The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department oversees properties that include more than 102,000 acres of natural, recreational, and historic resources, which are managed through its 3 regional offices, 12 districts, and 35 management units. In 2008, Oregon State Parks had 40.1 million visitors for day-use activities, along with another 2.4 million for overnight camping visits.
The park rangers of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department are responsible for providing and protecting Oregon’s recreational, natural, scenic, and cultural sites for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
The primary job duties of Oregon’s park rangers include all manner of tasks that contribute to protecting, maintaining and operating state park lands, resources, structures, facilities, equipment, and systems. These job duties are accomplished through activities related to:
- Building maintenance and construction
- Facility maintenance and construction
- Utility system maintenance and construction
- Visitor services
- Park patrol, safety and rule enforcement
- Resource conservation
Oregon Park Ranger Degree and Job Application Requirements
Individuals who want to learn how to become a park ranger in Oregon must be able to pass a computerized criminal history and driver/motor vehicle services background check.
They must also meet specific education/experience requirements:
- 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 for park ranger jobs in Oregon include possessing one of the following:
- At least two years of experience in visitor services, which may include:
- Rule enforcement
- Education and environmental awareness programs
- Special events and activities
- At least two years of experience in maintenance, such as construction or landscaping
- An associate’s degree or higher in one of the following:
- Park and recreation administration
- Natural resource management
- Environmental studies
- At least six months of visitor services experience, such as:
- Rule enforcement
- Educational and environmental awareness programs
- Special events and activities
- Maintenance experience
Although not a requirement, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department outlines a number of desired competencies for park ranger jobs, which include experience:
- Operating hand tools and power equipment
- Performing building maintenance, grounds maintenance, equipment repair, etc.
- Providing customer service and working with the public
- In natural resource conservation
- With computers and data entry
- In leadership capacities, including working with a diverse team of people
To apply for park ranger jobs in Oregon, applicants must complete the Oregon Employment Application online (when an announcement is posted). Only complete applications are considered, which includes completing all supplemental questions and attaching all required documents. Transcripts must be submitted to receive credit for the completion of any formal education.
Any questions regarding the application process can be directed to Human Resources at 503-986-0626.
Qualifying for Park Ranger Jobs with the National Park Service in Oregon
In addition to working at the state level for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, individuals pursuing park ranger jobs may also work for the National Park Service, which oversees a number of national resources and historic sites in Oregon, such as:
- Crater Lake National Park
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
- Oregon National Historic Trail
- Oregon Caves National Monument
Individuals who want to become a park ranger with the National Park Service must be at least 21 years old; they must be United States citizens; and they must possess a valid driver’s license. They must also meet the minimum requirements for the federal pay level, which includes possessing one of the following:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, with at least 24 hours of coursework related to the job (e.g., natural resource management, earth sciences, natural sciences, park and recreation management, social sciences, law enforcement/police science, etc.)
- At least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-4 level (e.g., working as a park guide, tour leader, investigative law enforcement, archeological/historical preservation, forest/fire management, etc.)
- A combination of education and experience
Park rangers working in an enforcement/protective capacity must also have at least three years of experience working for the National Park Service (seasonal) or working in a law enforcement position. They must have also completed a seasonal law enforcement training program within the last 3 years and hold certification/licensure as an emergency medical responder.
Training for park rangers through the National Park Service, depending on the capacity in which they will work, may be conducted at:
- Horace Albright Training Center at the Grand Canyon
- Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Maryland
- Stephen Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA
The Organization of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department operates all state parks through its headquarters office in Salem and its additional field offices. In addition to state parks, the Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for:
- Willamette River Greenway
- Scenic waterways
- Oregon recreational trails
- Ocean Shores Recreation Area
Created in 1921 and established as a separate department in 1990, the Parks and Recreation Department also oversees the State’s Heritage Programs Division, which includes:
- State Historic Preservation Office
- Heritage Commission
- Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries
- A number of cultural and historic preservation programs
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department carries out its mission of providing outstanding natural, cultural and historic sites through the oversight of the:
- Oregon state park system
- Oregon Exposition Center
- Heritage programs
- Natural resource and recreation programs
- Outdoor recreation and historic preservation grants
- Leadership in outdoor recreation planning
Some of the most popular parks under management of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department include:
- Silver Falls State Park
- Honeymoon State Park
- Smith Rock State Park
- Ecola State Park
- Shore Acres State Park
Oregon Park Ranger Salaries
There are currently more than 200 state parks in Oregon which are maintained and preserved by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. One thing that sets park rangers in Oregon apart is that they have the option of working either full-time or seasonally, as the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department actually employs park rangers in both capacities.
There is a multi-level salary schedule among Oregon park ranger salaries for those working full-time. The list below shows the scale on which park rangers in Oregon are paid:
Park Ranger 1
- Step 2: $32,424
- Step 3: $33,804
- Step 4: $35,304
- Step 5: $36,924
- Step 6: $38,700
- Step 7: $40,584
- Step 8: $42,432
- Step 9: $44,484
Park Ranger 2
- Step 1: $33,804
- Step 2: $35,304
- Step 3: $36,924
- Step 4: $38,700
- Step 5: $40,584
- Step 6: $42,432
- Step 7: $44,484
- Step 8: $46,752
- Step 9: $48,948
Park Ranger 3
- Step 1: $36,924
- Step 2: $38,700
- Step 3: $40,584
- Step 4: $42,432
- Step 5: $44,484
- Step 6: $46,752
- Step 7: $48,948
- Step 8: $51,276
- Step 9: $53,748
Further salary data regarding park rangers in Oregon, particularly at the entry level, is shown in the following tables:
Recreation Workers Salaries in Oregon
Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Oregon
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Oregon
Cottonwood Canyon State Park
Cottonwood Canyon State Park is Oregon’s newest state park and its second largest. Opened in September 2013, Cottonwood Canyon State Park encompasses 8,000 acres within Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley region as part of the John Day territory. It is located along the lower part of the John Day River, just about two and a half hours from Portland.
Although the park is mostly undeveloped at this time, it does include a small, 28-site primitive campground, as well as a day use area, which includes a welcome center, restrooms, a picnic area, and self-guiding interpretive displays.
As the park becomes developed in the coming years, the need for Oregon State park rangers, who are managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, will also increase.
The Creation of Cottonwood Canyon State Park
Cottonwood Canyon State Park had its origins as a ranch belonging to the Murtha family before being sold to the Western Rivers Conservancy in 2008 and then eventually sold to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department between 2009 and 2011:
- In 2009, 2,400 acres purchased for $2.2 million
- In 2011, 2,200 acres consisting of the Murtha Ranch homestead and the surrounding property purchased for $2 million
- In 2011, 2,111 acres purchased for $2.2 million
- In 2011, 1,300 acres purchased for $1.5 million
The state property now totals 8,015 acres, which was purchased at a cost of $7.9 million.
In 2011, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission gave the green light for the plan for Cottonwood Canyon State Park and, over the year and a half, the planning process was initiated, thereby producing extensive field inventories and surveys by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Staff. The plan represents a “values-based approach to a rugged recreation experience and resource management on a landscape scale.”
With the addition of more than 10,000 acres of adjacent Bureau of Land Management property, Cottonwood Canyon State Park may become one of the largest State Park experiences. The park’s development is consistent with the desire to keep the visitor experience rugged, with little landscape.
Cottonwood Canyon State Park Amenities and Future Plans
Due to the sheer size of Cottonwood Canyon State Park, the need for an extensive team of park rangers will no doubt be significant, particularly as amenities and recreational facilities throughout the park continue to grow.
A number of trees have been planted around the campground, with plans for an additional 70 native trees expected to be planted this spring, along with 250 desert shrubs. Cabin construction will also begin to take place this year, along with shade structures for the campground, an RV dump station, and a permanent residence for the rangers who work here.
Following 2015’s next biennial budget cycle, additional park plans will likely be implemented. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and the Bureau of Land Management, through a cooperative management agreement, will begin developing a desert hiking and equestrian trail network in Cottonwood Canyon State Park.
There are currently two, existing bicycling trails in Cottonwood Canyon State Park. During the summer months, visitors may launch boats at the park’s Burres site.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is by many standards one of the most beautiful places on earth. With a pristine lake, towering cliffs, a dormant volcano and two stunning islands Crater Lake National Park, in Klamath County, Oregon, has long attracted visitors from all over the world.
Crater Lake National Park, which is overseen by the National Park Service (NPS), was founded in 1902 in an effort to preserve this region’s natural and cultural resources.
During the summer months, Crater Lake National Park becomes a glorious attraction for people interested in viewing the park’s natural wonders and engaging in any number of outdoor activities, including hiking and camping.
It’s location in the Cascades makes for a short summer season (Snowfall often begins as early as September and swimming weather is often not enjoyed until mid-July).
The Park’s dormant volcano, Mount Mazama, is just one in a chain of volcanoes that includes Mount St. Helens. The volcano’s eruption in 5700 B.C. produced a massive caldera that eventually formed into what is now known as Crater Lake. It is expected that the hydrothermal venting exists on the lake’s bottom.
Crater Lake, at more than 1,900 feet in depth, is the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world. Its 21 square miles of crystal-clear waters have attracted people for centuries.
The Job Duties of the Park Rangers of Crater Lake National Park
Visitors at Crater Lake National Park enjoy some of the cleanest air in the nation, which is appreciated when hiking the Park’s 90 miles of trails. Many visitors here tour the Park’s 33-mile Rim Drive, which features picturesque overlooks and trails, while in the winter months, visitors here often enjoy cross-country skiing. As such, NPS park rangers patrol the park throughout the year to ensure park visitors are enjoying the park’s resources while abiding by park rules and regulations.
Park rangers here also engage often in interpretive activities, with narrated boat tours of Crater Lake and guided hikes (even snowshoe walks in the winter) to tour the Park’s old-growth forests commonplace here. Programs and talks provide park rangers with ample opportunity to enlighten visitors and allow them to enjoy a deeper understanding of this national park, 90 percent of which is managed as wilderness.
NPS park rangers are often found patrolling the area and providing visitor services at the Steel Visitor Center and Rim Village Center throughout the summer months.
Resource managers within Crater Lake National Park are deeply involved in studies that focus on the lake ecology, forest ecosystems, and geological processes, among others.
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is an extraordinarily complete, world renowned fossil record of plants and animals dating back to more than 40 million years of the Cenozoic Era. Established in 1975, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is actually a 14,000-acre park that is separated into three, distinct units:
Painted Hills Unit: The Painted Hills Unit encompasses more than 3,100 acres that is located just 75 miles east of Bend, Oregon. More than 30,000 people visit this unit every year, 10,000 of whom hike one or more of the unit’s interpretive trails. The Painted Hills Unit is also home to a number of outdoor exhibits and a picnic area.
Clarno Unit: The Clarno Unit encompasses nearly 2,000 acres, all of which are located about 18 miles west of Fossil, Oregon. Nearly 12,000 visitors head to Clarno Unit every year to hike, view the exhibits, and enjoy the day picnicking and viewing the striking fossils that were preserved thanks to a series of volcanic mudflows 44 million years ago.
Sheep Rock Unit: The Sheep Rock Unit is a large unit that towers nearly 1,100 feet over the John Day River. The layered rock of Sheep Rock represents time from 35 to 28 million years ago. It is also home to the James Cant ranch house, which was built in 1918 and now serves as a visitor center. Within the visitor center is a fossil museum and the park’s administrative headquarters. Many visitors head to Sheep Rock Unit because it is home to trails, outdoor exhibits, and a number of overlooks.
Park Ranger Job Duties at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
In addition to the unique environment of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the need to preserve the more than 700 fossil localities that make up the park, National Park Service (NPS) park rangers serve as interpretive guides, sources of information for park visitors, and enforcement officials as to ensure that park visitors are adhering to the rules and regulations of the park.
With thousands of visitors flocking to the units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, many of whom are engaged in hiking and rock climbing activities, it is quite important for NPS park rangers to patrol the areas as to ensure the safety and enjoyment of park visitors. Popular activities here include:
- River rafting
- Wildflower viewing
Further, park rangers are often found working in an interpretive manner through the park’s many visitor programs, which include:
- Blue Basin Hikes: 90-minute guided park ranger hikes that take visitors into the Blue Basin area
- Cant Ranch Walk: 45-minute park ranger tours that introduce visitors to 20th century ranch life and the eastern Oregon cultural history
- Dark Skies: Park ranger two-hour expeditions that include a sky tour and an observation session with a telescope, as well as a hike under the full moon
- Evening with a Ranger: Special park ranger talks about the many interesting facts about the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
- Plaza Talks: 20-minute park ranger presentations that introduce visitors to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
About the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Long-Range Interpretive Plan
In 2007, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument received funding to initiate a long-range interpretive plan (LRIP), which included analyzing existing conditions, establishing a vision to guide the Park’s Interpretive and Visitor Services program, and making recommendations to address any program deficiencies.
The LRIP’s focus is to share with visitors the importance of protecting fossil resources and the park’s magnificent scenery and superb visitor support facilities. The primary goal of the LRIP is to promote park resource values through “specially planned visitor experiences and excellence in interpretation.” Just a few of the park ranger facilitated programs focused on include:
- Connecting visitors to the park’s active research program with the paleontology lab
- Providing ranger-led hikes to research sites to observe park paleontology work
- Offering periodic seminar series for the general public; presentations reflect park-specific research topics and issues
- Converting the park’s successful education program to an elementary through high-school curriculum-based education program
- Developing media projects to improve visitor orientation
- Developing interpretation display/exhibit case
Oregon Caves National Monument
Located just 20 miles southeast of Cave Junction, the Oregon Caves National Monument is nestled within the Siskiyou Mountains. Often referred to as the Marble Halls of Oregon, the Oregon Caves National Monument is just one of a handful of marble caves in the world, created when rainwater from an ancient forest dissolved the surrounding marble.
This national monument, overseen by the National Park Service (NPS), is also home to a host of unusual and rare plants, making the preservation and conservation of the caves a priority for the NPS park rangers who work here.
It was discovered in 1874 and designated a national monument in 1909, along with a tract of 480 acres that surround it. Twelve years later, the Chateau, a six-story hotel, was constructed. That same year, Oregon Caves National Monument was transferred from the Forest Service to the National Park Service. It now serves as one of the most geologically diverse caves in the world. The caves are home to the most complete segment of old oceanic crust in Western America.
The Job Duties of the Oregon Caves National Monument’s Park Rangers
National Park Service park rangers at the Oregon Caves National Monument ensure the protection and safety of visitors while also providing them with guided tours and informational services.
Every year more than 80,000 people visit the Oregon Caves National Monument to explore these beautiful caves. For safety purposes, NPS park rangers conduct all tours within the caves. General park ranger-guided tours last about 90 minutes and include about a half-mile route with a climb of more than 230 feet and more than 500 stairs.
NPS park rangers are also on hand to provide off-trail caving tours, such as the Introduction to Caving tour, a three-hour tour that takes visitors throughout some of the most beautiful parts of the cave. Park ranger guides teach visitors caving techniques and caving etiquette throughout the course of the tour.
Park rangers at Oregon Caves National Monument also lead unique tours at special times of the year, such as the Candle Light Cave Tours, which are conducted only by candlelight, and the Haunted Candlelight Tours, which are conducted during the Halloween season.
About the Oregon Caves National Monument
The tours of Oregon Caves National Monument provide a glimpse into the cave’s geology, ecology, and wildlife. Townsend’s big-eared bat, a number of blind, colorless insects, and a grasshopper-like species, which may be unique to the caves, are just a few of the creatures to inhabit the caves. Park rangers often set out traps baited with cheese to show visitors the kind of interesting creatures that live here.
Outside the cave, visitors can catch a glimpse of black-tailed deer, giant salamanders, and porcupines. A number of trails surrounding the caves reveal beautiful mountain streams, stunning wildflowers, and even a 1,500-year-old Douglas fir tree.
The National Park Service, since 1985, has been working to restore the caves to their original condition after asphalt paths and bright lights nearly destroyed the cave’s fragile environment. The asphalt paths are now being removed, and lower-watt light bulbs are replacing the bright lights as to reduce moss and fungus growth and therefore improve air flow.
Silver Falls State Park
As the largest state park in Oregon, Silver Falls State Park encompasses more than 9,000 acres within Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Just 25 miles east of Salem, Silver Falls State Park boasts an extensive, 25-mile trail system, no less than 10 stunning waterfalls, a number of historically significant buildings, and enough recreational opportunities to impress even the most hard to please.
The Allure of Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park boasts a pristine, forested landscape and world renowned waterfalls, including the Trail of Tens falls, one of the most popular destinations in the park, and which has been designated as a National Recreational Trail. This trail has three trailhead that start at the top of a jaw-dropping 100-foot waterfall, all of which lead into the canyon below. This nine-mile trail weaves its way through the heart of the canyon, where ferns grow in abundance and Douglas firs tower overhead.
Visitors flock to Silver Falls State Park to camp, fish, swim, horseback ride, mountain bike, picnic, hike, and observe the abundant wildlife that make their home here. This lush, temperate rainforest is home to a wide array of flora, fauna, and wildlife, including Pacific black tailed deer, coyotes, black bears, and even cougars.
Another popular area of Silver Falls State Park is the South Falls Day Use Area, which is home to picnic shelters, grills, horseshoe pits, a playground, and an off-leash dog exercise area. Just a short distance away is the South Falls, which plummet more than 177 feet to the canyon floor.
Park rangers at Silver Falls State Park are heavily involved in ensuring the safety and enjoyment of all visitors here, particularly given the hazards that the park’s waterfall drop-offs and challenging trails can present. As such, patrol and enforcement of the park’s rules and regulations are an important aspect of park ranger jobs at Silver Falls State Park.
The History of Silver Falls State Park
Although it officially opened as an Oregon State park in 1933, Silver Falls actually had its beginnings much earlier. In fact, it is believed that the earliest inhabitants to this region were the Kapapuya and Molalla, who are thought to have lived here nearly 14,000 years ago. By 1850, however, whites had come to the area by the hundreds, thereby displacing most of the natives who eventually were relocated to Indian reservations by 1854.
The first homestead appeared in Silver Falls in 1833 and, for more than 40 years, it was home to no more than 200 residents, as well as an eight-room hotel, a church, a tavern, a blacksmith shop, and a number of other buildings.
During the Depression era, the United States government, through the Civilian Conservation Corps, began constructing much of the park’s infrastructure, most of which are on the National Register of Historic Places today. More than 5,000 additional acres were added by 1948.
Silver Falls is known to have two founding fathers: June Drake, who fought to have the waterfalls and surrounding land enclosed in a park, and Samuel H. Boardman who, as the first superintendent of Oregon State parks, expanded and developed the State’s park system, including Silver Falls.