Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Smoky Waters Day Camp visits the Flat Ranch

Text and images by volunteer Flat Ranch summer host, Nancy Elkins

On Wednesday, August 3rd, the Flat Ranch came alive with the laughter, squeals and high energy of 24 children from the Smokey Waters Day Camp, offered by the town of West Yellowstone's summer recreation program. The program meets daily Monday through Friday, but Wednesdays are set aside for out-of-town field trips.

As the children streamed off the school bus and onto the porch of the Flat Ranch visitor center, they were asked why they were all wearing orange shirts. The children replied in unison, "So the counselors can find us!" Sounds like these counselors have a bit of experience with kids. Four counselors joined the group for this outing.

Before starting off on their nature adventure, the children gathered on the porch and did stretches. Arms, legs, backs and torsos stretched and twisted to get ready for the hike. The lead counselor then had a question and answer session to see how many of the kids knew about the importance of conserving nature. First question to clarify was, "What is conservation?"

Everyone came prepared with bottled water and a lunch to eat at the end of the hike. As they marched across the yard and out the gate, the counselors started pointing out the different wildflowers—looked like they were already learning something. The group hiked to the Henry's Fork Outlet, which flows through the Flat Ranch, and had fun learning about local birds and wildlife. After the hike, they returned to the Visitor Center to enjoy their picnic lunches on the porch.

The Nature Conservancy encourages school groups to visit the Flat Ranch. Although there is no structured program, there is a "hands on" display in the Visitor Center where children can touch and feel animal skins, bones and antlers. The grounds are always open for hiking, birding, fishing, picnics and wildlife viewing. No reservations are necessary, but advance notice is appreciated. The visitor center is open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays) until early October. For more information, call the Flat Ranch Visitor Center at (208) 558-7629.

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