Ask a Ranger
Kevin Bischof, Gorges State Park
This month, the Adventurist had a chance to sit down with Kevin Bischof, superintendent of Gorges State Park. Located in the southwest corner of Transylvania County, Gorges is considered by many to be one of the crown jewels of North Carolina’s state park system.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Kevin earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Cincinnati before receiving a Master of Science in Outdoor Education (with a focus on environmental education) at Indiana University. We caught up with Kevin on an early spring day at the park’s beautiful Visitor Center.
Tell us a little about your background, Kevin, and how you came to North Carolina.
“After that, I went to Goose Creek State Park which is out on the coast for a couple of years, then came here to Gorges as a ranger for two years, from 2011-13. Then I went to Lake James State Park for 5 ½ years. I took my first superintendent’s job at Mt. Mitchell State Park in 2018 and was there for 2 ½ years. Then I transferred over to Grandfather before becoming the superintendent here in 2021.”
“I have to say this is my favorite part of the state. I really enjoy waterfalls. I really like working in bear country. I’ve had snakes as pets since I was really young and I’m passionate about educating people about them. So, we’ve got three things here I really enjoy. Loving a park and wanting to work at a park don’t always overlap, but Gorges is a really good mix of both those things.”
What is the mission of Gorges State Park?
What makes Gorges different from other public lands in Transylvania County?
Speaking of backcountry experiences, folks might not be familiar with a secondary access point for Gorges – Frozen Creek. Can you tell us a little about that?
Sure. It’s one of those accesses that’s definitely under the radar. It’s a great way to see inside the park and have a backcountry experience. The Auger Hole Trail gets its share of hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders and has some nice waterfall views. Frozen Creek also provides the closest access to the Foothills Trail.” (The Foothills Trail is a highly regarded 77-mile trail popular with through-hikers).
You recently opened a new campground at Gorges State Park. What are the features of the new campground and how popular has it been so far?
“One of the things I like about the campground is that it gives people a chance to ease into this activity before tackling something like backcountry camping. It also allows large family groups to camp. For example, you might have adventurous parents and kids who want to tent camp, but the grandparents can opt for RV camping or the cabins.”
What advice would you give to every visitor who comes to Gorges State Park?
“My advice has always been safety driven, but it’s even more so now. Swimming in general creates a challenge to keep people safe and when you throw moving water into that equation it really ups the danger. (The popular Rainbow Falls trail runs alongside the Horsepasture River). It’s the number one stressor to the park staff and emergency responders. A lot of the inherent risk is lost on people. People have a false sense of security and don’t think of the bad things that can happen. I encourage people to stay out of the river and off the rocks. Heed the signs and don’t climb over fences. I’m also a really big fan of the Be Waterfall Wise program. It’s been great to see so many groups collectively get behind that initiative and I really admire that the tourism industry is trying to raise awareness about the importance of staying safe around waterfalls.”
There is a lot of discussion these days about sustainability and protection of our state and national parks. On that topic, what are some specific things you encourage visitors to do when they are at Gorges?
What other advice would you give a prospective visitor?
“Do your research before you arrive. Be prepared. For example, if there’s a particular place you want to see in the park, think about the timing of your visit. What is that location going to look like on a busy summer weekend or the 3rd week in October? Is it better to schedule my trip on a Tuesday? Will I have a richer experience when the park is less crowded? The other thing I always do when visiting a park is to check into the Visitor Center first thing. Here at Gorges, our staff are up to date on all the park and trail conditions. And they can give you good advice on what to see and do based on the time you have and what your interests are. Finally, you can learn a lot about the park, its geology, its plant and animal life here at our Visitor Center. Many of the waterfalls in Gorges aren’t accessible, but you can watch a great film in our auditorium and see a lot of them.”
Find more information on Gorges State Park here. Reserve a Gorges State Park campground site here. We also invite you to find out more about Explore Brevard’s Be Waterfall Wise and Leave It Better initiatives.