that’s exactly what the park rangers who participate in the “Ranger Reads” series at Hobbs State park-Conservation Area in Rogers do.
This unique offering gives visitors the opportunity to experience their natural surroundings in a whole new way as they listen to a Park Ranger read excerpts from the great nature writers of American history.
In this marriage of literature and nature, Park Rangers bring a special passion to the park experience and go above and beyond their duties to create a truly memorable experience for park goers.
Arkansas Park Ranger Salaries
In Arkansas, park police are employed through the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism. Some of the most recognized parks in the state include Lake Ouachita State Park, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, and Ozark Folk Center State Park.
Information obtained from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration reveals that there are two rank levels among park rangers in Arkansas and that Arkansas park ranger salaries can range anywhere between $29,251 and $56,340. Here is a more detailed breakdown of how park rangers in Arkansas are paid:
- Entry Level: $29,251
- Base: $31,052
- Midpoint: $40,367
- Maximum: $49,683
- Career: $53,657
Park Ranger II
- Entry Level: $30,713
- Base: $32,604
- Midpoint: $42,386
- Maximum: $52,167
- Career: $56,340
Additional entry-level salary data is shown in the tables below. This includes various titles that park rangers in various roles are recognized:
Recreation Workers Salaries in Arkansas
Tour Guides and Escort Salaries in Alabama
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park sits adjacent to the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas and is managed by the National Park Service. Declared a national park in 1921 in order to protect the hydrological system and uncontaminated water of the hot springs, it is the smallest national park in the country.
Today, it is one of the most easily accessible national parks in the United States, as part of the hot springs are actually located in the downtown area of the city. This makes it a popular destination and brings approximately 1 million visitors to the park each year.
Park Ranger Job Responsibilities in Hot Springs National Park
As Hot Springs National Park is an urban area, park rangers often have unique roles focused in areas of resource management. A main area of focus within the park is placed on managing and protecting both the natural and cultural resources within the park. Park rangers work to protect the thermal water natural resources and their surrounding mountains that are at the center of the park, as well as many historical buildings on Bathhouse Row and other landmarks that exist throughout the area.
Park rangers also participate in aggressive fire management plans, which attempt to use prescribed fires and controlled burns to facilitate healthier natural habitats throughout the park. Park rangers also work in areas of fuel management to help reduce the fire risks around the park’s many historical structures.
Park rangers in protective roles patrol the park area and ensure that no damage comes to the natural historical resources in the area. Acts of vandalism carry sharp fines and even jail time, and park rangers act as law enforcement officers in these instances. Park rangers also protect visitors within the park. Park rangers work to deter criminal acts within the park, including thefts of personal property and acts of bodily harm to fellow visitors.
Park rangers also work in interpretive roles at the visitor center at the Fordyce Bathhouse and throughout the park. Park rangers provide guided tours of the Fordyce Bathhouse, explaining the history of the building and the hot springs. Park rangers also give outdoor tours of the Grand Promenade and Bathhouse Row, providing guests with natural history about how the hot springs came to be. Park rangers also offer Junior Ranger programs for youth.
Park rangers also provide a variety of other services to visitors. Park rangers provide customer service throughout the park and work to answer questions and help guests. Park rangers are trained in first aid and can assist visitors in medical emergencies that may arise throughout the park.
Recreational Activities in Hot Springs National Park
Park rangers assist visitors participating in a number of recreational activities throughout Hot Springs National Park, including:
- Visitor Center/Fordyce Bathhouse
- Historic Grand Promenade/Bathhouse Row
- Quapaw Baths and Spa
- 26 miles of hiking trails
- Guided Tours
- Scenic mountain roads
- Picnic areas
Hot Springs National Park also has a camping area available at the Gulpha Gorge Campground. Around 40 sites are available on a first come, first serve basis only. Campers are required to register upon arrival at the campsite. This makes it easier for park rangers to keep track of activities within the park.
Mount Magazine State Park
Mount Magazine State Park is a 2,234-acre state park nestled within the Ozark National Forest and managed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The park is ripe with breathtaking scenery, from river valleys and canyons to the Mossback Ridge mountain range. The park is also home to Mount Magazine, the highest place in the state of Arkansas.
Park rangers working in protective roles in Mount magazine State Park patrol the park to ensure public safety for visitors, and also to make sure that the park’s natural resources and wildlife are respected. This includes patrolling trails and backcountry areas, as well as providing traffic control along Highway 309.
Park rangers also work to ensure that park visitors follow rules and regulations in place throughout the park. Park rangers issue warnings and citations to visitors who violate park regulations. Park regulations are in place to ensure the safety of park visitors, and also to help preserve the beauty of the park and protect the wildlife and natural resources found there.
Park rangers in interpretive roles, sometimes referred to as park interpreters or naturalists, provide a variety of educational opportunities to visitors throughout the park. Rangers take park goers on guided hikes, as well as history and nature walks.
Park Ranger Job Duties in Mount Magazine State Park
Park rangers in Mount Magazine State Park also provide a great deal of programming especially directed toward educating children about the importance of state parks and preserving natural resources. Park rangers work with school groups to deliver hands-on education programs within the park. Park rangers also run Junior Naturalist and State Park Explorer programs for young park goers.
Park rangers also focus much of their attention on ensuring visitor safety throughout the park. Mount Magazine State Park is a premiere destination for extreme adventure enthusiasts, including some of the most technically challenging rock climbing in the state. Park rangers are prepared to assist visitors in a variety of emergency medical situations. Park rangers also provide help in search and rescue efforts throughout the park’s backcountry areas.
Mount Magazine State Park is also in the middle of bear country. Park rangers work to deter nuisance bears from disturbing visitors as part of their patrols. They also work to educate visitors on how to properly handle themselves in bear country and what to do in case of an encounter with a bear.
What Mount Magazine State Park has to Offer Visitors
Mount Magazine State Park has a wide range of activities and facilities that attract visitors to the park each year, including overnight camping and other lodging options. Park rangers have a wide level of involvement in programming throughout the park, and must also be aware of the recreational activities available throughout the park, as this is an integral part of providing public safety and natural resource protection.
Recreational Activities — Mount Magazine State Park offers a wide range of activities to adventure seekers throughout the park, including:
- Several miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy to strenuous
- Mountain biking and road cycling
- Rock climbing/rappelling/bouldering
- Hang gliding
- Horseback riding
- ATV Tours
- Birdwatching and wildlife viewing
Park Facilities — Mount Magazine State Park also has several state-of-the-art facilities throughout the park available for visitor use. Park rangers oversee many of these facilities, including the 8,000 square-foot visitor center, where many of the park ranger programs take place.
The Lodge at Mount Magazine is a luxury lodge with 60 guest rooms where visitors to the park can stay. There is also a retreat and conference center available for rental. The lodge also has 13 cabins available for guests. There’s also full service restaurant, called The Skycrest Restaurant, that serves three meals a day.
The park also has a picnic area complete with a picnic pavilion and gazebo, both available for group rentals.
Camping — The Mount Magazine State Park campground holds 18 campsites, and also features a bathhouse. There are two additional campgrounds located within the park. All campers are required to make reservations ahead of time and to register at the visitor center upon arrival. This allows park rangers to better monitor activity within the park.
Backcountry camping is also allowed along portions of the Huckleberry Mountain Trail that fall within the boundaries of the Ozark National Forest and this makes it a popular destination for overnight backpackers.
Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean State Park is a 3,471-acre park that sits on Petit Jean Mountain and is managed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. As the oldest state park in Arkansas, the park is considered to be the crowning achievement of several Arkansas state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Petit Jean State Park is located in an area of central Arkansas between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountain ranges, on the Arkansas River.
Petit Jean State park features woodland areas with beautiful streams and wildflowers, bluffs and rock formations, and several distinct features including Cedar Creek Canyon, Bear Cave, Seven hallows, and Cedar Falls.
Park rangers at Petit Jean State park provide a wide variety of interpretive services for park goers. Rangers in interpretive roles walk visitors through exhibits and provide workshops and presentations to educate guests on park history and natural resources. They also participate in special events in the park, including the Wildflower Weekend and Eagle Awareness Weekend.
Park rangers also provide valuable law enforcement services throughout the park. They focus on areas of public safety and park security. Park rangers in law enforcement roles perform routine traffic duties and patrols throughout the park.
Petit Jean State Park Ranger Job Duties
Park rangers enforce many important rules and regulations through the park that are in place to keep visitors safe and also serve to protect natural resources, including:
- No hiking in restricted areas, or those deemed hazardous or protected
- No swimming the pool at the bottom of Cedar Falls
- No alcoholic beverages on trails
- No defacing of natural or historic areas
- No overnight camping along trails
- No glass bottles or containers
- Pets must be on leashes at all times
Park rangers in Petit Jean State Park also provide emergency services, including providing clean up services after weather or other damage to trails and other areas of the park. Rangers also participate in search and rescue efforts in hard to reach areas throughout the park, and also assist in medical emergencies.
Recreational Opportunities for Visitors to Petit Jean State Park
Park activities — Petit Jean State Park has ample recreational opportunities available to park goers. Park rangers help provide safety and services to visitors as they participate in a number of activities, including:
- 20 miles of hiking trails
- Hike and Bike trail
- A boathouse with pedal boats, motor boats, kayaks, and water bikes for rental
- Fishing on the 100 acre Lake Bailey
- Scenic overlooks throughout the park including walkways
- Mountaintop motor tour
- Tennis and basketball courts
- A swimming pool
- Picnic area with group pavilion
- Two playgrounds
Park facilities — Petit Jean has a number of facilities available for park goers, which park rangers are responsible for overseeing. Some of these facilities include:
- A visitor center and gift shop
- Mather Guest Lodge and Restaurant
- Meeting rooms and retreat facilities
- 33 Cabins
- Rent-A-Yurt facilities
Camping — Petit Jean State Park has been named the number one state park for Camping Life magazine. This attracts a large number of campers each year to over 125 individual campsites, including several available for RV camping. Campsites are open year round. There is also a fly-in campground.
Park rangers provide patrols and other services throughout the campgrounds. Reservations can be made for all campsites.