Off the Beaten Path: National Grasslands Visitor Center

While Wall Drug might not have lived up to the hype, our trip to Wall was not a complete bust.  On our way out of town, we happened past the National Grasslands Visitor Center, and decided to stop in.

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This visitor center is not part of a specific grasslands, but covers all of the national grasslands in the country.  None of them have their own visitor center, which I thought was really interesting.  Most of the information in here covered Tallgrass Prairie National Grassland and Buffalo Gap National Grassland.

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The displays in the visitor center focused mainly on the animals and plants found in the grasslands.  There was one room with displays and exhibits.  It was pretty small compared to other visitor centers in the national parks system, but was really interesting.  I honestly think this was one of my favorites in terms of displays.

This was also the first place we did the Jr. Ranger Program.  My friend Terri told me about this program and I am so glad she did!  The kids loved it!  Almost every park or historic site that is part of the National Park Service participates and it is completely free.  National Grasslands wasn’t listed as having a program, but they did.

What is the Jr. Ranger Program?  The kids get an activity booklet from a ranger at the visitor center with a number of things for them to do.  Usually there is either a ranger program or a video to watch.  Sometimes it’s to interview a ranger, which is a lot of fun.  There are questions about displays or if it’s a national park if might tell you to go on a hike or look for animals.  Sometimes it’s word finds, crosswords, or things to sketch.

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Once the kids complete a certain number of activities in the book, they take it back to the ranger.  At this point, they are sworn in as official Jr. Rangers.  They say a pledge and receive a badge.  It’s really fun, and our kids looked forward to it at each park.

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I would definitely recommend stopping here if you find yourself in Wall, South Dakota.  In fact, just skip Wall Drug and do this instead.

It was getting close to lunch time, so we headed off for our picnic at our next location.

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