Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking volunteers to assist rangers with managing traffic and establishing safe wildlife viewing areas within the Cataloochee Valley area. Volunteers will receive information and training in wildlife behavior, safe viewing practices, and cultural history.
Cataloochee is a remote mountain valley on the eastern edge of the park where remnants of early settlements are preserved. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the isolated valley is a popular, year-round destination. In 2001, elk were reintroduced into the area after a 200-year absence. The elk population is now flourishing and serves as a major attractant to the culturally rich area.
Volunteers will assist Park Rangers in keeping visitors safe through education about elk and the cultural and natural resources of Cataloochee Valley. Volunteers will also provide information to visitors about park regulations, general information about the area, and directions to other destinations. When elk are present in the fields, volunteers will focus on traffic management to provide for visitor and wildlife safety as well as educating visitors about the elk.
Individuals and couples are especially needed for Sunday afternoons, Monday evenings, Wednesday evenings, Thursday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Saturday evenings. Each volunteer is asked to work at least one four-hour shift per week starting May and continuing through mid-November. This target period is during the peak visitation periods, from late spring during the elk calving season through the end of fall color and the elk mating season.
Volunteers will spend time roving the valley in a government all-terrain vehicle, by bicycle, or by foot. Volunteers who choose to drive the government vehicle must have a valid driver’s license and pass an online defensive driving course. Volunteers who prefer to rove by bicycle are required to bring their own bicycle and protective riding gear. The road through Cataloochee Valley is mostly flat with very little change in elevation. The surface of the road is a mix of chip-and-seal and dirt sections. Volunteer uniforms will be provided.
All interested volunteers are required to attend a training session prior to starting. A training session will be determined based on interest. CPR and First Aid training may also be available to those interested. To register for training or for more information, please contact Park Ranger Karl Danforth at email@example.com.
For more information on elk, please visit the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/elk.htm.