Yellowstone National Park Feature


Park Ranger Mary Wilson

For Yellowstone National Park Ranger Mary Wilson, every day is an adventure and, even after two decades of working in some of the nation's most pristine preserves, she never tires of assisting visitors who have come to explore America's natural treasures.

"Almost every day, I am approached by visitors who, in awe of the wonderful and exciting things they have experienced in the parks, tell me that these places are the most beautiful and inspiring places they have ever seen or been," she says. "Somehow, these places help foster memories and feelings that last a lifetime."

Visitors have left lasting impressions that Wilson has incorporated into her instruction of new park rangers. One of the most poignant occurred while she was working in the mid-1980s as an interpretive ranger at Grand Canyon National Park.

"I came across an elderly woman sitting near the south rim of the canyon who was just sobbing," Wilson recalls. "Thinking that she may have been hurt, sick, or missing someone, I approached and asked if I could help her. She told me she was fine, but that she was from New York City, had raised five kids, and that this was the first time she had ventured out of her home state. She told me that the one thing she had wanted to see more than anything else in the world in her entire life was the Grand Canyon. I told her it was so great that she was here now, to which she responded, 'Yes, but it makes me wonder how many other beautiful places I may have missed in my life... and will never get to see.' I sat down on the bench next to her and began to cry with her. It reminded me of the power these very special places we call national parks have on our lives; how they offer us a chance to reflect upon our relationship with nature, the importance of beauty and solitude, and how lucky we are to have them preserved for everyone to enjoy."

Wilson's passion for animals, combined with a love for the outdoors and helping people, turned her professional interests toward the National Park Service. "Serving as a park ranger was a way to achieve a little of all of those worlds," says Wilson, who grew up in Muncie, Indiana, before earning her bachelor's and master's degrees from Purdue University.

After serving stints as a student volunteer in South Dakota's Custer State Park and Montana's Glacier National Park, working side by side with rangers, Wilson was hired by the National Park Service in Glacier. Since then, she's taken assignments at Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon, and Sequoia/Kings Canyon national parks, and Montezuma Castle National Monument. At her job at Yellowstone, she supervises other rangers and assists visitors.

Updated: 2014-03-12

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