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GCA Distributes Pocket Ranger

By Laurel Morales

Grand Canyon, AZ – AMBY: chatter, birds and wind at the rim
MORALES: I'm standing at Yavapai Point near the Yavapai Observation Station looking out across to the north rim which I believe is 24 miles from where I'm standing and I can see several mesas and buttes and spires, which I don't know the names of I probably should...

That's what most people experience when they visit the Grand Canyon. We may know a fact or two about this wondrous place but if you're anything like me you're itching to know more.

It's the most visited natural resource site in the entire world. But what do people actually learn during their visit?

WALLIS: Unfortunately we estimate that one person in a thousand has a personal experience with an interpretive ranger here because there are millions of visitors and less than forty interpretive rangers.

That's Brad Wallis, executive director of the Grand Canyon Association and the brains behind the "audio ranger." He takes in the amazing view at Yavapai Point on a recent clear blue sky day. That's where the tour begins...

TRACK 3 More of the earth's geological history is revealed here than anywhere on the planet...(fade down)

Not everyone is privileged enough to take an expert guided tour of the Grand Canyon. Now for a few bucks you can have your own pocket-sized ranger. You pay about 30 dollars for a pre loaded MP3 flash drive player or six dollars to download the tour onto your own MP3 player. The tour contains about two hours of narration from many voices associated with the park including several rangers like this one:

TRACK 10 As your hiking along the rim trail you're going to notice a rock formation along the entire trail ... 270 million years ago.

The tour visits several points along the South Rim, including the Bright Angel Trailhead and the Hopi House. It also stops at lesser known sites like the Pioneer Cemetery, where Grand Canyon trailblazer John Hance is buried.

TRACK 25 When asked how he made the trip out west Hance would reply 'I waited til I saw a herd of buffalos heading to Arizona...'

The nonprofit Grand Canyon Association received a 368-thousand dollar grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to produce the audio guides with Arizona State University's help. The association chipped in another 200-thousand dollars to complete the project.

Currently the audio guide is only available in English. The Grand Canyon Association's Brad Wallis says the organization plans to produce the audio ranger in four languages by next year.

WALLIS: Right now especially this year we have a lot of foreign visitors because of the valued dollar. I went to the Czech Republic and I could tell buildings were set aside for a reason. They had plaques but not in a language I could understand ... I would have paid almost anything to understand those buildings in Prague.

With the funding they received the Grand Canyon Association and ASU are working on other public educational materials like an interactive Web site and a curriculum for teachers to use in the classroom.

Ultimately Wallis says the more people learn about the canyon the more they will want to take care of it.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales at the Grand Canyon.

HOST OUTRO: You can buy the preloaded MP3 player at Grand Canyon Association outlets throughout the park or download the files on the association's Web site