Fun Facts About U.S. National Parks: The People Behind the Parks is celebrating the people behind the parks with these national park fun facts. Learn more about the park rangers and volunteers before you plan your trip!

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. In honor of its centennial, we will be sharing 100 facts, from the basic to the bizarre, to inspire you to join in the celebration at one of the many beautiful national parks across the country.

If you’re planning a trip to a national park soon, the following 14 facts center around the people at the parks, from workers to volunteers. Learn about who they are and what they’ve accomplished — and survived.

1) Shenandoah park ranger Roy Sullivan lived through seven documented lightning strikes and self-purportedly 22 confrontations with bears during his 40-year career.

2) In summer of 2010 park ranger Doug Follett reached half a century of service as a seasonal interpretive ranger at Glacier National Park, the record for the longest-serving ranger in the Montana park and one of the longest serving employees in the history of NPS. He will return again to the park in 2016 for his 56th season.

3) Still working hard at age 94, Betty Reid Soskin works as a park ranger at California’s Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park. As of April 2016, she’s the oldest park ranger and still finds time to blog.

Betty Reid Soskin

4) Clare Marie Hodges became the first female park ranger in 1918.

Clare Marie Hodges

5) Twenty-two years later, Gertrude S. Cooper became NPS’s first female superintendent and served five years at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.

6) More than 800,000 children became junior rangers last year. Your kids can join, too.

More than 800,000 children became junior rangers last year.

7) Aubrey V. Neasham, historian for Region IV, came up with the idea to include an arrowhead, buffalo or tree on the NPS’s emblem. Ultimately a decision was made to include all three symbols on the emblem, which was adopted in 1951, and has been featured on park ranger uniforms since 1952.

8) Park rangers are educated and experienced. In fact, NPS requires rangers to have a bachelor’s degree, or suitable experience to substitute.

9) Over the years, more and more men and women have joined the NPS team, which now employs approximately 22,000 permanent, temporary and seasonal workers.

10)Ten times that many volunteer their time to our national parks. In fact, there are more than 221,000 volunteers affiliated with the NPS.

11) There’s only been one park ranger to become the president of the United States: Gerald Ford.

12) The term “ranger” made its first appearance in our nation’s parks in 1898, when Congress allocated funds for the protection of National Forest Reserves. The protectors came in the form of men referred to as “forest rangers.” In the same year, Inspector J.W. Zevely of the General Land Office was ordered to protect three California National Parks without military assistance, which he accomplished by hiring the first forest rangers.

13) Today, forest rangers are called park rangers. In addition to protecting our parks and public, they also educate visitors about park history, natural features, wildlife and conservation.

14) There are also artists, geologists and other professionals, who reside in parks like the sculptural gardens at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire, solving problems and creating beauty, thanks to the national parks residency programs.

About the Author

Danielle Taylor is a freelance writer whose work covers outdoor recreation, conservation, public lands and travel. She's spending much of 2016 on a road trip to America's national parks. To learn about her work and travels, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and visit her website.

Planning a trip to a National Park?

Find the closest Alamo rental car location