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

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,453 Ratings  ·  233 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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Community Reviews

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Jul 17, 2016 Sesana rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
About a year ago, I read Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. Morbidly fascinating book, and this is, too. Because Lankford spent a fair chunk of her career as a ranger in Grand Canyon National Park, there's a fair bit of overlap. It can be a little strange to read some of these incidents again, with much more detail and insight into the mindset of the rangers on scene. I even remembered some of the names from Over the Edge. While every bit as interesting as the previous book, I'd say that this ...more
Mar 16, 2012 Sandi rated it really liked it
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
Jan 16, 2015 Hannah rated it really liked it
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
Sep 22, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
"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
Jess Haberman
Jun 02, 2010 Jess Haberman rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 05, 2012 Jen rated it really liked it
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
Christina Melanson
Jul 29, 2013 Christina Melanson rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2013 Virginia rated it it was ok
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
Jan 02, 2012 Chris Seals rated it liked it
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
Jul 13, 2013 Lana Hasper rated it it was ok
OMG, even being a Nat'l Park Ranger is a crummy job.
Jul 31, 2013 Katie rated it it was ok
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
Mar 13, 2016 Liralen rated it liked it
Lankford was a ranger for more than a decade. She loved the national parks and, at least at first, she loved the work. But this is not a love story, not really. Rather, it's a story of disillusionment.

Ranger Confidential is just about enough to make me add 'park ranger' to my list of Jobs I Never Knew I Didn't Want, but it's that disillusionment that gives me pause. So much of the book ends up being stories of people dying (often in horrible ways) and rangers handling their remains. It's hard to
Jess Wilson
May 30, 2014 Jess Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
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
Sep 12, 2012 Jill Sorenson rated it it was amazing
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
Frances Johnson
Jul 31, 2015 Frances Johnson rated it really liked it
Great book. Lots of action about the National Park Rangers and how they risk their lives to save visitors to the National Parks. It's inspiring.
Jan 24, 2016 Jason rated it liked it
Very interesting, somewhat disjointed book of real life stories from a park rangers perspective.
Marykay Pogar
May 07, 2016 Marykay Pogar rated it really liked it
After reading about all the people who die or nearly die in the Grand Canyon, I can't wait to start our trek there in a couple weeks.
Nov 06, 2014 Nick rated it it was amazing
This was such a good book. I respect Rangers and what they do now more than ever.
Drewsheltie Sheltie
Sep 12, 2016 Drewsheltie Sheltie rated it really liked it
Interesting behind the scenes look at what NPS rangers have to deal with in some of the biggest National Parks in the US.
George Smith
Apr 11, 2016 George Smith rated it liked it
This book cuts the romance out of the job of being a ranger, and confirms the wisdom of my earlier choice to stow the plan to be a ranger, get a good-paying city-based job instead, and explore the wilderness on my days off work. Now I am retired and enjoying wilderness when conditions are right, on my own terms. My advice is pursue wilderness away from the madness of camping crowds and all the rest by strapping on your backpack and hitting trail. Yosemite Valley, which I first visited in the 195 ...more
Sharon Tzur
Apr 18, 2014 Sharon Tzur rated it liked it
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
Apr 01, 2014 C rated it really liked it
“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
Jul 12, 2015 Elvis rated it really liked it
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
Jan 16, 2015 Jams rated it really liked it
Interesting, but pretty depressing. I had no idea a Ranger's job was so grim.
Gayle Vegter
Sep 07, 2016 Gayle Vegter rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tracy St Claire
Aug 10, 2014 Tracy St Claire rated it it was ok
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
Dec 22, 2015 Terra rated it really liked it
Really entertaining, engrossing, and STRESSFUL. Lankford tells you up front that one of the people she's going to tell you all about will not survive to the end of the book, so every time something crazy happens (which is often), you're like "AHHHHHHH EVERYONE IS GOING TO DIE." And despite this warning, when one of the rangers actually does die, it's shocking and awful. I am super selling this. But really, it was good, I promise!

Overall, I think I was expecting this book to be more of a matter-o
Jun 05, 2015 Amy rated it liked it
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
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