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Geocaching Can Stimulate Tourism

Source: Carmen Rath-Wald, carmen.rath.wald@ndsu.edu, (701) 754-2504

Are you looking for a way to draw visitors to your county or community? Wondering how to bring in families with a low-cost activity or give visitors an activity that doesn’t involve intensive commitment of volunteers and time?  If so, you may want to consider placing a geocache and posting it on a geocaching website. 

Geocaching is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called geocaches or caches, anywhere in the world.

“Geocaching is a fun family activity that can be played on long or short trips,” says Carmen Rath-Wald, a North Dakota State University Extension Service agent in Logan County. “Whether you are enjoying a staycation or a trip to a relative’s home, or on your way to an event or activity, geocaching is a fun way to explore an area.”

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date he or she found it and signs it with his or her established code name. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes also can contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching often is described as a game of high-tech hide and seek.  
Geocaches are placed in more than 100 countries and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. After almost 12 years of activity, more than 1.6 million active geocaches have been published on various websites and more than 5 million people have become geocachers worldwide.

For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container containing a logbook (with pen or pencil) and trade items, and then record the cache's coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on a listing site such as www.geocaching.com. Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from that listing site and seek out the cache using their GPS hand-held receivers. The finding geocachers record their exploits in the logbook and online. Geocachers are free to take objects (except the logbook, pencil or stamp) from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value.   

“Typical cache ‘treasures’ are not expensive but may hold personal value to the finder,” Rath-Wald says.   

In addition to the logbook, common cache contents are unusual coins or currency, small toys, ornamental buttons, CDs or books. Also common are objects that are moved from cache to cache called "hitchhikers," such as Travel Bugs or Geocoins, whose travels may be logged and followed online.    

Cachers who initially place a Travel Bug or Geocoins often assign specific goals for their trackable items. For example, these items are to be placed in a certain cache a long distance from home, travel to a certain country or travel faster and farther than other hitchhikers in a race. Higher-value items occasionally are included in geocaches as a reward for the first person to find it (called "FTF") or in locations that are harder to reach.

“It’s not uncommon to find that cache containers in rural areas are lunch box-sized plastic storage containers or surplus military ammunition cans,” says (Insert name) of (Insert title and county). “Ammo cans are considered the gold standard of containers because they are very sturdy, waterproof, animal- and fire-resistant, relatively cheap, and have plenty of room for trade items."

Smaller containers are more common in urban areas because they can be hidden more easily. The most common of these is the 35mm film canister.

“Geocache container sizes range from ‘Nanos,’ which can be smaller than the tip of a finger and only have enough room to store the log sheet, to 20-liter (5-gallon) buckets or even larger containers,” (Insert last name) adds.

If a geocache has been vandalized or stolen, it has been "muggled" or "plundered," Rath-Wald says.  The former term plays off the fact that those not familiar with geocaching are called muggles, a term borrowed from the “Harry Potter” series of books, which was rising in popularity around the same time geocaching was got its start.

Geocaching in North Dakota is a fun way for residents and visitors alike to enjoy a simple, inexpensive activity that allows them to explore and feel the excitement of a treasure hunt.

For more information and tips about business networking, contact your local NDSU Extension Service county office.   



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