Ranger Kalen Simpson

Park Service Profiles

It’s always great to hear about rangers who have a deep connection to the South Carolina State Park Service.  Some feel connected by serving in areas they visited as children, while others like Ranger Kalen, grew up with a family who served as park rangers. Ranger Kalen Simpson from Hickory Knob State Resort Park and Baker Creek State Park grew up in Chester, South Carolina where her father was the ranger at Chester State Park. “Growing up in Chester State Park, I watched the park service positively impact not only my father as a park ranger but also my entire family. My family’s love for nature and our honest desire to protect the natural habitats of plants and animals really paved the road to my career.

After obtaining a B.S. from the College of Charleston and graduating in the top 15% of her class, Ranger Kalen started her career as an Assistant Ranger at Huntington Beach State Park in April 2017. “When I first applied to the park service, I had zero training in maintenance. With the guidance of my first interview panel, I started focusing on skills I needed to learn to become a better park ranger like plumbing, electrical and carpentry. From there, it was really focusing on how I, as a park ranger, would change the world. My answer, one visitor at a time,” she said.

With so many different amenities at Hickory Knob State Resort Park, Ranger Kalen believes that really focusing on taking the time to reach one park visitor at a time is the best way at making everyone’s experience great. On an average day, you can find Ranger Kalen performing duties like daily revenue collection and performing skeet shooting and archery appointments. Another exciting thing about her job duties include helping at Hickory Knob’s satellite park, Baker Creek State Park. “Baker Creek State Park is a hidden gem in South Carolina Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. From renovating the campground and completing electrical and plumbing to assisting with planning events for the local community, Baker Creek State Park is where park rangers are reminded why they became a park ranger in the first place,” she said.

There are many things that rangers love about working in parks. From beautiful outdoor experiences to funny park moments, there’s a lot to enjoy. When asked about her funniest moment as a park ranger, Ranger Simpson recounted this moment. “To say I am clumsy is an understatement of the year. My South Carolina park family loves this because there is never a dull moment with myself around. I will never forget; Frances and I were using pole-hole drivers for the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival at Huntington Beach State Park. If you do not know what this tool is, it’s basically a hollow pole with handles to drive in metal posts. While Frances and I were pole-hole driving posts, I missed the post just enough for it to bounce back and hit me in the face. Of course, all my co-workers were nearby. Not embarrassing for me but extremely funny to everyone and myself knowing how clumsy I can be. Definitely one of those moments where you just had to be there and if you were, you had big belly laughs until you cried,” she said!

On the flip side, there are a lot of hard moments as park rangers as well. Of all, Ranger says dealing with missing persons has really been the most difficult. “As a park ranger, I instantly go to the worst-case scenario so I can plan accordingly with my team! It is the gut feeling of constantly asking, “what if?” Since being in the park service, my team and I have successfully located all missing persons. It is such a rewarding feeling to reunite those family members back together. It really shows the importance of life itself,” she said. In order to help keep visitors safe, park rangers must enforce rules, but Ranger Kalen says that their role as the “enforcer” is the biggest misconception. “One misconception I feel people have about park rangers is we are “too serious to approach.” Yes, we wear a uniform, Yes, we wear a campaign hat. Yes, we wear a badge, and yes we enforce rules, however, we are approachable. Park Rangers just want to show the love we have for our work. We do not want our “serious appearance” to scare park guests off from having memorable conversations,” she said.  

In her downtime, you can find Ranger Kalen with her two-year-old, Zander exploring other state parks and becoming Ultimate Outsiders.  “Between the two of us, we have completed 32 out of the 47 state parks. Our next bucket list location is the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site. Its peaceful setting honors the battlefield during the Revolutionary War which brings history for my son and me to learn about.

Thank you, Ranger Kalen, for your hard work and dedication to the state park service. To see what a day in  Ranger Kalen’s life is like, watch episode 10.

Think you might be interested in a job with the South Carolina State Park Service?  Click here to see our current, full-time job openings!