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Junior Ranger Camp: Crunchy Things To Do

at Norris Dam State Park

at Norris Dam State Park

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Junior Ranger Camp @ Norris Dam State Park

We just finished our 3rd year of Junior Ranger Camp, and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to share with my Crunchy Trail friends.

You see, the “crunchy” lifestyle isn’t all about food and herbs, it is also about fun things to do that also incorporate taking care of our bodies and environment.

We love hiking, national and state parks and all things “outdoorsy”.  So I am creating a new category for “Crunchy Places“.  This gives me a chance to share all the fun and healthy activities in our area.

So we start, with the best thing I believe we have ever found.

(I have not been paid for this post, nor have I been compensated in any way for writing about Ranger Camp.  We just LOVE it that much.  Matter of fact, the park and park service aren’t even aware I am writing about them, but I suppose they’ll know soon enough. 😉 )

Let the fun begin:

Let me start by saying that our Tennessee State Parks are extremely UNDER appreciated.  We have visited so many State Parks in Tennessee and we have never been disappointed.  From the friendly Rangers and staff, to the cleanliness, to the amount of activities offered.  The Tennessee State Park Service, along with TVA and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency do an AMAZING job, on a very slim budget, to keep these areas up and operating for public use.  These parks and wildlife management areas charge nothing or next to nothing for use and offer an amazing variety. I promise you, there is something for EVERYONE!  So please, PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! visit your local, State and National Parks.

I realized while typing this post, at 2am, that this post is on the calendar to publish on the opening day of Norris Dam’s 80th Birthday Celebration.  HAPPY! HAPPY! HAPPY BIRTHDAY NORRIS DAM!!  Thank you for giving me the POWER to get this post up and running.   Funny how life works out PERFECTLY sometimes. 

What is Ranger Camp?

Ranger camp is a 4 day camp, held on Monday Thursday, from 10-3, for 3rd through 5th graders.  It typically happens in July, and is a week packed full of history, nature, community service, first aid, and survival skills.

I want to highlight the amazingly fun schedule they had this year.

Monday: Tennessee History

  • 18th Century Medicine:  They learned about medicine during the French & Indian War, the good, the bad and the ugly.  My son’s highlight : “If you had a compound fracture, they just cut your arm or leg off and hoped for the best. ”  He also learned about Willow Bark (the stuff aspirin is made from) and other herbs and treatments.
  • Old Time Games:  Here they learned to play several fun games from the 1700’s and 1800’s, along with learning about things like balls made from bladders of animals.
  • CCC : This is a HUGE part of our local history.  They learned about the Civilian Conservation Corps, Franklin D. Roosevelt and ALL that those folks did to build our parks and preserve land for future generations.
  • Tennessee Journals:  They started their journals and everyday added facts and drawings about things they were learning.

Tuesday: Tennessee Flora and Fauna

  • Deer
  • Mammals
  • Plant Bullies : Where they learned about the many invasive, non-native, species of plants found throughout Tennessee.
  • Scavenger Hunt: to identify and practice all they had learned
  • Tie-dye:  This was the coolest project. (In my hippie opinion).  They used Natural dyes to from things like beet-root, berries, carrots and turmeric to dye socks.  They learned the textile history and how things were dyed “way back when”.

Wednesday:  Tennessee Safety

  • Life jacket relay : a fun game that introduces boater and water safety.
  • Build a first aid kit
  • Poisons in the park: learning to identify which plants and animals to avoid.
  • Hiking:  essentials of hiking, packing, trail safety, being lost, trail first aid, etc.
  • Survival Packs:  Things like matches, water, space blankets, etc.
  • Fire Safety:  How and when to start a fire and how and when to put it out

Thursday: The Tennessee Test

  • Obstacle course
  • Tennessee Ranger Test : How much do you remember?
  • Paintings for the cabins at the park.  One year they built an owl box for the park owl.
  • Plant a tree :  This happens every year and my son can still take me to the tree that he helped plant the first year
  • Old time games
  • GRADUATION:  This is huge for these students.  They have earned it.  They get a badge pin (metal, heavy, just like the rangers wear) booklets, etc.

This is ALL hosted by the State Park and the students are charged a measly $25 for the ENTIRE WEEK!!  Socks, journals, badges, dyes, first aid kit supplies, EVERYTHING was provided in that fee.  They packed their own lunches, but ALL, of the rest, was provided by the park.


To the Rangers, seasonal rangers, college students and other park personnel who made this camp available to these kids.  THANK YOU!! Joseph LOVES Junior Ranger Camp.  Next  year will be the last year he is able to attend, and my heart already breaks for him.  THANK YOU for spending these summers with him, for teaching him, for giving him memories that will last the rest of his life.


A very happy Junior Ranger. THANK YOU NDSP!!


Check with the park office for summer activities.

I know that Norris Dam State Park offers all kinds of summer activities, hikes with the rangers, boat tours, museum tours, etc.

P.S.  I just realized, that the day this post finally goes live will be the same day that Norris Dam State Park will be having their 80th BIRTHDAY!  Completed in 1936, Norris Dam brought electric power to this area and still provides our power today, making this post possible.  During the years it was being built, Norris Dam brought jobs to an impoverished community and helped to pull this area out of the depression.  My great-uncles helped to build Norris Dam, and were an integral part of getting power to this community.  My grandfather became an electrician, as did my Dad and my brother… and to think, all because they dammed a river, in an effort to bring power and jobs to a coal mining community.

For more information on Norris Dam State Park, TVA, the history of East Tennessee, or the Tennessee Park Service, please visit the links below: THEN VISIT YOUR PARK!!

Norris Dam State Park


Civilian Conservation Corps

80th Birthday Celebration at Norris Dam State Park

Tennessee State Parks

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency


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