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Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,014 ratings  ·  186 reviews
The real stories behind the scenery of America’s national parks

For twelve years, Andrea Lankford lived in the biggest, most impressive national parks in the world, working a job she loved. She chaperoned baby sea turtles on their journey to sea. She pursued bad guys on her galloping patrol horse. She jumped into rescue helicopters bound for the heart of the Grand Canyon. S
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 2nd 2010 by FalconGuides (first published January 1st 2010)
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Soooo, having been a seasonal National Park ranger in my idealistic youth long, long ago in galaxy far, far away..., I could appreciate and relate to many of the stories former NPS ranger Lankford penned in this excellent book, especially:

* nudists vs ranger square off on a (non-nudist) National seashore - check
* sub-standard park staff accomodations; complete with wildlife roommates (aka scorpions) - check
* fun with loggerhead sea turtle babies - check
* idiotic questions from park visitors - do
First, I'm going to be a lot nicer to park rangers when I see them. Second, I am rethinking any ideas I had about encouraging my son to go to work for the National Park Service. These stories illustrate how hard, frustrating and dangerous it can be to work in national parks. The stories are fascinating, a mixture of the author's experiences and those of fellow rangers. One thing that could make this book much better would be photos and maps, particularly, Grand Canyon maps.

Some take-away points
Jess Haberman
Jun 02, 2010 Jess Haberman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nature-lovers, national park visitors
Shelves: books-i-own
This is a very entertaining and totally honest portrayal of the National Park System from some brave and underpaid, nature-loving park rangers at Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Denali. Exciting and sometimes cringe-worthy, Andrea's accounts of her own and her coworkers' experiences in the national parks had me riveted. My favorite moments were those when Andy and Mary showed the male rangers just how much a female ranger could kick ass. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves the outdoors and especi ...more
"In the United States, a park ranger is more likely to be assaulted in the line of duty than is any other federal office, including those who work for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Secret Service; and the Drug Enforcement Administration."

I loved this. As previously stated, the other books I've read on this subject have been more focused on tourists and visitors to parks, the dangerous (and frequently) stupid situations they put themselves in, etc. This was very much about
Christina Melanson
If you have ever enjoyed the pleasures of exploring the National Parks, here is an enlightening,sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking behind-the-scenes account of a female USNP service employee. Recounting tales of rising through the ranks over her career, you quickly learn that a ranger is REALLY not "being paid our taxpayer's dollars to hike all day in the woods". Gruellingly long shifts, meager pay, sex-discrimination and numerous obstacles for promotion are described, but most memorably tol ...more
As a former NPS seasonal ranger I was interested in reading this book. What she illustrates is a true picture of working in our busy parks though by the end of the book I was tired of her whining. Yes, housing can be awful, yes, visitors can be rude and stupid and yes, by the end of the season you will probably be burned out and ready to leave. But, you don't work hard to get a job with the Park Service because you want to be rich, famous and sit at a desk all day. Overall, the book started with ...more
Chris Seals
I liked this book, but some stories felt unfinished. I buy an adventure book every time I'm up at Grand Canyon, and have read many. They all make me realize that my safe, 800 hiking miles in GC, have come at a steep price for many. My goal is 1000 GC miles before I need to give up my hiking days. I'm almost there. These types of books show me what not to do, and give me great admiration for all the Park Rangers work risk their lives every day for park visitors.
Lana Hasper
OMG, even being a Nat'l Park Ranger is a crummy job.
It certainly is honest, I'll give you that. Might even want to put a warning on it about the very matter-of-fact details provided regarding some of the injuries and events. I thought my 13 year old daughter could read it, but I've reconsidered. There are some visual images described that I won't soon forget.

The most impressive thing to me was the writing. Unfairly I suppose I had low expectations of someone writing about their tales of being a ranger. But Ms. Lankford's language to describe both
First thing, you have to realize that this is not written by someone who enjoys being a ranger. This is someone who used to enjoy being a ranger, but grew more and more traumatized and wearied by the job and has now left the park service. To be fair, it's an incredibly demanding and under-rewarded job, but this is important to know because in the end this is a really depressing book. She warns you at the beginning of the book that she isn't going to withhold any unpleasant details - believe it! ...more
Jess Wilson
My husband is planning on becoming a park ranger, so I decided to read this book with him to get some "insight" into the life of a park ranger. The author is totally honest, to the point of shocking at times, about her experiences as a ranger. Be warned, she doesn't sugar-coat anything, including the language used. I actually enjoyed the book because I felt it opened my eyes to some of the things my husband might experience. She did complain throughout the entire book about stupid tourists and l ...more
Jill Sorenson
I read this as research for my park ranger heroine. Thanks to Ruthie Knox for the rec! It's a cracking good read, full of hair-raising rescues and heartbreaking disappointments. Lankford, the first female district ranger at Grand Canyon NP, shines a light on the darker side of a heroic job. She gives unflinching descriptions of everything from a BASE jump gone wrong to the casual misogyny of her male coworkers, who called female park rangers "split-tails." After reading about the long hours, har ...more
I worked as a seasonal clerical NPS employee in Yellowstone for 3 summers while I was in college in the late 60s and early 70s, one year at Park Headquarters and 2 years at the West District Office, which included the very-busy Old Faithful area. I wasn't privy to some of the politics, but I do have a wonderful stock of memories. Part of them are of the college-kid fun we summer staffers enjoyed, but others are of fielding those stupid tourist questions or of helping to deal with some very diffi ...more
This was such a good book. I respect Rangers and what they do now more than ever.
Sharon Tzur
There were a lot of things I learned from this book. It certainly gave me insight into the challenges facing Rangers in their work and into the beauty and dangers of some of the great national parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Danali). I am happy I read it because I feel that reading it is a sort of a tribute to the Rangers who risk their lives to help others, and work under difficult conditions, many without even the benefit of a decent salary. The public not only doesn't appreciate their work but ...more
“Protect the park from the people, the people from the park, and the people from themselves."

The above quote from the book pretty much sums it all up neatly.

This was a quick, compelling read that dragged me all over the emotional spectrum. I recommend it to any who enjoy reading about National Parks, Rangers, and "human nature" and want to hear what life working for the Parks Service is really like (or perhaps the downside). I will add the disclaimer that the author burnt out and quit the Park
Just finished up Andrea Lankford's book Ranger Confidential. After having spent so much time this summer in out National Parks I thought it would be interesting to read about an insider's view of the parks. I wasn't disappointed.

Lankford has done an amazing job at telling and retelling several stories from her and her coworker's days at Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Parks. To hear some of these stories from a ranger's point-of-view is frustrating and amazing at the same time. Amazing to hea
Interesting, but pretty depressing. I had no idea a Ranger's job was so grim.
Tracy St Claire
I purchased and read this book after visiting a few national parks this summer. The tales are honest and draw the reader in, but the book does not have a beginning middle and an end. It is neither a memoir of the author herself or a collection of park ranger adventures -- it is instead a hodge-podge of tales involving herself, her friends, and none-of-the-above, including both park ranger stories and random personal stories and love life stories of these.? This is all told in no apparent order, ...more
This book was a total eye-opener. Though I have assumed that park rangers are underpaid, overworked, short-staffed, etc. this really shed some light on the job. But the most interesting parts were the stories of course. Though many of the stories were harrowing, and illustrated how intense the job can be, I loved hearing them. I can't imagine being in a work position that required so much confrontation with death and gruesome accidents, but when the rangers are able to save someone I sensed how ...more
Interesting view into the dangers and hardships involved in being park ranger. The author is up front about her disillusionment with the Park Service and how it treats the rangers, but I found the novel to be high on personal stories with high risk adventures and low on some of the beauty that inspired people to be park rangers. The characters were a little hard to separate at first as she introduces four main stories in the beginning. Overall, I found the book a good read, an interesting insigh ...more
Well, I don't think I want to be a NP Ranger anymore... I'm not tough enough. The stories are often horrific, often sad but always worth reading. The dedication of those who serve as National Park Rangers "protecting the park from people, the people from the park and the people from each other" is extraordinary. The ultimate burnout and loss of those who understand the value of our specials natural places and the dark side of working there are well represented in Ms. Lankford's book. I will cont ...more
Moral of the story: Be nice to park rangers. It's common for them to work 15 hour days after only a couple hours of sleep. Their pay is awful, and they are working a job meant for multiple people. And if you get in trouble while in the park, they're the ones who will save your life.

Andrea Lankford's story is dark at times but also a fascinating look inside the National Park System. A word of warning: Lankford left the NPS burnt out and disenchanted from her many years working in some of the mos
I learned more than I bargained for in reading Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks. I'll be more careful with questions I ask of park rangers and I'll be more tolerant of the park rules after reading this behind the scenery tell-all book. Described within are the details of scores of national park deaths and the stories of rangers who put their lives on the line every day to prevent more. The author, Andrea Lankford (Andy), is no apple pie making, butterfly chas ...more
3.5 Stars. The subject matter was great (it lives up to its title), the writing less so. To the author's credit, she sounded real and (presumably) like herself. It seemed like she wrote this more because she had fascinating experiences to share, not because she had literary ambitions. So, overlook the occasionally clumsy writing and forced-feeling dialogue, and you'll love hearing about the dangerous, dramatic, mundane, and harried life of a National Park Ranger. Seriously, if you thought these ...more
Carl Nelson
Heartfelt and heartbreakingly honest recounting of the author's life as a National Park Service ranger, chiefly in Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Equal parts comic, adventurous, and tragic, Lankford skillfully tells her story and that of several close friends who are also NPS rangers in a conversational and readable style. Some of the rescue tales are harrowing to read, and the dedication of the stressed, overworked, and underpaid rangers is impressive throughout.

I felt a personal connection to
although a September 2013 Amazon monthly special (2.99 most markets?) and although Lankford is kind enough to join us all on GR, unfortunately I can't in good faith recommend this more or less 12 years' survey of being a US Park Service Ranger. perversely, I've almost spent 12 years myself being involved in writing / summary writing / precis or abstraction summation, so life's twist goes like this:

Lankford had the story, but not the professional writer/editor's ruthless ear

I had all the pay-for-
Scott Foshee
I bought this book at the North Rim Lodge after hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim south to north in May, 2012. Park Rangers are often overlooked and taken for granted by the public, but their jobs are incredibly important. Unfortunately rangers seem to spend much of their time saving National Park visitors (and other park employees) from themselves, and this seems to have the unfortunate effect of wearing down many idealistic young rangers over time until they burn out, become bitter, and, in t ...more
Douglas Castagna
Always a lover of memoirs, I figured why not? I was pleasantly surprised. Lankford has an easy conversationally style and helps the novice of the world described acclimate themselves easily to the world of the Park Ranger. We soon learn that their job is nearly impossible to fathom to the uninitiated. They are part cop, part paramedic, part rock, part you name it. The anecdotes are at times funny, sad, exciting and always rememberable. I have new respect for the people who work as Rangers.
‘Ranger Confidential’ is an uncensored look at those who protect America’s National Parks. Well written and poignant, the book is a must read for those who are thinking about working in the national parks, and those starting to learn about the outdoors. However if you’re looking for something that makes you want to grab your back and head out to the trail look somewhere else. Reading the article about this book in ‘Backpacker’ magazine I knew parts were going to be sad and gory but I figured tha ...more
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