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Wilderness Program Introduces Teens To The Outdoors At Voyageurs National Park


Eighteen teens from the Twin Cities and International Falls, Minn., recently spent four nights in the backcountry of Voyageurs National Park to gain a better understanding of the benefits and wonders of national parks. Photo by Christina Hausman, Voyageurs National Park Association.

The call of the wild greeted a group of big city teens who were treated to four days in Voyageurs National Park, a trip that included the sighting of a lone wolf.

The adventure, with support from Wilderness Inquiry, the Voyageurs National Park Association, and Voyageurs National Park, brought teens from the Twin Cities and International Falls for an outdoor learning expedition in the national park in northern Minnesota. Most of the teens had never visited the park before.

Once in the park the teens paddled canoes, camped for three nights, spotted a grey wolf in Namakan Narrows, stargazed, and hiked and swam in the park’s remote Interior Lakes. The group also toured historical and geological sites in the park, learned about bald eagle and invasive species research, toured the Kettle Falls dam, and met with representatives from the International Joint Commission.

The trip was designed to give the "National Park Teen Ambassadors" a wide variety of national park experiences that they could share with their peers.

“Giving youth the opportunity to spend quality time outdoors has never been more important. We are so pleased that we had the partners who could make this happen and that there were 18 brave teens to try it out,” said Voyageurs Superintendent Mike Ward.

In preparation of the trip, the 18 teens spent their summer researching creative ways national parks could better reach out to their age group. They came up with several suggestions, including a National Park Service website just for teens, adventure trips, classroom visits, video and wildlife webcams, as well as college prep and teen advocacy activities.

The teens participated in two camping trips during the summer before heading to Voyageurs The trips were designed to give them an unforgettable and educational outdoor experience to share with younger generations.

The Ambassadors program was free for all participants so that financial resources were not a limitation for applying. This fall, the Ambassadors will wrap up the program by giving presentations to middle school classrooms regarding the next generation of Ambassadors.

This year marked the first of the National Park Teen Ambassador program, which was funded by the National Park Foundation’s America’s Best Idea Grant. Voyageurs National Park designed the program with collaborators and financial sponsors: Wilderness Inquiry, Voyageurs National Park Association, and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Voyageurs was selected as one of 49 national parks participating in the 2012 America’s Best Idea. Inspired by the critically-acclaimed Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea - the America’s Best Idea grant program funds park projects designed to connect diverse, under-engaged populations throughout the United States with their national parks in innovative and meaningful ways.


We need a lot more programs like this throughout the system.

Kudos to all those who helped get The Ambassador Program off the ground! What a fantastic and life changing summer for all involved!

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