Grand Canyon guide for kids

About 90 percent of Grand Canyon National Park’s visitors head to the South Rim, the most accessible area of the park’s 1.2 million acres. But even here, it can be hard to know where to start, especially when traveling with children. I kept that in mind when writing What I Saw in Grand Canyon: A Kid’s Guide to the South Rim. Many families have just a short time to visit the canyon. Where do you go? What opportunities are there for kids? How can you help your children make sense of this vast place?

What I Saw in Grand Canyon offers a sampler of many of the things families are most likely to see during their visit to the South Rim, as well as recommendations for easy walks and hikes. The book’s fun checklist format provides space for kids to record their own sightings while they learn about the park’s geology, wildlife, plants, and history. Back at home, they can use the book to share their Grand Canyon visit with family and friends.

The book, illustrated with photos by Christopher Cauble, is now on sale at Riverbend Publishing and on Amazon. It will soon be available at local bookstores.

I hope What I Saw in Grand Canyon will prove to be a good companion for you and your family on your Grand Canyon journey. May you have a safe, enjoyable, and unforgettable visit to the South Rim.

Free download: companion activities for What I Saw in Grand Teton

Schwabacher Landing, © 2016 Julie Lue.

If you are a teacher or homeschooler looking for ways to extend What I Saw in Grand Teton: A Kid’s Guide to the National Park, here are a few activity ideas for you. My thanks to third-grade teacher Suzy Miller for “Safe Space”–a fun way to teach important lessons for kids living in or visiting areas with potentially dangerous wildlife.

Catching up with Montana’s bald eagles

In 1978, there were only 12 known nesting pairs of bald eagles in Montana. By 2014, that number had increased to more than 700 pairs. This amazing recovery, thanks to the ban on DDT and actions taken under the Endangered Species Act, is the subject of “The Eagles Have Landed,” my article in the November-December 2017 issue of Montana Outdoors Magazine. Kate Davis of Raptors of the Rockies took the stunning photographs that accompany the story.

While researching bald eagles, I watched for them in their usual haunts, and I spotted a fair number of nests in river valleys before the cottonwoods leafed out. But I also saw bald eagles in a few more unexpected places:

  • Soaring over Walmart in Missoula, next to the Clark Fork River.
  • Flapping over the parking lot at my kids’ school, while being harassed by a raven.
  • Attending a high school track meet. An adult and an immature bald eagle perched in nearby trees, hunting rodents in a field. Later, the adult circled repeatedly over the track, as if curious about the 1600m relay.
  • Flying low over my yard during high water. With tough fishing on the river a mile away, the eagle may have been looking for more prey options. (My three hens appeared to get a good adrenaline rush out of this flyover, but were unharmed.)

Sometimes I even saw eagles while driving somewhere to look for eagles. The message in all this for me? The eagles are back.

Yet even though overall bald eagle numbers are encouraging, we should be careful not to take the species for granted. As zoologist Willard Van Name said, “The time to save a species is while it is still common.” Bald eagles remain vulnerable to everything that got us in trouble in the first place, including habitat loss, nest disturbance, and poisoning by environmental contaminants.

One more note about Montana’s bald eagles . . . Not all the birds you see are nesters. Some are “floaters,” immature birds or others that haven’t yet established a nesting territory (my track meet birds probably fit this category). Others are migrating birds passing through Montana on their way to somewhere else. And still others are Canadian birds here to spend the winter in milder conditions. I look forward to seeing these winter migrants soon.

Overheard in Montana

Coyote, courtesy NPS.
Courtesy National Park Service.

When you hear coyotes howl, do you ever wish you had a translator? I became especially curious a couple of summers ago when a pack of coyotes moved into the gully below my house, and as far as I could tell, started raising a family. The coyotes kicked up a chorus for almost any loud sound, including the roar of commercial jets flying over the neighborhood. That noisy summer is the subject of “Awake at night and listening to coyotes,” my latest essay in High Country News (titled “Overheard in Montana” in the print edition, which was published September 4, 2017). My thanks to researcher Brian R. Mitchell for answering my questions about coyote vocalizations.

New kids’ book about Grand Teton National Park


I’m excited to announce the release of What I Saw in Grand Teton: A Kid’s Guide to the National Park on April 1 by Riverbend Publishing. I wrote the text and Christopher Cauble provided the many beautiful photographs. Our book offers a sampler of many of the animals, plants, and places families are likely to see on a trip to the park, as well as space for children to record their own sightings. It also includes fun facts on everything from ranger hats to earthquakes. The wildlife “Guess what?” sections are some of my favorites. Did you know that bluebird feathers aren’t really blue? Or that the pronghorn’s closest living relatives are not antelope? (Hint: They are found in Africa and can grow up to 19 feet tall.) I liked digging into the research to find surprising details even about common species.

After spending a fair amount of time in the Tetons as a kid, I enjoyed reconnecting with the park and learning more about its history and incredible diversity of wildlife and plants.  The book provides a fun guide for kids visiting Grand Teton National Park, and I hope it will spark an interest in wildlife and natural areas for at least a few of them. What I Saw in Grand Teton is now available through Riverbend Publishing,  Amazon (where you can view some of the pages), and in the local park area.