How to Become a Park Ranger in Ohio

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How to Become a Park Ranger in Ohio

The State of Ohio calls its park rangers Natural Resource Officers.

Consequently, the remainder of this article will use that term instead of the “park ranger” job title.

And according to NRO Lt. Dawn Powell, it could take nine months to a year to become an Ohio Natural Resources Officer.

Ohio’s Natural Resource Officers patrol 75 state parks, covering more than 800,000 land acres, 2.37 million acres of Lake Erie and inland waters, and 7481 miles of rivers and streams, including 481 miles of the Ohio River.

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With such a vast area to patrol, Ohio continuously seeks to add to its Natural Resource Officer ranks.

Duties of an Ohio Park Ranger (Natural Resources Officer)

As of 2016, when the Division of Watercraft merged with the Division of Parks, Ohio’s Natural Resource Officers have enforced all maritime laws for the State of Ohio.

Their maritime authority includes the power to seize or condemn any watercraft in the state thanks to Ohio Revised Code Section 1546.18.

In addition, Buckeye State NROs perform search and rescue in still-water and swift-water situations.

They educate boaters on watercraft safety, including correctly using fire extinguishers and personal flotation devices.

Moreover, many natural resource officers train with the Rope Rescue Team at Hocking Hills State Park, training with rescue equipment operators and county EMS staff once a month.

In addition to these duties, Ohio Natural Resources Officers investigate timber theft on public and private lands and wildland forest fires in the Ohio Fire Protection Zone.

Moreover, the Ohio DNR has K-9 units, which train in cadaver retrieval and narcotics detection.

These officers also oversee 9087 campsites, 506 cabins, nine lodges, 685 lodge rooms, and 1308 miles of trails daily.

Finally, Natural Resource Officers enforce ATV and UTV trail use.

Requirements to Become a Natural Resources Officer in Ohio

Prospective Natural Resource Officers must:

  • complete the Ohio Peace Officer Basic Training Course
  • turn 21 by course completion
  • be born in or a naturalized citizen of the United States
  • pass physical fitness and swimming skills tests
  • obtain and maintain a valid Ohio driver’s license
  • get an associate degree or complete undergraduate courses related to natural resource management

Ohio State Parks

Hocking Hills State Park

Home of Ohio’s Rope Rescue team, this park features remote trails and 50-foot or better dropoffs.

Rangers perform search and rescue operations more often here than in other parks due to the over 50-foot dropoffs along its nature trails.

The park has picnic shelters at Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Rock House, Cedar Falls, and Cantwell Cliffs.

You can camp next to Old Man’s Cave, so rangers spend morning and evening checking camping permits there.

Patrolling the park’s 25 miles of hiking trails forms a one-way loop.

Salt Fork State Park

With eight boat launch ramps and two marinas, Natural Resource Officers at Salt Fork State Park have their hands full, giving safety demonstrations and checking boat registrations and fishing licenses.

The park also features four campgrounds: RV, primitive, group, and equestrian.

Since campers may mine gems for an extra fee, NROs spend at least part of their time enforcing mineral removal limits.

Additional time spent checking equine health records and assisting with veterinary emergencies along the bridle trails completes the day.

Portage Lakes State Park

The eight lakes surrounding this 411-acre park add another 2034 water acres.

With so many acres dedicated to fishing, boating, and swimming, NROs spend more time patrolling the water than they do on land.

Boats on all lakes except Nimishilla Reservoir may use motors up to 440 HP, and almost all areas require a no-wake operation.

Sailing is allowed only on Sundays and holidays, and boaters must adhere to a schedule for waterskiing and speed boating to prevent collisions and make patrolling the lake easier for park staff.

Salary for Ohio Natural Resource Officers

As cadets, NROs earn $21.09 per hour, rising to $26.43 after graduating from the training academy.

This wage compares very favorably with the national median salary for park rangers: $41.066 per year or about $19.74 per hour.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Columbus $40,512
Cleveland $40,647
Cincinnati $40,158
Toledo $39,748
Akron $39,427
Dayton $39,920
Mansfield $39,456
Youngstown $39,004
Canton $39,373
Lorain $39,986

Regional Salary in Ohio

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN40$77,390$37.21$135,410$42,100
Cleveland-Elyria, OH60$54,880$26.38$66,840$47,300
Columbus, OH50$74,060$35.61$113,250$45,660
Toledo, OH70$44,660$21.47$64,480$24,180
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Conservation Scientists, OCC Code 19-1031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.


Ohio began calling its park rangers Natural Resource Officers in 2016 when the Division of Watercraft merged with the Division of Parks.

Their median pay after graduation is $26.43 per hour.

As a result, Ohio Natural Resource Officers make almost seven dollars more per hour than the national average after graduation.

With Ohio’s cost of living being nine percent lower than the national average as of September 2022, Ohio’s Natural Resource Officers could apply those extra dollars to their student debt or buy a house faster than rangers in other states.

However, Ohio’s park rangers face challenging circumstances.

These circumstances include year-round exposure to the elements, extreme winter temperatures, and physically demanding land and water rescues, sometimes requiring ropes to reach victims.

In addition, Ohio’s Natural Resource Officers enforce the state’s maritime laws and support law enforcement, EMS, and other agencies during public safety emergencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Ohio call its park rangers?

Since 2016, Ohio has called its park rangers Natural Resource Officers.

Can Ohio's park rangers (Natural Resource Officers) seize or condemn boats?

Yes, they have that power under the Ohio Revised Code Section 1546.18.

What primary duty do all Ohio Natural Resource Officers perform?

Ohio NROs enforce all of Ohio’s maritime laws.

Are Ohio's Natural Resource Officers sworn law enforcement?

Ohio’s park rangers (Natural Resource Officers) take an oath as sworn law enforcement officers.

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