Twin Falls

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 I finished grad school I applied for every federal job and every park job in states where I had visited and wanted to live. I had a seasonal job in Oregon lined up, but I got a call from Jordan Lake State Recreation Area (near Raleigh), and they offered me a permanent job."
“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.”

Gorges State Park Visitor Center
What is the mission of Gorges State Park?
“It can be summed up in three words: recreation, conservation, and education. On the recreation side, people can come here to ride horses, hike, mountain bike, bird watch and fly fish. When it comes to conservation, we make sure we’re protecting all our resources so that future generations are able to enjoy them. And finally, we work hard at educating our visitors. If people don’t understand a place, they won’t want to protect it.”
What makes Gorges different from other public lands in Transylvania County?
“Gorges is definitely unique. One of the things I value is that we are a park of 8,000 acres and we still can offer some great backcountry experiences. Because of our location, we don’t get the really heavy visitation like some places, so our trails aren’t as busy. Also, a lot of people don’t realize how unusual it is that our park is considered a temperate rainforest. As a result, we’re home to a lot of rare flora and fauna. Some of our species you can’t find anywhere else. The Oconee Bell is blooming in April. You can only see it in seven counties. It grows in shaded areas and looks like Galax. It’s a small white flower about the size of a quarter.”
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?
“We opened it in October of 2022, and it’s gotten almost 100% positive feedback from our guests. The campground has 14 RV sites with electric service and water and sewer hookups. The 16 tent sites include parking, a gravel pad, lantern hooks, and fire rings. We also have five camper cabins. The cabins don’t have plumbing, but they have heat and air and power. Every site has walkable access to a modern bathhouse."

Campsite 5 - Gorges State Park
“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?

“Sustainability is something we keep in mind all the time – from the way the park is designed to how we educate visitors. We try to promote Leave No Trace principles. We like to remind people that the area they are visiting is beautiful because the people who came before them didn’t litter, or carve their initials on trees, or remove plants and vegetation. All of those things can start at a small level but, over time, can cause tremendous damage.”
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."
Rainbow Falls
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.

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