With seven Junior Rangers in tow, Indian Springs State Park Ranger Sherrie Raleigh set a goal for the campers of completing 14 activities at the park, allowing them to earn up to three Junior Ranger badges.
“I already have the deer badge,” Macie Gibson told her father Chris Gibson. She earned the level-one badge last year during camp at Indian Springs. Campers can also earn level-two wolf and the level-three owl badges from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Natural areas, the park museum and a handy historical sign made it easy to check a good number of items off the list of things to do to earn badges during Junior Ranger Camp on June 12. Other Junior Ranger campers were Cheyanna, Lexi and Dakota Bray; Payton Stewart; Breanna Sawyer; and Jonah Roberts.
A snake made an unexpected contribution to the planned activities. The long black racer slithered out from under the wooden steps at the park museum. It stopped several times to check out the humans who were watching before continuing on its way over the lawn, across a rock, and almost across the road. That’s where a mockingbird attacked, pecking at the snake’s tail.
Raleigh did not miss a beat. She switched from talking about what campers would find in the museum to the good things a nonvenomous snake can do in a natural habitat.
“These snakes eat the venomous snakes like copperheads,” Raleigh said. “They also eat eggs, which is why the mockingbird is being so aggressive. The snake is too close to the nest and the bird is trying to draw him away.”
Back at the park’s stone pavilion, wildlife and bird watching received check marks in everyone’s Junior Ranger workbooks. Raleigh also stopped at a hollow tree to tell campers that black widow spiders like to hide in such spots, sparking tales of spider catching and a check under “Be Aware” in the activity list.
The walk to the museum, which covered both the history of Indian Springs and items found in nature, was done after lunch. A hike along Big Sand Creek was the main morning activity. Campers also completed some arts and crafts projects, tasted the water from the mineral springs and hunted some handy hydrangeas and pine needles to put in their books.
At the historical marker in front of the Indian Spring Hotel/Museum, Raleigh told campers about Chief William McIntosh and how he sold Creek Indian lands to the U.S. government, planning to keep the springs for himself. When McIntosh was killed by other Creeks, the springs and surrounding land was taken by Georgia. A resort grew around the springs.
“It’s the oldest state park in the entire nation,” she said, adding that many of the structures at the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s during the Great Depression.
Raleigh and other staff at the park plan a series of events for June 29 through July 4 in celebration of America. They include more visits to the museum, evening and night hikes and learning about geocaching, all activities children can do to earn Junior Ranger badges with parents or guardians. They can also earn Outdoor Georgia badges. Independence Day will feature a campfire with s’mores, a water balloon contests and a miniature golf tournament.
For a copy of the free Junior Ranger workbook, visit a state park or historic site or go to www.georgiastateparks.org/juniorranger.