The woman who sings conservation parodies has left her post at Buffalo National River, but she’s still a park ranger.
Lauren Ray has been known for adding her own twist to songs from Adele, Bruno Mars, Snoop Dogg and more. In 2018, Ray told the News-Leader that she didn’t share her voice or music until finding friends to play with.
Ray has performed conservation classics like a song about planning your trip, set to the tune of “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars, and an update on some of the park’s items in lost and found, set to the tune of “Someone Like You” by Adele.
Ray grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas, and always loved the outdoors and wanted to do “something in the conservation field.” But it wasn’t until college, at University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, that she decided she wanted to be a park ranger, which she did so in 2016 at Buffalo National River.
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Ray’s latest video has scored nearly 50,000 views as she shared that her time at Buffalo National River has come to an end. She is now a park ranger at Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico.
“As a parting gift to you and as a love letter to my favorite river on its 50th anniversary, I thought I’d share one more song with y’all,” Ray says at the beginning of the just over four-minute video.
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Ray sings the original melody, titled “Unbroken,” while strumming her guitar. The lyrics conjure scenes of the Buffalo National River “nestled in the heartland of the Ozarks.”
As she road tripped to her new park of employment with cats Gary and Screech, Ray took a few minutes to catch up with the News-Leader once again. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Buffalo National River, which is a bittersweet time to be making her departure.
“Do I ‘jump ship,’ so to speak, right in the middle of such a special year?” Ray asked before making the farewell video. “I knew I needed to do something to just give thanks to all the great folks that I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years and, of course, show my love for the river itself.”
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Aside from paddling, the people are what they’ll miss the most about their time on the Buffalo National River.
“The people who love the Buffalo River, who live there, who have been stewarding it for many generations, even long before the National Park Service showed up in the area,” Ray said about the friends she’s made among the different partnerships over the years . “That will be what I miss the most.”
Reflecting back to 2016 during her first year at the Buffalo National River, Ray said she “did a silly little rap song about karst topography.” That was the first song she sang as a park ranger, but she thinks she’ll keep on singing.
“So many people connect with music,” Ray said. “When I started doing these little music videos, I was spreading the word about important concepts on the Buffalo River in a creative way that more people were potentially going to hear and listen to, so basically, musical PSAs as a park interpreter.”
Ray later added that some of the most meaningful interactions with folks were because she started making music videos.
“People have told me that these videos have helped them and their friends and families make safer and smarter decisions on the Buffalo,” she said. “At the end of the day, park rangers want people to have a good time and feel inspired by their public lands while using them respectfully and responsibly.”
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She hoped the videos will continue encouraging visitors to “practice stewardship and accountability when enjoying the outdoors.”
For more info on Buffalo National River and its 50th anniversary, visit https://www.nps.gov/buff/index.htm.
Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at [email protected]