Oconaluftee Visitors Center – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Image of the Oconoluftee Visitors Center

I now understand why Theodore Roosevelt wanted National Parks for the benefit and enjoyment of all people

The staff of the Oconaluftee Visitors Center

This summer just wouldn’t be the same without the amazing staff at our Visitors Center. They were all truly, important assets to the park. Just to name a couple of our park rangers and interns such as myself, Michaela Arndt, Carson Lambert, Rianne Candelaria, Cheyenne Brinegar, Chelsea Chambers, Lee Mask, Zachary Hubbard, Jessi Cox, Michael Smith (the man who runs the Mountain Farm), and Kristine Brunsman, our South district supervisor and best boss I’ve ever had. The energy and good spirit generated by this team is the same one the visitors felt when they entered our visitors center. Every day was a day full of joy, happiness, and surprises working at the Oconoluftee Visitors Center.

Elk of the Oconaluftee Valley

The elk were kinda always around the Visitor Center. Either it’d be early in the morning or after 4 pm, they just loved grazing behind and in front of the visitors center. Morning or afternoon walk always involved an elk sighting, if you were lucky, they’d be together in a small herd. It wasn’t until my last three days working that I got to see a big 40 elk herd. Elk may not have been in my programs, but they were definitely in my day-to-day life.

Mountain Farm Museum

You can’t describe the Oconaluftee Visitors Center without mentioning the famous Mountain Farm Museum. It is a representation of how an 18th century European settler farm would look like. All of the building are historically from the park, they were moved to create this beautiful museum. It contained a sorghum, apple house, barn, chicken den, meat house, and other buildings. The farm wouldn’t be for decorative purposes only, we have live chicken, three pigs, and a horse and a mule. It is on the Mountain Farm Museum where I would complete birding and fishing programs for visitors.

Junior Rangers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of my favorite parts of working in the visitors center were the Junior Ranger activities. As I worked the desk, visitors would enter with a junior ranger booklet on their hands and a smile on their face. I would ask our future junior rangers basic questions on how to protect wildlife and what was their favorite part of the park. Some would always say the mountains or clouds, but every now and then a passion-filled junior ranger would give hear-warming answers about their trip. Some loved the park so much they wanted to be future park rangers here. I could always tell when a kid truly loved the Smokies or just wanted a badge, either way, I had a blast with every single one.

Oconoluftee Visitors Center

I have to admit, when I arrived at the Smokies, my supervisor told me that black bears were not too common by our visitors center, this was a letdown. Now that I finished my internship, I couldn’t have asked for a better visitors center to work at. My summer was filled with honest, hardworking coworkers that would look out for each other and the elk would further accompany me on my walks home and besides the visitor center. I met incredibly interesting people from all corners of the world such as India, South America, Russia, and even another Puerto Rican. The Oconaluftee Visitors Center has been a magical place for me, starting from the support of my team and the elk around us, all the way to the Junior Rangers I sweared in, what a beautiful site to work in.

I am standing in front of the Oconoluftee Visitors Center

What a wonderful place to work in. Between the team and the mountain wilderness,

the Great Smoky Mountains National Park became my home

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