Lisa Brainard: Ranger programs offered at regional unit of National Park Service

PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE Effigy Mounds National Monument is hosting ranger programs. It’s located on the Mississippi River north of Marquette, Iowa.
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs Destination

Beautiful, historic, spiritual Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa is hosting ranger programs this summer and fall. Although not listed on the park’s website. I discovered them on the park’s Facebook page.

You could combine a nightly program at Effigy Mounds with camping in the area. Three options are Yellow River State Forest campgrounds (my go-to spot); Pikes Peak State Park near McGregor, Iowa; and Wyalusing State Park, near Prairie du Chien, Wis.

Check program offerings at Effigy Mounds National Monument online at Be sure to call the park visitor center’s front desk at 563-873-3491, ext. 123, to verify a program before planning a trip. The website is

The programs begin at 7 p.m. and run approximately an hour.


Sunday, Aug. 11 – Wilderness and the American Mind. Travel back through American history to discover how our nation has developed and varied its perceptions of nature. Take a glimpse into the rich history as laid out by Roderick Frazier Nash in his book, Wilderness and the American Mind. These ideas can be traced back to the Old World, the original colonists at Jamestown, pioneers, conservationists, and beyond – all the while being expressed through paintings, novels, and the press. Examining what may be the roots of our ideas can allow us to challenge and enrich our own views, and deepen our personal relationship with nature, whatever it may be.

Tuesday, Aug. 13 – My Mississippi. The infamous Mississippi River has been the muse of songs and stories for decades. As the waters flow from Lake Itasca and journey south, the river touches the banks of 10 states. By the time the “Mighty Miss” exits into the Gulf of Mexico, it has provided opportunities for recreation, employment, sustenance, and enjoyment. Does its reach stop there? Who is responsible for the care of the Great River and why does it matter? What sort of impact does the Mississippi have on our land and lives? Spend the evening swimming through the past and examining the 100-million-year-old story of Old Man River. Dive deep as we discuss hardships, happiness, and the health of your Mississippi River.

Sunday, Aug. 18 – When Mounds Line Up. The mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument create a striking relief on the landscape. The placement of the effigy mounds has many speculating — are they walking downstream? Lying on their backs? Are they aligned with constellations or seasons? The answers to these questions in many ways can't be known for sure. Join us for a deeper look as we sort fact from speculation.

Tuesday, Aug. 20 – A Fungus Among Us. Have you ever asked yourself about those strange organisms popping up in the woods, on our dinner plates, and even on leftovers at the back of the fridge? Look at mushrooms and the larger organism they herald. Learn what they do for themselves, for us and for other things around them. We will also explore mushroom and fungus anatomy as well as cover the main branches of the fungus family and how they differ, We will cover some local mushrooms – some bad, some good, and some seeming quite alien. Familiarize yourself with our closest relatives in the kingdoms of life.

Sunday, Aug. 25 – Art in National Parks. Art can be a lot of things. It can inspire. It tells stories of our rich history, diverse cultures and beautiful nature. It can transport people to far off lands. The human experience is connected through art. Over the last 100 years national parks have inspired some of the finest American art.

Tuesday, Aug. 27 – Wilderness and the American Mind. See Aug. 11.


Sunday, Sept. 1 – Tiny Superheroes! Bats are keystone species in every ecosystem they inhabit; tiny superheroes of the night! They are facing a grave danger from archnemesis disease White Nose Syndrome. What superpowers do bats possess and how do they do good in their habitat communities? How can we help them?

Tuesday, Sept. 3 – Becoming a Citizen Scientist. This is one way to help make our world a better place. Discover opportunities to become a steward to the environment in your local area.

Sunday, Sept. 8 – Art in the National Parks. See Aug. 25.

Tuesday, Sept. 10 – My Mississippi. See Aug. 13.

Sunday Sept. 15 –Wilderness and the American Mind. See Aug. 11.

Tuesday, Sept. 17 – A Fungus Among Us. See Aug. 20.

Sunday, Sept. 22 – Tiny Superheroes! See Sept. 1.

Sunday, Sept. 29 – Art in National Parks. See Aug. 25.

Tuesday, Sept. 24 – My Mississippi. See Aug. 13.


Tuesday, Oct. 1 – A Fungus Among Us. See Aug. 20.

Sunday, Oct. 6 – Tiny Superheroes! See Sept. 1.

Tuesday, Oct. 8 – Becoming a Citizen Scientist. See Sept. 3.

Sunday, Oct. 13 – Art in National Parks. See Aug. 25.

Tuesday, Oct 15 – Wilderness and the American Mind. See Aug. 11.

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.