Fort Donelson National Battlefield Junior Ranger Program

Please click on the following link for the official Fort Donelson National Battlefield Junior Ranger web page:

You can pick up a Junior Ranger Activity Guide at the visitor center. There are two levels of activities for Junior Rangers: ages 5 – 8 and ages 9 – 12. Once completed you return the workbook to the visitor center. A Ranger will check your work and give you an official badge and certificate. The Fort Donelson Junior Ranger program also has a patch. I had to ask for it, so I do not know if it is something that they give out on a regular basis. Please see scanned images below of the badge and patch.

In this blog, I will discuss the requirements for completing the activity guide for ages 5 – 8.

Requirements for completing Junior Ranger Activity Guide:
Ages 5 – 8
• Complete at least 3 activities.
• Attend a Ranger Program or watch the park orientation film.
• Answer the question: What can you do to protect park resources?

The Junior Ranger can complete the following activities:
1. Create a Fort Donelson Journal
2. Watching Wildlife
3. Honor Our Heroes – Visit the Fort Donelson National Cemetery
4. What is Fort Donelson – Answer questions about Fort Donelson
5. Highways of the 1860s – Label a map with rivers, cities and forts
6. Investigating the Past – Study a picture and answer questions
7. Why Should We Care? – Answer questions about preserving National Parks

My family visited Fort Donelson National Battlefield on November 24, 2008. We first went to the visitor and picked up the Junior Ranger Activity Guide. The visitor center has a small museum. We explored the museum while we waited for the park orientation film to start.

My six year old daughter completed the following activities: Create a Fort Donelson Journal, Watching Wildlife and Why Should We Care.

When we left the visitor center we started to drive towards the River Batteries. We first stopped at the Log Hut. We were able to go inside the hut and take some pictures. While we were at the River Batteries, a volunteer drove by us and asked us if we had seen the Bald Eagles. We had not, so we followed her to the picnic area.

It was amazing. There was a pair of Bald Eagles with one of their offspring from the previous year. The pair of Eagles were squawking at their offspring to get it to leave the area as they were getting ready to nest again. We were informed that Bald Eagles force their offspring to leave the area every year when they prepare to nest. The volunteer also had pictures of the baby eagles that were hatched this last year. There were three of them and she had several close-ups of the chicks sitting on the cannons at the River Battery. We were able to walk up to the tree that the three eagles were in and take pictures without them flying away. It was so cool.

We spent several minutes watching the eagles. After that we visited the Fort Donelson National Cemetery, then returned to the visitor to turn in the completed Activity Guide. Ranger Jim Jobe reviewed the Activity Guide and presented my daughter with a certificate, badge and patch.

One of the difficulties my wife and I had was trying to explain the Civil War and war in general. We had to explain why people were killing each other, the concept of slavery and the importance of Fort Donelson. We also visited Stones River National Battlefield and Shiloh National Military Park during our visit to Tennessee. I think my daughter eventually understood what was going on, but I think it was a real hard concept for our six year old to comprehend.