During May 2018, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park experienced a big change. Steve Kloster, the chief ranger of the park, retired after serving 35 great years in the National Park Service. At Visit My Smokies, we’re taking the time to share with you more about Kloster’s story and the legacy he is leaving behind.
Steve Kloster’s Story
Since 2015, Steve Kloster has served as the chief ranger of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But it was many years before then that Kloster began his work with the national park. In 1988, Kloster began working for the park as a park ranger before eventually stepping into the positions of backcountry ranger and Cosby area supervisor at different park locations, including Abrams Creek, Greenbrier, Cosby and the Little River District. Kloster worked at most of the duty stations on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but never dreamed that he would stay as long as he did at the park, let alone retire as chief ranger.
Before he worked in the Smoky Mountains, he worked as a park ranger at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, Independence National Historical Park, Yellowstone National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Canaveral National Seashore. His broad experience and ability to work well with colleagues are just two of the many reasons Kloster was perfect for the chief ranger position.
During his time in the National Park Service, Kloster helped rescue hundreds of people from the park. In 1992, he was given the honor of receiving the Georgia Medal for Valor after he repelled from a helicopter to rescue the pilot of an F-15 Fighter Jet that had crashed into the park, according to an article from WBIR. Helping people was Kloster’s favorite part about being chief ranger of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is just part of the reason he leaves behind such a great legacy.
Watch the video from WBIR below to learn more about Kloster and his retirement:
What to Do at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a special place to work, and an even more special place to visit! With more than 11 million visitors a year, the park is filled with things to do that allow visitors to enjoy the outdoors and experience the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Here are a few of the most popular things to do in the national park:
Hiking: With more than 850 miles of hiking trails, it’s no surprise that so many people visit each year to explore. Along the trails, you’ll have the chance to see cascading waterfalls and wildflowers in the spring and summer, icicles and snow-covered mountains in the winter and gorgeous fall foliage in autumn.
Fishing: With about 2,900 miles of streams, the national park is also a popular place to fish. The park allows fishing in all of its streams. About 20 percent of the streams are large enough to support trout populations. Visitors can fish year-round from sunrise to sunset.
Picnicking: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place to share a picnic with your family and friends. The park has a number of picnic areas and pavilions for visitors to use. Just be sure not to share any of your food with the wildlife!
Wildlife Viewing: Many people go to the national park for a chance to see wildlife. One of the best spots to see wildlife is in Cades Cove. You can drive around the 11-mile one-way loop road and see the animals from the comfort of your car! Keep your eyes open because you might see black bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, turkey and more.
Find out more information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and plan your visit today!