Parenting: Help For Nature-Loving Families

David Murphy says outdoor adventures in natural areas have always been family vacation favorites. Now, they're easier to visit "on the fly".
August 3, 2011

The next time you and your kids are on the road and getting tired of being cooped-up in the car, you might want to whip-out your iPhone (or tell the kids to whip-out theirs). A new free app called Oh Ranger! Park Finder puts the expertise of the folks behind the popular Oh Ranger! guides to national parks and public lands into the palm of your hand. The app, a free-download from the iTunes Store, can instantly identify all national parks, state parks, national forests and other public-use lands in your vicinity. Best of all, you can search for these great stomping grounds according to whatever specific activity interests you and your kids.

The Oh Ranger! Park Finder app allows you to choose from twenty different categories, many of them family-friendly. Want a good place to take a hike? Choose "hiking". Want to go fishing? Choose "fishing". Other search criteria range from wildlife viewing and historic sites to camping and off-highway driving. Once you figure out a destination, Oh Ranger! Park Finder gives you directions, phone numbers and even weather conditions. The designers of the app say it gets frequent updates so the information is always fresh. However, most of the text is embedded in the program, so there's usually no need to connect to the internet.

The application is currently available for iPhone, iPad and the iPod Touch, with an Android version on the way. There's talk of adding social networking, so you and your kids can share any great finds with friends, but that's still in the pipeline.

The researchers and technicians behind this tool belong to a group known as American Park Network, which claims to draw about 20-million eyes to their iconic, little green booklets every year. For more information on the group and to check-out other park-related services offered, you can visit Oh

The app is relatively new and I haven't been able to find a lot of customer reviews as to function and reliability. But it's free, so it costs nothing to check it out and see whether it's something you and your kids can use.

---David Murphy

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