Little Girl Returns Heart-Shaped Rock to Smoky Mountains with Apology Letter

Tom Branch Falls in the Smoky Mountains
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On her recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, a young girl had such a great time that she wanted to take a souvenir home with her: a heart-shaped rock. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park received the rock, along with a heartfelt letter from the girl apologizing for taking it from the park. We’ve got the full story for you!

Apology Letter to Park Rangers

Deep Creek Trail sign in the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkPark rangers were surprised when they received a letter from a young girl who recently visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The girl had picked up a heart-shaped rock while she was there and took it home with her! Feeling guilty once she got home, the little girl returned the rock, along with a heartfelt letter and a donation to the national park. The letter read,

“Dear Park Ranger,

Deep Creek was awsome! I especialy liked Tom Branch Falls. I loved it so much I wanted to have a soiveneir to come home with me, so I took a rock. I’m sorry, and I want to return it. Also, here’s a donation!


On the back of the letter, Karina drew a picture of the waterfall.

Tips for Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The story of the young girl returning the rock to the park can serve as an important lesson for other visitors to the Smoky Mountains. Park rangers want everyone to know that what is in the park, should stay in the park. Taking things, even something as simple as a rock, can affect the ecosystem. Here are some more important tips for visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

A bridge over a stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Don’t disrupt nature. Like we mentioned before, taking or moving things from the park can disrupt the ecosystem. Many salamanders and other species in the park use rocks as homes, so something as simple as leaving rocks where they are can help protect the beauty of the park. Keep in mind that taking things, even a wildflower, is illegal at national parks.

Visit early in the day to avoid crowds. Whether you’re going for a hike or a scenic drive, the best way to avoid the crowds is to visit early in the day. This is also one of the best times to see some wildlife! They tend to be more active when the area isn’t as busy.

Cades Cove Visitor CenterStop by a visitor center. Before your day in the park, stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center! The visitor center offers a 20-minute film about the park, natural history exhibits, a bookstore and shop, public restrooms and more. You can also visit the Cades Cove Visitor Center that includes indoor and outdoor exhibits of Southern Mountain life, a grist mill, and other historic structures.

Swimming is not recommended. Although there are a few popular swimming holes in the Smokies, swimming in the national park is not recommended. There are no life-guarded swimming areas in the park. Also be sure never to try to climb on the top of a waterfall because rocks tend to be slippery. To get close to a waterfall, hike to Laurel Falls, which has an upper and lower section that is divided by a walkway you can cross!

black bear in the smoky mountainsStay at least 50 yards away from wildlife. For both your safety and the safety of the animals, it’s important to stay at least 50 yards away from wildlife at all times. This is especially important to keep in mind if you see a black bear. The Smoky Mountains are home to diverse wildlife, and while it’s exciting to see them, you want to make sure to do it in a safe way. Do not approach any wildlife, and definitely do not feed them. To safely view wildlife, we recommend bringing binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens.

Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You’ll definitely want to visit the Smoky Mountains to enjoy everything the area has to offer! Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then plan your trip!


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