Lakes, mountains, forests, and wide, open vistas are just a few of the pristine surroundings welcoming visitors to Oklahoma’s 53 state parks. Oklahoma’s parks are diverse and appealing to a wide array of visitors. Scuba divers flock to Lake Tenkiller, rock climbers head to Robbers Cave State Park, hang gliders soar over the sand dunes of Little Sarah State Park, and guided cave tours are a popular activity at Alabaster Caverns State Park.
Oklahoma’s Department of Tourism and Recreation oversees the state parks and the employment of park rangers, who are responsible for patrolling the park and resort grounds enforcing laws, rules and regulations within their assigned area of responsibility. The work of Oklahoma’s park rangers is critical to ensuring the safety and welfare of the visitors and staff who visit Oklahoma’s state parks every year.
The typical job functions of park rangers in Oklahoma include:
- Patrolling assigned areas and providing security and protection for visitors and staff
- Providing assistance to visitors
- Ensuring compliance with established laws, rules and regulations, including the collection of camping fees and fees for other activities
- Conducting investigations, making arrests and seizing illegal property or contraband
- Preparing forms and reports related to daily activities, investigations
- Representing the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation during legal proceedings
- Assisting other law enforcement agencies and officials, when needed
- Developing policies and procedures related to park ranger duties and responsibilities, and providing training to assigned staff
- Providing first aid assistance to injured visitors
- Informing visitors of Oklahoma’s ecological and cultural heritage
Qualifying to Become a Park Ranger with Oklahoma’s Department of Tourism
Individuals who want to learn how to become a park ranger in Oklahoma must have some college education or comparable experience, and they must meet the minimum requirements for employment, which include:
- 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
- Possessing a valid Oklahoma driver’s license at the time of appointment
- Successfully passing a rigid character and background investigation
- Being in sound physical and psychological condition (as determined by the screening process)
- Successfully completing certification as a peace officer within one year from the date of employment
Degree and Experience Requirements for Different Levels of Employment
There are four levels of employment for park rangers through the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. The levels are distinguished based on the complexity of the assigned duties, responsibility levels, and the level of leadership required.
Salary Band G
The basic level of employment for Oklahoma park rangers is the Salary Band G, which is designed for entry-level individuals in training. Individuals in this salary band are building their skills by providing security and protection and providing assistance to visitors.
To qualify for park ranger jobs in Oklahoma at Salary Band G, candidates must possess one of the following:
- At least 60 semester hours of study from an accredited college or university, which includes at least 12 hours of study in one or more of the following:
- Park management
- Criminal justice
- Outdoor recreation
- Environmental science; OR
- At least two years of experience in park supervisory or recreation work, law enforcement, or environmental sciences; OR
- A combination of education and experience
Salary Band H
Park rangers in Oklahoma who are employed in Salary Band H have the full range of responsibilities, which include patrolling assigned areas, protecting property and individuals, and enforcing all applicable laws and rules.
To qualify at the Salary Band H level, candidates must possess one of the following:
- At least 90 semester hours of study from an accredited college or university, including at least 18 hours in one of the following:
- Park management
- Criminal justice
- Outdoor recreation
- Environmental science; OR
- At least three years of experience in park supervisory or recreation work, law enforcement, or environmental sciences; OR
- A combination of education and experience
Salary Band I
Park rangers in Salary Band I are in a leadership position, which means they provide leadership to other park rangers while also patrolling all areas of the park to ensure the security of individuals and property. Oklahoma park rangers in this salary band may also be required to perform investigations of major crimes and coordinate park ranger activities with other law enforcement agencies.
To achieve Salary Band I as a park ranger in Oklahoma, individuals must possess one of the following:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, which includes at least 24 hours in one of the following:
- Park management
- Criminal justice
- Outdoor recreation
- Environmental science; OR
- At least four years of experience in park supervisory or recreation work, law enforcement, or environmental sciences; OR
- A combination of education and experience
Salary Band L
Oklahoma park rangers in Salary Band L oversee the park ranger program on a statewide basis. Therefore, they are responsible for developing policies and procedures and appropriate security and law enforcement programs. These park rangers are also often required to develop the budget for the park ranger program.
Park rangers in this salary band must meet the requirements of Salary Band I and also possess two additional years of park security experience, including one year of supervisory experience.
How to Become a Federal Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Oklahoma
Individuals interested in becoming a park ranger in Oklahoma may also work through one of the national parks and recreational areas managed by the National Park Service, such as:
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
- Santa Fe National Historic Trail
- Oklahoma City National Memorial
- Fort Smith National Historic Site
- Chickasaw National Recreational Area
Park rangers with the National Park Service may work in either a protective or cultural capacity. Regardless of the position, candidates for these jobs must:
- Be United States citizens
- Possess a state-issued driver’s license
- Successfully pass a background investigation, physical efficiency battery test, and a medical exam, which includes a drug test
Candidates for federal park ranger jobs must also meet the requirements of the salary level, which includes possessing either one year of specialized experience at the GS-4 level or a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, along with at least 24 hours of related coursework. Related coursework may include:
- Natural resource management
- Natural sciences
- Earth sciences
- Business administration
- Public administration
- Behavioral sciences
Candidates for protective park ranger jobs must also have at least three years of law enforcement or National Park Service experience and possess certification as an Emergency Medical Responder. Park rangers in a protective capacity must have also successfully completed a seasonal law enforcement training program within the last three years.
Oklahoma Park Ranger Salaries
Park rangers in Oklahoma work under the scope of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. They are responsible for managing the state’s 35 parks, including Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman as well as Cherokee Landing State Park and Keystone State Park, both of which are located in the Tulsa area.
The average starting park ranger salary in Oklahoma is $26,805.25. However, there are four salary rank levels with an increasing salary scale:
Park Ranger, Level I
- Minimum: $21,756
- Midpoint: $29,008
- Maximum: $36,260
Park Ranger, Level II
- Minimum: $23,931
- Midpoint: $31,908
- Maximum: $39,885
Park Ranger, Level III
- Minimum: $26,502
- Midpoint: $35,336
- Maximum: $44,170
Park Ranger, Level IV
- Minimum: $35,032
- Midpoint: $46,709
- Maximum: $58,387
The tables here provide more salary data, mainly entry-level, among the various roles of park rangers in Oklahoma:
Recreation Workers Salaries in Oklahoma
Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Oklahoma
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Oklahoma
Beavers Bend State Park
Beavers Bend State Park, which is located in the picturesque southeastern region of Oklahoma, is ideally situated between Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River. This mountainous region is overflowing with dense forests of pine and hardwoods, making the park’s natural surroundings one of its biggest draws.
Beavers Bend State Park, which was originally a project between the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps, was purchased by the State of Oklahoma in 1937. As of 2011, it was the second most visited state park in Oklahoma. It also generated one of the highest revenues among Oklahoma’s state parks during the same time, bringing in more than $2.3 million.
Like Oklahoma’s 52 other state parks, Beavers Bend State Park is managed by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation and its force of park rangers. As certified peace officers, Oklahoma park rangers have full law enforcement and criminal investigative powers, although these professionals are often responsible for providing assistance to visitors, educating visitors about Oklahoma’s ecological and cultural heritage, and serving as emergency medical service providers to injured visitors.
Park Ranger Enforcement, Interpretation and Conservation Work at Beavers Bend State Park
Park rangers at Beavers Bend State Park are involved in ensuring the preservation and protection of the endless natural resources and wildlife habitats found here. Their work involves enforcing all park rules and regulations to ensure that visitors here help in the preservation of the park’s natural resources and wildlife habitats.
This includes ensuring that visitors adhere to fishing and hunting laws and utilize the park’s amenities and services with conservation and preservation in mind. Some of the most popular attractions to visitors of Beavers Bend State Park include:
Broken Bow Lake – Broken Bow Lake, which features 180 miles of shoreline, has been referred to as Oklahoma’s most scenic lakes. Visitors here fish for trout, while others canoe in the rapids of Lower Mountain Fork River.
Red Slough Wildlife Management Area – The Red Slough Wildlife Management Area is an amazing group of reservoirs, moist soil management areas, and forested areas. This 5,800-acre, pristine region is overseen by the Ouachita National Forest, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservations, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
It serves as one of the largest wetland projects of its kind and is home to everything from American white pelicans to shorebirds and geese. (More than 271 bird species have been documented here.) It is also one of the few places in Oklahoma where visitors can catch a glimpse of alligators and an abundance of Oklahoma wildlife.
The resurrection of the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area occurred in the 1990s (after it was converted primarily to rice fields in the 1960s), thus bringing it back to its original state and allowing the return of abundant wildlife to the region.
Beavers Bend Resort Park – Beavers Bend Resort Park, located within Beavers Bend State Park, is also a huge draw for this state park, as it features the beautiful Lakeview Lodge and Cedar Creek Golf Course. This resort area is also home to more than 16 miles of hiking trails and 4 miles of multi-purpose trails.
Forest Heritage Center – Beaver Bend State Park’s Forest Heritage Center is a museum and a learning center that features 14 large dioramas that were designed to educate visitors on the important role that forestry plays in their lives. One of the newest exhibits, entitled, The People of the Forest, features more than 150 photos that illustrate the early logging days in and around the Broken Arrow region.
This state park has become a significant spot at which to enjoy the best that southeastern Oklahoma has to offer, as it is also home to:
- Five nature trails
- Trout fishing
- Guided horseback rides
- Beavers Bend Marina
- Ouachita National Forest (sightseeing, scenic driving, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and off-highway vehicle riding)
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma’s oldest national park, has a long history in the state. Its beginnings date back to 1902 when the government purchased it to protect the mineral and freshwater springs there. In 1976, additional lands and the Lake of the Arbuckles joined with what was then called Platt National Park to create the nearly 10,000-acre Chickasaw National Recreation Area of today.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which is managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and its force of park rangers, is actually a combination of two parks: the Platt Historic District and the Lake of the Arbuckles. Visitors flock here to take in the natural beauty of the area and frolic in its crystal-clear mineral waters, streams, and lakes.
Often referred to as the “Peaceful Valley of Rippling Waters,” Chickasaw National Recreation Area is as popular for its recreational activities as it is for its unique geological and hydrological features. As such, the work of the park rangers that work here are multi-faceted, with these professionals engaged in everything from law enforcement and patrol to environmental preservation and interpretive work.
The Many Park Ranger Job Duties at Chickasaw National Recreation Area
In 2009 alone, more than 1.2 million people visited Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It has long been considered a family park, as it offers a large number of recreational activities throughout the year. It attracts everyone from boaters and swimmers to fishermen, hikers, wildlife photographers, and campers.
Additional facilities enjoyed by visitors throughout the park include:
- Boat ramps
- 410 camp sites
- Courtesy docks
- Picnic areas
- Pavilions and grills
- Hiking, biking, and nature trails
- A swimming beach
- Fishing docks
In addition to patrolling all areas of the park to ensure that visitors are obeying park rules and regulations and engaging in safe activities, NPS park rangers here are often involved in planned park activities, which include guided hikes and trail walks. These NPS professionals are also often stationed at the Travertine Nature Center, which displays exhibits of the park’s natural and cultural resources. Park ranger patrol of Chickasaw National Recreation Area is also commonplace, as it is home to 30 trails and an extensive system of paved, dirt and gravel roads.
Other park activities and amenities overseen by the park rangers at Chickasaw National Recreation Area include:
- Parks: Educational tours are commonplace at Chickasaw’s many park areas, including Rock Creek, Veterans Lake, Travertine Creek, and the Lake of the Arbuckles.
- Lake of the Arbuckles: Lake of the Arbuckles is a 2,300-acre lake that features 36 miles of shoreline. Visitors here scuba dive in the clear waters, swim, and fish.
- Veterans Lake: Veterans Lake consists of 67 acres and 3 miles of shoreline. Many people flock here for fishing, hiking and picnicking.
- Travertine Creek: A 1.5-mile trail winds around Travertine Creek and to the Travertine Nature Center, where visitors can engage in nature activities and explore the interactive learning area.
Lake Murray State Park
Lake Murray State Park, which is located in Ardmore, Oklahoma, just two hours from Oklahoma City and Dallas, is the oldest state park in Oklahoma. It also happens to be the most popular. Lake Murray State Park is 12,500 acres of scenic countryside, with the heart of the park being beautiful Lake Murray.
Lake Murray State Park also tops the list of state parks in Oklahoma in terms of revenue, with the bulk of money coming from activity fees (2011 revenue for the park was more than $3.2 million).
Named after Oklahoma’s ninth governor, William Murray, Lake Murray State Park was created when the National Park Service constructed a dam between 1933 and 1937, thus creating Lake Murray, and subsequently, Lake Murray State Park.
The Job Duties of Park Rangers at Lake Murray State Park
Because of the sheer size of Lake Murray State Park and the many recreational activities available here, it is likely that the state park rangers of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation are involved in everything from enforcement and patrol to maintenance and interpretation.
Park rangers here may lead guided hikes and interpretive walks or they may collect fees and patrol the many areas of this spacious state park. The importance of a strong park ranger presence is evident when considering just a few of the amenities and features of Lake Murray State Park:
Campgrounds – Lake Murray State Park is popular for its campgrounds, including Tipp’s Point, Cedar Cove, and Elephant Rock. Most of the campground locations at Lake Murray State Park include comfort stations, which include picnic pavilions, showers, boat ramps, and playgrounds. Many of the visitors head to the swim beaches and direct lake access that are located nearby.
Pecan Grove Day-Use Area – Lake Murray State Park’s Pecan Grove Day-Use Area, which is often considered one of the prettiest areas of the park, is home to the Anadarche Trail, which winds its way to a unique lake outcropping.
ATV Area – Lake Murray State Park features a popular ATV area, which is surrounded by Lake Murray. The ATV area consists of 1,000 acres, a large staging area, and nearby camping spots.
Tucker Tower – Tucker Tower is an historic landmark that dates back to 1933. This iconic structure was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a summer retreat for then-Governor William Murray. It was later transformed into a geological museum and eventually a nature center. The tower is 65 feet tall, thereby providing visitors with sweeping views of the Lake Murray and Lake Murray State Park.
Lake Murray Lodge – Lake Murray Lodge is a lakeside lodging facility that features 52 guest rooms. Guests of Lake Murray Lodge are afforded use of the lodge’s swimming pool and tennis courts.
Lake Murray Water Sports and Mini-Golf – Lake Murray State Park is home to an 18-hole miniature golf course, paddleboat and canoe rentals, a water trampoline, and a waterslide. This area also has wave runner and jet boat rentals, and sunset cruises and pontoon boat tours are enjoyed here on a daily basis.
Lake Murray Cabins and Floating Cabins – The Lake Murray Cabins consist of 56 cabins that feature a number of modern amenities. This area is also home to Lake Murray’s Floating Cabins, villas located directly on the waters of Lake Murray.
Additional activities enjoyed by the visitors of Lake Murray State Park include:
- Horseback riding
- Roller blading
- Softball and baseball
- Remote control airfield for hobbyists
- Nature programs and activities at the Tucker Tower Nature Center
Oklahoma City National Memorial
On April 19, 1995, a truck filled with explosives pulled up to the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The explosion killed 168 people, making it one of the most significant and tragic acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.
The remains of the Alfred P. Murrah Building were brought down on May 23, 1995, and the entire 3.3-acre site became home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, a place where visitors can go to honor the victims, the survivors, and the rescue workers involved in this horrific event.
Since its dedication on February 19, 2001, more than 1.6 million people have visited this national memorial. Each month, the Memorial and Museum host visitors from all over the country, as well as from 32 foreign countries.
The Role of the National Park Service at the Oklahoma City National Memorial
The Oklahoma City National Memorial is an affiliated site of the National Park Service. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial grounds and the Memorial Museum are both owned and operated by the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. However, the National Park Service has a cooperative agreement with the Foundation to provide interpretation at the Memorial.
In January 2004, President George W. Bush signed into law that transferred the Memorial to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. The law also included language that authorizes the National Park Service to continue to provide interpretive services for the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial includes 3.3 acres on which the following are located:
- 168 glass-based chairs
- Gates of Time
- A 318-foot reflecting pool
- The Fence
- A Rescuer’s Orchard
- A Children’s area
- The Survivor Tree
The National Park Service’s park rangers can be found throughout this memorial area, providing interpretive services to the visitors that flock here to reflect upon this significant event in American history. Thousands of visitors from all over the world appreciate their knowledge of the facts surrounding the bombing, the events that occurred afterward, and the significance of the many features of the Memorial. Their work may include being stationed at one of the areas of the memorial, or they may walk the grounds answering questions and providing unique and informative insights to visitors.
Gates of Time – The Gates of Time consists of twin gates that frame the moment the truck exploded – 9:02 AM. They also serve as a formal entrance to the Memorial. The East Gate represents the innocence of Oklahoma City at 9:01 AM, while the West Gate represents the moment the city was forever changed at 9:03 AM.
Reflecting Pool – The Reflecting Pool is a shallow pool that provides a peaceful setting where visitors can reflect upon the event and remember the victims and the survivors.
Field of Empty Chairs – The Field of Empty Chairs consists of 168 chairs, which symbolize the lives that were lost on that day. The chairs are organized in nine rows, which represent each floor of the building, and all of the chairs bear the name of someone who was killed. This part of the Memorial is located on the footprint of the Murrah building.
Survivor Wall – The Survivor Wall is a memorial that consists of the only remaining walls of the Murrah Building. It serves as a reminder of those individuals who survived the attack, many of whom suffered serious injuries. The names of the survivors – more than 600 – are engraved on sections of granite that were taken from the lobby of the Murrah building.
The Survivor Tree – The Survivor Tree is an American elm that remained standing, even with the force of the attack. It now serves as a living symbol of the resilience of the people of Oklahoma City. A circular promontory surrounds the tree and offers a place for visitors to gather and view the Memorial.
Children’s Area – The Children’s Area is a wall that consists of tiles painted by children and sent to Oklahoma City in 1995 as expressions of encouragement and love. This area also consists of buckets of chalk and chalkboards that are built into the ground as to provide an area for children to continue to express their thoughts.
The Fence – The Fence, which was originally installed to protect the site of the destruction, immediately began serving as a place for people to leave their tokens of love and hope. The items that were originally left are now collected and preserved, although the original Fence still stands to provide visitors with a place at which to leave their own tokens of remembrance.
Rescuers’ Orchard – The Rescuers’ Orchard is a grouping of trees that encircle the Survivor Tree. This part of the Memorial is dedicated to the thousands of rescuers and volunteers who helped following the attack.
Robbers Cave State Park
Robbers Cave State Park, which is located just two miles north of Wilburton in Oklahoma’s beautiful San Bois Mountains, is a state park known not only for its picturesque surroundings, but for its rich history, as well.
Robbers Cave State Park takes its name from a scenic rock bluff that, according to legend, was a hideout for the notorious outlaws Jessie James and Bell Starr. The Civilian Conservation Corps, along with the National Park Service, constructed trails, cabins, a bathhouse, group camps, shelters, and roads throughout the park in 1933. Just four years later, in 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps, along with the Works Progress Administration, created Lake Carlton, which has become a focal point of Robbers Cave State Park. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Robbers Cave State Park is now a popular destination that plays host to the highly attended annual Robbers Cave Fall Festival and the Robbers Cave Bluegrass Festival, among others. As of 2011, it was Oklahoma’s third most popular state park, as it welcomed more than 830,000 people that year.
Thanks to its state park and National Register designations, Oklahoma’s Department of Tourism and Recreation and its force of park rangers ensure the preservation of this park’s more than 8,000 acres of beautiful San Bois Mountain countryside in southeastern Oklahoma.
Visitors flock here to enjoy everything from hiking and horseback riding to spending the night at the lovely Bell Starr View Lodge.
The Abundant Features and Amenities of Robbers Cave State Park
Robbers Cave State Park, thanks to its beautiful sandstone cliffs and miles of nature trails, has become a haven for rapellers, hikers, equestrians, and nature lovers. This Oklahoma State park features three lakes, an adjoining wildlife management area, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor enjoyment.
Fishing and camping are popular activities a Robbers Cave State Park, with visitors enjoying lodging facilities at Belle Starr View Lodge, in the park’s cabins, or at the two group camps. A swimming beach, along with a swimming pool, playgrounds, a miniature golf course, and paddleboat rentals are located near the campgrounds.
Robbers Cave State Park includes a nature center that features a number of naturalist programs and exhibits that are overseen by park rangers and park naturalists.
In addition to managing and patrolling the Robbers Cave State Park’s campgrounds, lakes, and recreational areas to ensure the safety of visitors and the enforcement of park rules and regulations, park rangers here also ensure that seasonal hunting and trout fishing are enjoyed safely and within the parameters of the law. (Robbers Cave State Park features more than 3,800 acres of forested hunting grounds.)
Park rangers here are responsible for patrolling this park’s 8,246 acres, along with the 189 lakes acres of Lake Carlton, Lake Wayne Wallace, and Coon Creek. Other areas of patrol for Robbers Cave State Park rangers include:
- 22 modern RV sites
- 67 full hookup RV sites
- 86 primitive camping sites
- Equestrian campsites
- 26 cabins
- Group picnic shelters
- 2 indoor community rooms
- Comfort stations with showers
- Boat ramps
- Boy Scout camp