Friday, April 24, 2015

Your 6 step Guide to Ranger on Call (and a great date)

There's pretty much nothing as cool as a date to a national park. And now there's a way to impress your date even more, without leaving town. Explore the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (a national park!) any time you like, and impress your sweetheart with your insight into our nation's greatest river by taking the Ranger on Call audio tour any time of day, all summer long.

The Ranger on Call tour is your guide to exploring the Mississippi River's most exceptional places. By calling the Ranger on Call number at a story station, you can listen to stories about the Mississippi River's history, science, art and natural places. Three tours are geared for bicyclists, with tours stops at Nice Ride stations by the Stone Arch Bridge/St. Anthony Falls area, downtown St. Paul riverfront, and Fort Snelling/Minnehaha Falls. Three additional walking tours are at Coldwater Spring, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Hasting's Jaycee Park.

So, you ask, how can I find an amazing date and take this awesome tour? Well, I can't help you with the first question, but I do have a 6 step guide to Ranger on Call.

So, here you go:

1. Find Nice Ride Story Stations at many Nice Ride stations along the Mississippi River. Or check out to find one. I'm standing here at the Science Museum of Minnesota (which is also home of the Mississippi River Visitor Center where you can stop in to meet a real national park ranger).

2. Call in and listen to stories of history, science, art and nature on the Mississippi River. You never know what you might learn! Date night tip: Use speaker phone!

3.  Check out the map at the story station to find out where the tour goes next or find your route at 

4. Pay the nice people at Nice Ride and check out your bike. Date Night Tip: Nice Ride let's you put up to two bikes on each credit card.

5. Admit it. Everyone looks better in a bike helmet. Date Night Tip: To find some real style, get a Nice Ride matching green helmet.

6. Ride off into the sunset, towards your next story station.

And that's it, 6 steps to a great date, and a great way to learn about our cities and the Mississippi River that connects us all.

Don't have a date? No problem! Ranger on Call can be enjoyed with family and friends. Furry pooches will also enjoy the walking tours available at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, Coldwater Spring, or Hastings Jaycee Park.

Now that's a Ranger on Call!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Minnesota, Carp, and Locks

Big Head Carp in Morris, IL
By Avery Hildebrand, Community Coordinator, Conservation Minnesota

Reposted from the Conservation Minnesota blog.

We have seen the videos, heard the stories, and have been told to prepare for their inevitable arrival. I’m talking about invasive carp, commonly referred to as “Asian carp”.

Invasive carp are actually four different species of carp including the silver, bighead, black, and grass carp. Perhaps the most notable of these is the silver carp that launches itself out of the water when it feels threatened, at times as high as 10 feet in the air, and can be a safety hazard for boaters and recreationists of all kinds.

In the 1970’s these fish were imported from China to control plankton growth in agricultural and waste water treatment ponds in the southern states. Flooding in the region aided the carp in escaping into the Mississippi River in the 1990’s where they found their way into the Missouri and Illinois Rivers. Since then, we have found evidence of silver carp as far north as Taylors Falls, MN and big head carp at the mouth of the St. Croix River.

Some of the biggest threats to Minnesota’s waters are due to the size and appetite of these fish. Invasive carp can be massive. Adult bighead carp can weigh 110 pounds and on any given day they can consume roughly 40% of their own body weight. It is this appetite that has Minnesotans worried that invasive carp will change the ecosystem for native fish populations in our rivers and lakes by out competing them for food.

However, just because we have found them knocking on our front door does not mean that all hope is lost. Despite finding bighead and silver carp in our backyards, it is believed that these fish are “pioneer” carp that have traveled long distances in search of new habitat and food sources. So, the good news is that they are not yet fully established.

You may ask yourself, “How in the world can we stop invasive carp from entering our beloved rivers and lakes?” The best solution we have to this problem lies in our existing river infrastructure – the locks and dams. These structures are our best defense. The only problem is that recreationists and industry use locks to navigate the expanses of the Mississippi and other rivers in the region on a regular basis. Locks act as giant fish tanks and give invasive carp the ability to hitch a ride with boaters as they move through the locks.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to make a difference. We are working with a coalition of organizations to stop invasive carp by encouraging recreational boaters and others on the Mississippi River no not use Lock and Dam 1 in order to protect the 6-mile stretch south of this lock called the “Gorge”.

Invasive carp have already established themselves at Pool 19 upstream from Lock and Dam 19 on the Mississippi River, which is located around the borders of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. If nothing is done, it is only a matter of time before they begin to move north and find themselves permanently in Minnesota’s waters.

Government agencies and researchers are developing other means of deterring the movement of the fish that include electric barriers, sound barriers, bubble walls, physical barriers, and light barriers. Invasive carp tend to be sensitive to certain sounds and light while most native fish species are not. These technologies in combination with decreased lock use will help to keep our Minnesota waters from becoming infested with invasive carp.

Now, after all this, you may be wondering, “What can I do?” The Stop Carp Coalition is encouraging people not to use Lock and Dam 1 when on the Mississippi River. Spread the word and tell everyone you know. With your help we can protect our lakes, rivers and outdoor way of life from these invasive and very detrimental carp species.

You can learn more about the Stop Carp Coalition by visiting –

Avery Hildebrand earned his degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. Avery is an avid fisherman and has worked as an aquatic invasive species watercraft inspector.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Love the River During Earth Month with Your National Park

By Maria DeLaundreau, Floodplain Restoration Project Coordinator, Mississippi River Fund

Water in, on, and above the Earth.
Earth Day is approaching! It's a day to celebrate, honor, and rejuvenate our connection with the earth. Protecting and connecting with our waters is important, especially when we have a river of national significance in our backyards. This year, commemorate your river and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day, so many it's hard to fit all the activity into one day. This is why we expand the holiday into "Earth Month." Here's a list of ways to honor the Earth and care for your national park:

1. Meet up with others who care about the planet at an Earth Month service event. This is the most traditional way to observe the holiday and there are many events along the river that are sure to be close to home and fit your schedule.

Volunteering is a time-honored tradition for Earth Day.

Beautify Bottineau
April 18, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Gluek Park, Minneapolis
Come help clean up the park in the Bottineau Neighborhood of Minneapolis.
To register, email

River Ramble 
April 30, 5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Hidden Falls Regional Park, St. Paul
Join us in our efforts to restore Hidden Falls! Work with a National Park Service ranger before being rewarded with a short performance by Ben Weaver.

Spring Planting in Lilydale
May 9, 9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Lilydale Regional Park
Plant trees and shrubs to restore one of Saint Paul's beautiful riverside gems. Volunteers will plant over 1,000 native trees and shrubs and take a guided bird walk.
Register here.

If you are looking for other Earth Day and river volunteer events, visit our events page and those of our partners: Friends of the Mississippi River, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Three Rivers.

2. Bring your family to Junior Ranger Day. 

April 25, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Mississippi River Visitor Center
Drop into the visitor center for activities and the opportunity to earn your junior ranger badge!
No registration necessary.

Kids become Junior Rangers after completing
activities and being "sworn in" by a real park ranger!

Try the Ranger on Call
audio tour of the riverfront.

3. Tour the river with Ranger on Call. You can walk, ride your bike, or rent a Nice Ride and enjoy an audio tour of the Mississippi River. 

Tours are based at several sites within the park, including downtown Minneapolis, Coldwater Spring, Fort Snelling, downtown Saint Paul, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, and Hastings riverfront.

4. Share your love for the river on social media. We have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogger, Instagram, and Twitter. Here are some steps you can take to tell the world about how great our river is: 
Show your love on social media:
Facebook, LinkedIn
Instagram, and Twitter.

  • Like and follow us on social media
  • Tag the Mississippi River Fund and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in your posts about the park and river
  • Ask us questions and write comments on our pages and posts-we are love to interact with you!
  • If you get photographed at one of our events, tag yourself and your friends in our pictures
  • Use some of our favorite hastags: #mississippiriver, #gotmissriverfun, #nps

5. Become a member. This is a great way to show your support for your national park and help get kids on the river, restore river habitat, preserve historic and culturally significant landmarks, and protecting fish and wildlife that rely on a healthy river ecosystem.

As a thank you for your generosity, you will receive:

  • Mississippi River Fund email and paper newsletters featuring events and news from the fund and the park
  • Discounts for special events
  • Access to annual members-only event
  • Special benefits at all levels-see our website
Find your park. Become a member.
Members get discounted tickets to events, including River City Revue.
This month do something extra to show your love for the earth, and your park. Remember, it takes more than one holiday to make a lasting change. Keep checking our events page to find ways to stay involved with your park year-round.

Happy Earth Day!