Nestled in the heart of the Great Plains region, North Dakota is an expansive state, encompassing more than 70,000 square miles. It comes as no surprise that its state parks are numerous and its natural resources nearly boundless.
The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department and its force of park rangers oversee the state’s 13 state parks and 5 wildlife management areas. North Dakota’s Park rangers have an extensive number of job duties, including:
- Performing park administration, maintenance and enforcement
- Providing interpretation, safety and visitor service programs throughout state parks
- Enforcing state laws and park rules and regulations, including routine patrol, park user assistance, and fee collection
- Participating in the interpretive activities of the park
- Assisting in the maintenance of the park and its facilities
- Preparing and submitting required reports and records
- Participating in land use programs, safety programs, and public relations programs
How to Become a Park Ranger with the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department
Although North Dakota Parks and Recreation does not require park rangers to possess a formal college degree, a bachelor’s degree in a program related to the profession may serve individuals well, both during the hiring process and for advancement purposes.
Typical degree programs for individuals interested in becoming park rangers in North Dakota include:
- National resource management
- Earth sciences
- Natural sciences
- Public administration
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Penn Foster - Online Wildlife and Forestry Conservation Career Diploma
Minimum qualifications to become a park ranger in North Dakota include:
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must possess a high school diploma or GED
- Must possess a valid driver’s license
- Must be able to successfully complete the law enforcement requirements
Individuals applying for park ranger jobs through North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department must provide proof that they are legally authorized to work in the United States, and they must provide, along with their State of North Dakota Application for Employment form, a resume, cover letter, and a brief summary of their work experience.
Individuals may also provide the Department with areas/state parks in which they are interested working.
All application materials must be sent to:
North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department
1600 East Century Avenue, Suite 3
Bismarck, ND 58503-0649
Fax number: 701-328-5363
How to Become a Federal Park Ranger in North Dakota
Individuals may also choose to work as a federal park ranger through the National Park Service. National parks in North Dakota include:
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- North Country National Scenic Trail
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
- Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site
- Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
There are more than 3,800 park rangers within the National Park Service, all of whom are called upon to serve as either protective park rangers or cultural park rangers.
All park rangers working for the National Park Service must:
- Be United States citizens
- Possess a state-issued driver’s license
- Be at least 21 years old
- Possess the ability to pass a physical efficiency battery, a pre-employment medical exam, a drug test, and a background investigation
Education and Degree Requirements:
All individuals applying for park ranger jobs with the National Park Service must also meet the requirements of the federal level, which includes possessing a year of specialized experience at the GS-4 level or possessing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
Specialized experience includes:
- Working as a park guide or tour leader
- Working in an enforcement or investigative capacity
- Working archeological or historical preservation research work
- Working in forestry/fire management
- Developing and/or implementing policies related to protecting, conserving or managing parks or similar areas
Individuals who qualify for park rangers jobs through education must show coursework related to the profession; therefore, bachelor degrees in areas such as natural resource management, earth sciences, natural sciences, police science, business administration, or anthropology may all serve as ideal areas of study.
In addition to the above requirements, individuals applying for protective park ranger jobs with the National Park Service in North Dakota must:
- Have completed a seasonal law enforcement training program within the last three years
- Have at least three years of experience in a National Park Service seasonal or law enforcement position
- Be able to successfully complete a seasonal law enforcement training program by one of the approved participating academies
- Must be certified as an emergency medical responder
The State Parks of North Dakota
North Dakota’s state parks are brimming with the beauty and majesty of this Great Plains state. Individuals who want to work as park rangers in North Dakota may work at one of its 13 state parks, which include:
- Turtle River
- Lake Sakakawea
- Cross Ranch
- Beaver Lake
- Fort Stevenson
- Sully Creek
- Little Missouri
- Lewis and Clark
- Lake Metigoshe
- Grahams Island
- Fort Ransom
- Fort Abraham Lincoln
More information on North Dakota’s state parks can be found on the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department website.
North Dakota Park Ranger Salaries
The National Park Service reports North Dakota as being home to 3 national parks which accounted for an economic tourism benefit of more than $39 million in 2012. Park rangers in North Dakota are employed by North Dakota State Parks, but their employment is seasonal. Some of the parks under their management include Beaver Lake, Icelandic, Grahams Island, and Lewis & Clark.
Here is a look at the monthly park police salary in ND. Of course, placement on this scale would likely depend on experience and education:
- Minimum: $3,568
- 1st Quartile: $4,163
- Midpoint: $4,757
- 3rd Quartile: $5,352
- Maximum: $5,946
- Minimum: $3,282
- 1st Quartile: $3,829
- Midpoint: $4,376
- 3rd Quartile: $4,923
- Maximum: $5,470
Because park rangers often fulfill a variety of professional roles, the following tables have been provided as further salary reference:
Recreation Workers Salaries in North Dakota
Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in North Dakota
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in North Dakota
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Abraham Lincoln State Park, located just seven miles from Mandan, North Dakota, is known for its rich military and Native American history. It has also become popular with campers and day picnickers who come here to view the beautiful lands that offer panoramic views of the Missouri River.
This 1,000-plus acre state park features a number of amenities that are maintained by park rangers with the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department:
- Visitor center
- Picnic shelters
- Interpretive tours
- Horse corrals
- Historic buildings
- Campground (four primitive campsites)
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is the site of what was once a significant infantry and cavalry post where Lt. Col. Custer and the Seventh Calvary left for their ill-fated expedition to Little Big Horn. Visitors come to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park to view the reconstructed military post and Custer House.
Because the land that comprises the park was also home to Native Americans, visitors also flock to On-A-Slant Indian Village, which features a number of reconstructed earth lodges.
Park Ranger Job Duties at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Park rangers at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park may be just as involved in resource management and wildlife conservation as they are in enforcement and patrol, as this beautiful State park is located near the heart of the Northern Great Plains Steppe Ecoregion. As such, much of the land here consists of mixed grass prairie, floodplain forest, and shrub lands. Within this State park are a number of protected natural communities, including:
- Western Snowberry Shrub land
- Saskatoon Serviceberry Shrub land
- Northern Great Plains Little Bluestem Prairie
- Green Ash-Elm Woody Draw
- Wheatgrass-Needle and Thread Mixed Grass Prairie
- Great Plains Ash-Elm-Snowberry Forest
- Cottonwood-Green Ash Floodplain Forest
- Northern Plains Transition Bluestem Prairie
- Bur Oak-Chokecherry-Western Snowberry Woodland
- Needle and Thread-Blue Mixed Grass Prairie
- Buffaloberry Shrub land
Park rangers at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park are also required to patrol the area’s many trail systems as to ensure the safety and enjoyment of the people who visit here. This State park, in fact, has a trail system that covers nearly 7 miles, much of which is open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding:
- Scouts Trail System
- Little Soldier Loop Trail
- Little Sioux Trail
- Bloody Knife Trail
- Nature Trail
Some of the trails here, such as Young Hawk Interpretive Trail, contain numbered posts at which park rangers are stationed to provide information about the history, plant, and wildlife of the area. Guided trail and interpretive experiences are commonplace at a number of other areas of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, as well, with park rangers on hand to highlight the biological, historical and recreational aspects of the park.
Icelandic State Park
North Dakota’s Icelandic State Park, which is located just five miles from Cavalier, encompasses 912 acres that provide visitors with a wealth of recreational opportunities. Visitors enjoy learning about the park’s rich homesteading heritage and the settlers from Iceland who discovered the area.
Individuals with a love of North Dakota’s wide-open spaces are often drawn to the park ranger profession. Park rangers at North Dakota State parks, such as Icelandic State Park, work for the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the 13 state parks and 5 wildlife management areas throughout the state.
How Park Rangers Protect Icelandic State Park’s Natural Areas
In addition to performing patrol and enforcement duties within Icelandic State Park, park rangers here are called upon to ensure that the beauty of the environment and the safety of its wildlife habitats are preserved.
The Gunlogson State Nature Preserve, which consists of 200 acres along the Tongue River, is home a wealth of natural communities, as well as a self-guided trail system that takes visitors through this majestic area that is dotted with natural springs and an abundance of wildlife.
The Gunlogson Nature Preserve consists of an “island of intact habitat” that is home to forests and wetland habitats and the many rare plants and animals that depend on them. Its preserved, natural communities include:
- Lowland Woodland: Consists of eastern deciduous forest species, including American elm, ironwood, and basswood
- Oak Woodland: Oaks line the upper area of the Tongue River Valley, with aspen, paper birch, and other shrubs and herbs dominating the north-facing valley slope.
- River Creek: The Tongue River was identified by the ND Parks and Recreation Department in 1987 as a “riverine system of biological significance,” as it is home to a number of significant botanical and forest resources.
- Wetland Thicket: There are four, major wetland thicket basins in the Nature Preserve and around the Preserve harbor, all of which are home to the highest local concentrations of rare species.
Recreational Amenities of Icelandic State Park
The stunning surroundings of Icelandic State Park have made this area popular for campers, wildlife watchers, and hikers, just to name a few. As such, this State park is home to 160 campsites, most of which feature amenities such as showers, water, and electricity. Other family-friendly amenities of Icelandic State Park include picnic shelters, children’s playgrounds, a boating area, and miles of hiking trails.
Just a few of the recreational areas enjoyed at Icelandic State Park include:
- Cross country skiing
Guided interpretive tours by the park rangers of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department occur at the park’s Pioneer Heritage Center and the Gunlogson Homestead.
A self-guided trail, interpretive trail, which starts at the Gunlogson Homestead and takes visitors toward the south end of the Tongue River, is a popular recreational activity, as are the other trails that wind throughout the Gunlogson Nature Preserve, as well as the wooded areas that extend along the river. A number of foot bridges help guide visitors over the Tongue River and across many of the natural springs that are found here. This three-mile trail system is easily navigable for visitors and is a popular site for cross-country skiing in the winter. Another six-mile paved biking and hiking trails connects to a number of points throughout the park.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt, who spent a great deal of time in North Dakota’s Badlands, witnessed some of the destruction to the land and wildlife habitats, spurring him to promote conservation efforts that eventually led to the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). So it was only befitting that Theodore Roosevelt National Park was created as a memorial to him in 1947.
“I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Park Ranger-Led Programs at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
NPS park rangers at Theodore Roosevelt National Park serve as guides, experts, and enforcement officers. This national park is home to deep canyons, wide-open prairies, and the rugged North Dakota Badlands, thereby allowing visitors to explore a number of unique habitats. As such, Theodore Roosevelt National Park features a number of park ranger-guided walks, talks, and even evening campfire programs, where they regale visitors about the area’s natural and cultural history.
Just a few of the areas where NPS park rangers can be found providing information and leading group tours include:
- Visitor Centers: Ranger-led interpretive programs are common throughout the summer months. The Park’s visitor centers have weekly activity schedules posted.
- Maltese Cross Cabin: Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin, which is located in the Park’s South Unit, is the site of park ranger talks every day during the summer.
- Cottonwood and Juniper Campgrounds: Both Cottonwood and Juniper campgrounds are the site of evening campfire programs throughout the summer months. Both of these campgrounds have a campground theater where most of the talks are held.
- Ranger Walks: Ranger walks are held every day during the summer months. Park rangers are on hand to educate visitors about the wildlife and the cultural history of the park.
- Badlands: NPS park rangers provide guided hikes through some of the remote areas of the Park’s Badlands. They also offer guided horseback rides through the Badlands and along the Peaceful Valley Ranch horse trail.
The Grandeur and Scale of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park consists of three parks that encompass more than 70,000 acres throughout Western North Dakota. It welcomes more than 700,000 visitors each year. The South Unit consists of more than 46,000 acres, the North Unit consists of about 24,000 acres, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit consists of just 218 acres. Of the National Park’s 70,000 acres, nearly 30,000 acres are designated as Wilderness Areas.
The South Unit is the most heavily visited, as it features a 36-mile scenic driving route, a number of wildlife and hiking trails, a petrified forest, and the popular Painted Canyon. Park rangers in the South Unit work at the Medora Visitors Center, where they provide visitors with touring and activity options, and at the nearby museum, which displays some of Roosevelt’s personal items, as well as natural history and ranching displays.
The North Unit, although less visited, is a popular site for hiking and wildlife viewing. Park rangers at the North Unit Visitor Center are on hand to provide visitors with park information, while the 14-mile Scenic Drive features a number of interpretive signs along the way.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home an abundance of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and bison, just to name a few. This national park is also home to a number of campgrounds, ranger-led programs, and biking trails. The activities most often enjoyed by visitors of Theodore Roosevelt National Park include:
- Backcountry camping
- Cross country skiing and snowshoeing
- Horseback riding