Idaho Park Ranger Training and Degree Requirements

The natural beauty of Idaho is evident in its 26 state parks, as well as the national parks located in the state.  The state has the most rivers running through it of any state in the country.

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Over half a million people visited national parks in Idaho in 2012, spending more than $25 million into the economy.  One draw for visitors from around the world is the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park that is located in Idaho.  This park was the first national park in the country and is one of the last intact natural ecosystems in the temperate zone.

The scenery available in Idaho’s state parks ranges from white water rivers to forested areas and mountains.  Some of the popular state parks in Idaho include:

  • Hells Gate State Park
    • Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge found in North America
    • The park is also the gateway to Idaho’s Lewis and Clark country

  • City of Rocks
    • Its granite columns are up to 60 stories tall and are popular with climbers

  • Bruneau Dunes
    • It has the tallest sand dune in the country that is a single structure

  • Farragut State Park
    • Lake Pend Oreille in the park is Idaho’s largest lake

Through education and interpretation park rangers in Idaho help enhance the park going experience for visitors while working to protect both park resources and the visiting public.  Working for either the National Park Service or the Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation, most are certified law enforcement officers with a great deal of knowledge on the plants, wildlife, and history of Idaho.

Requirements for Becoming a State Park Ranger in Idaho

Park rangers in Idaho’s state parks work for the Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation.  This department accepts applications when positions are available in specific parks.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Knowledge of natural resource management and outdoor recreation
    • Typically this can be met in the following ways:
      • 9 college level credits in a natural resource field
      • AND at least two seasons of experience working with these issues
  • Experience in customer service
    • Typically this can be gained through 6 months of the following types of work experience:
      • Visitor center
      • Hotel desk clerk
      • Sales clerk
  • Experience as a supervisor
    • Typically this can be gained with at least 6 months of work experience
      • This can include managing seasonal and/or volunteer staff
  • Some knowledge of interpretation/environmental education
    • Typically this can be gained by one of the following:
      • At least one college course
      • One agency sponsored workshop that included one of the following:
        • Park interpretation
        • Environmental education

Recommended Practical Experience:

Knowledge of these types of skills is not mandatory, but will increase an applicant’s likelihood of being hired.

  • Basic construction and building maintenance
  • Operating and maintaining equipment and vehicles

Required Examination: 

To be able to apply for a position as a state ranger, applicants must take an exam.  The responses must be supported by the applicant’s work history, resume, or educational background.  While a college degree is not necessary, the knowledge gained from one should help applicants to score more highly on the exam.

The job application will have a link to preview the exam.  To take the exam, applicants must click on an Apply Online button.  Instructions will follow.

Training and Certification:

Park rangers typically take part in compliance enforcement training within the first 1.5 to 2 years of employment.  To obtain their certification, employees must complete the following steps:

  • Passing established professional requirements
  • Passing a criminal background check
    • Including fingerprinting
    • Completing a personal history statement

Requirements for Becoming a Federal Park Ranger in Idaho

The National Park Service hires different types of park rangers depending on the needs of the agency.  Protective park rangers are certified law enforcement officers, and the requirements to become one are shown below:

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Basic Requirements:

  • Having a valid driver’s license
  • Having reached 21 years of age

Educational Requirements:

  • GS-05:  Bachelor’s degree with 24 hours of relevant coursework
  • GS-07:  A year of graduate school

Experience Requirements:

Applicants without college degrees will be considered if they have relevant work experience such as the following:

    • A year of experience at the GS-04 level such as:
      • Having been a law enforcement officer
      • Having been a park guide
  • One year of experience using law enforcement skills to protect visitors and resources

A combination of experience and education can also be used to meet these requirements.

Idaho Park Ranger Salaries

The Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation reports that it currently manages 30 state parks. Some of those parks include Lucky Peak State Park in Boise, the Spring Shores Unit of Lucky Peak State Park, Winchester Lake State Park in Winchester, and Lake Cascade State Park in Cascade.

According to the Idaho Division of Human Resources, Idaho park ranger salaries begin at $30,805 per year. The official title assigned to park rangers is P&R Ranger, and their salary schedule is as follows:

P&R Ranger

  • Minimum: $30,805
  • Policy: $45,323
  • Maximum: $56,659

P&R Climbing Ranger

  • Minimum: $30,805
  • Policy: $45,323
  • Maximum: $56,659

The difference between ranger and climbing ranger is that climbing rangers are responsible for maintaining parks which are rock climbing locations as opposed to state parks which are not. However, both types of rangers are responsible for ensuring the safety of visitors and providing them with education and informative services.

Some of the benefits which park rangers receive include:

  • Health insurance
  • PERSI retirement (Public Employment Retirement System of Idaho)
  • Vacation and sick leave

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 Idaho

Area name
Annual mean wage
Boise City-Nampa ID
Idaho Falls ID
Logan UT-ID
Pocatello ID
North Idaho nonmetropolitan area
Southwest Idaho nonmetropolitan area
Southcentral Idaho nonmetropolitan area
East Idaho nonmetropolitan area

Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Idaho

Area name
Annual mean wage
Boise City-Nampa ID
Coeur dAlene ID
Estimate Not Released
Southcentral Idaho nonmetropolitan area

Bruneau Dunes State Park

The 4,800-acre Bruneau Dunes State Park boasts the largest sand dune in North America.  It has a 470-foot peak that rises above small lakes in the desert.  While off road vehicles are not allowed on the dune, it is popular with hikers, skiers and sand-sledders. The park even rents sand sleds for its visitors to use.

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Park rangers offer guided walks throughout the park along with special programs.  They also staff the visitor center, which has information on the park’s wildlife, fossils, and dunes.  Park rangers at Bruneau Dunes State Park also function as compliance officers and carry out law enforcement duties.

The Roles of Park Rangers at Bruneau Dunes State Park

The park rangers at Bruneau Dunes State Park have a variety of duties.  Among them are the following:

  • Answering questions from visitors about history, plants and animals, and geology in the park
  • Informing visitors of pertinent regulations
  • Collecting fees
  • Operating the Centralized Reservation System
  • Operating and repairing vehicles, mowers, tractors, etc
  • Maintaining park facilities and grounds
  • Maintaining and irrigating lawns
  • Carrying out janitorial duties
  • Assisting with the supervision of seasonal employees and volunteers

Park rangers are also involved in organizing and marketing special events, preparing research reports and procedure manuals, as well as maintaining records, inventories and logs

The Majesty and Diversity of Bruneau Dunes State Park

This park boasts a number of different habitats including desert, prairie, dunes, lakes and marsh.

Bruneau Dunes State Park is also known for its observatory.  The park was chosen as the site for this observatory because of its very dark night skies. It is one of only two observatories of its kind in Idaho and is the largest observatory in the West that is open to the public.

Park rangers lead a multimedia introduction to the stars along with members of the Boise Astronomical Society.  The observatory is open to the public from April through October on weekend nights only.

This diversity of habitats draws a large number of species of wildlife, and birdwatching is very popular at Bruneau Dunes State Park.  Birds in the park include kestrels, hawks, geese, ducks, and herons.

Bruneau Dunes State Park offers one of the longest camping seasons of all state parks in Idaho.  In addition to traditional camping facilities, it has an Equestrian Area where people can camp with their horses and ride them on a nine-mile trail.

City of Rocks National Reserve

Although City of Rocks is a national reserve, it is managed by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.  The staff members at City of Rocks also manage the nearby Castle Rocks State Park.  Around 200,000 people a year visit these two parks.

One of the major reasons for designating City of Rocks as a national reserve is the significant scenic and geological value of its rock formations.  Some of the granite spires are 2.5 billion years old.

City of Rocks National Reserve is a climbing Mecca for people from all over the world.  The park offers about 700 climbing routes that range from 100-foot spires to those reaching 600 feet into the air.  Climbers consider the routes to be high quality and appreciate that reaching them doesn’t involve heavy traffic and large crowds.

Park ranger jobs at City of Rocks National Reserve include specialists in climbing and natural resources.  In addition to helping the general visitors to the parks, these rangers offer an active junior ranger program for children.

The Various Roles of Park Rangers at City of Rocks National Reserve

Visitors can interact with rangers at the Headquarters and Visitor Center where rangers have placed interpretive exhibits.  They also offer a climbing experience program to introduce adults and children ten years and older to basic climbing techniques.  For a small fee, visitors can learn the basics of climbing and rappelling on easy routes.

The park rangers also have a very active junior ranger program for children ages 6-8 and those 9-12.  These children must complete a certain number of activities in the Junior Ranger Activity Book designed especially for City of Rocks National Reserve.  In addition, the children must collect at least one bag of garbage from the reserve.

After completing these activities, the children receive a junior ranger certificate and badge.  They also take a pledge that they will serve a positive role in the reserve.  Part of this includes the following:

  • Being a positive example to other visitors
  • Inviting others to visit the reserve
  • Only climbing where you can safely climb down

The Natural Wonders and Biodiversity of City of Rocks National Reserve

Another notable quality of the park is its large degree of biological diversity.  Habitats in the park include the following:

  • Spruce-fir pine forest
  • Pinyon-juniper-mahogany forest
  • Sagebrush flats
  • Aspen-riparian areas

Both summer and winter visits to the park offer opportunities for viewing a number of different types of wildlife.  Visitors can watch wildlife on the more than 22 miles of hiking trails that traverse the reserve.  Hunting is permitted in the park, and mule deer, moose, and elk can be found there.  The park supports a great diversity of birds, and 142 species have been documented within Almo Valley and the City of Rocks.

City of Rocks has a notable history as being part of the California Trail.  It marked progress for the people immigrating to California for the gold rush in the 1800s, providing a route over the mountains for their wagons.  In 1852, 52,000 people traveled through City of Rocks on their way to California.  Many of them painted their autographs on the rocks with axle grease.  A number of these are still visible.

Farragut State Park

Farragut State Park is one of the most popular recreational sites in northern Idaho as it is located on the shore of Idaho’s largest lake—Lake Pend Oreille.  In the summer, this 4,000-acre park hosts three to four thousand visitors a day.

The park rangers at Farragut State Park have a number of roles ranging from interpreting the history of the park, as well as its flora and fauna, to maintaining picnic areas and clearing trails. Park rangers here also manage the large number of volunteers that help to keep the park safe, clean and in good working order.

Park Ranger Job Duties at Farragut State Park

History and Amenities – At one point, the site had the second largest naval training facility in the world.  The Farragut Naval Training Station (FNTS) was built in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Twenty two thousand civilian workers constructed the $160 million facility, which was used to train over 293,000 naval recruits from 1942 to 1946.

Although 776 buildings made up the FNTS, very few remain.  One that does is the brig in which unruly naval recruits were jailed.  This building is now known as the Museum at the Brig and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of the cells have been left in their original state, while others house interpretive displays including photos, letters, equipment, furniture, and personal items.  Park rangers and volunteers describe the FNTS history to visitors and interact with the many veterans who return to visit the site of their training.

In addition to its historical features, Farragut State Park is crisscrossed by hiking and biking trails.  Over 220 campsites offer opportunities for camping in this scenic park that has views of the lake and the mountains.  There are also three 18-hole disc golf courses for Frisbee throwers.  The lake offers many opportunities for recreation including fishing, swimming, boating, and water sports.

Volunteering – One of the largest undertakings of the park rangers at Farragut State Park is finding volunteers and then assigning them to work.  It is not uncommon for 35 volunteers to be working at the park on a summer day.  They do everything from hosting at the Brig Museum to cutting firewood.  The volunteers range from individuals to groups such as scouts, school groups, and labor crews from the sheriff’s department.

The park rangers at Farragut State Park also help to maintain the park.  They paint signs, maintain picnic areas, and clear trails.

Interacting with the visitors is a major role of these park rangers.  They lead student outings on the park’s trails and answer questions about the plants and animals in Farragut State Park.  The park rangers also monitor campsites.

Natural Resource Management – One of the major goals of the staff at Farragut State Park is to restore the forest stands to their original state.  Fires in the park had been suppressed for over 100 years.  These fires had thinned the forests and maintained the types of diversity of the habitat.  There are eight goals for the current resource work in Farragut State Park:

  • Restoring forest stands to their historic state
  • Providing for wildfire protection and defense zones for firefighters
  • Providing for wildlife habitat
  • Managing hazard trees
  • Protecting historically significant trees
  • Providing for recreational enhancements
  • Reducing the risk of epidemic disease and insect outbreaks
  • Reintroducing species such as white pine that is resistant to blister rust

Hell’s Gate State Park

The rangers at Hell’s Gate State Park are responsible for protecting visitors and enhancing their experience. With fishing and boating being popular activities on the Snake River, there is always a risk of visitors falling into the cold river.  Rangers and first responders from around Idaho have trained in rescue operations in the frigid waters so as to be able to deal with any situation that may arise.

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Hell’s Gate State Park is rich in history, as it was once the site of a Nez Perce Village.  While little remains of the village, remnants of the pit houses used for fishing remain as depressions in the south part of the park and Petroglyphs are still visible along the banks of the Snake River.

Lewis and Clark travelled through the area in their search for an inland waterway to the Pacific.  Their travels are commemorated at the park’s Lewis and Clark Discovery Center where park rangers have designed interpretive displays.  The park features both indoor displays and two acres of interpretive displays on the banks of the Snake River.

Working as a Park Ranger at Hells Gate State Park

Hell’s Gate State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Idaho.  Its location along the Snake River makes it ideal for boating and fishing, and privately run companies offer jet boat tours along this river.  The Snake River runs through Hells Canyon that is one of the deepest gorges in North America.

One hundred and four campsites are available by the river and offer an array of different types of options for camping.  Idaho has offered a First-Time Camper Program at Hell’s Gate State Park to introduce novices to camping.

Big game hunting was popular in this part of Idaho at one time.  Deer and bighorn sheep still frequent the area.  Hunting is commemorated at Hell’s Gate State Park at the Jack O’Conner Hunting Heritage and Education Center.

This famous conservationist and hunter wrote a large number of pieces that educated Americans about wildlife conservation and management.  The rifles used by both O’Conner and his wife are on display at this center along with 65 mounted trophy heads from around the world.

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