State parks in Alabama feature a variety of breathtaking landscapes, from glistening beaches along the Gulf Coast, to the Appalachian foothills. In fact, Alabama boasts 22 state parks, ranging in size from the 40-acre Florala State Park to the 10,000 acre area that encompasses Oak Mountain State park. These parks of varying shapes and sizes all have one thing in common – they are served by Alabama’s park rangers.
Park rangers working for the Alabama State Parks Department hold positions in parks and historical sites located throughout the state. Alabama’s Park rangers supervise many of the services that Alabama’s state parks provide to the public.
Park rangers also provide maintenance and oversee general operations, as well as provide security. Finally, they ensure that guests within the parks follow regulations, provide law enforcement service, and act to protect natural resources.
Alabama is also home to National Forests: Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega, and Tuskegee. These National Forests play host to some of the state’s most stunning wildlife and landscape opportunities, including Bee Branch, a 500-year old poplar tree standing 150 feet tall in Bankhead National Forest. These natural wonders are also protected by National Forest Service Rangers who work in Alabama.
Becoming a Park Ranger in Alabama’s State Parks
Meeting the Requirements – Individuals interested in becoming a park ranger in the state of Alabama must meet the following minimum requirements:
- High School Diploma or GED; AND
- Two years of experience serving or assisting the public in an outdoor recreational facility or with maintenance and repair; OR
- Two years of law enforcement experience
Park naturalist positions, which places park rangers in an interpretive role with regard to topographical, biological and historic features of interest, require a bachelor’s degree. Relevant majors include, but are not limited to:
- Parks and recreation
- Natural science
- Natural resources management
- Forest management
- Must have a valid driver’s license
- Must be able to pass a medical examination
Interested candidates must also be able to meet the minimum requirements of the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Act (APOST). Those requirements include:
- The applicant must be at least 19 years of age
- The applicant must possess a high school diploma or GED
- The applicant must complete all required training prior to certification
- The applicant must be appointed in good health and physically fit through medical examination
- The applicant must be of good moral character and reputation with no convicted felonies.
Individuals who meet both the minimum APOST Park Ranger requirements, and who pass the open examination of application materials, may be advanced to the APOST Academy for basic training.
Basic Training at the APOST Academy – Park rangers in the state of Alabama partake in a basic training program through the APOST Academy alongside fellow peacekeeping officers throughout state agencies. Trainees will be required to pass a physical ability and agility test upon arrival. Basic training will also include 43 hours of firearms training and a passing attempt through the firearms course.
Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Alabama
With multiple national forests in the state of Alabama, candidates should consider working as a national park ranger through the National Park Service under the U.S. Department of the Interior. While the specific requirements for national park rangers vary slightly based on the specific needs of the individual position, there are several standard requirements.
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must be at least 21 years of age
- Must possess a valid state driver’s license
- Must be able to pass medical examination and drug screening
- Must be able to pass a background check
- Must have at least a bachelor’s degree with 24 hours of related coursework; OR
- Documented specialized experience, such as work as a park guide, law enforcement officer, or previous forestry or preservation experience; OR
- A combination of education and experience
Fitness and training requirements:
- Must be able to pass the Physical Efficiency Battery test to determine fitness level
- Completion of a Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP)
Alabama State Park Rangers and the Bald Eagle Awareness Program
While park rangers in Alabama have a variety of duties, they are often able to participate in special programs to raise public awareness and promote conservation campaigns. One such program is Alabama’s Bald Eagle Awareness Program.
In a combined effort with the Alabama Non-Game Wildlife Program, park rangers in state parks throughout the states promote education designed to inspire park goers to appreciate the beauty of bald eagles as both a national symbol and a majestic animal.
As part of this effort, park rangers sponsor Eagle Awareness weekends, where park goers can come enjoy food and fun, as well as take guided field trips to specific locations into parks known for being good locations for viewing bald eagles. The goal of these awareness weekends is to educate and excite the public about bald eagle conservation efforts. The bald eagle is definitely a beneficiary of these conservation awareness programs, as evidenced by the fact that the bald eagle population in Alabama continues to rise.
Alabama Park Ranger Salaries
The Alabama State Personnel Department reports that park rangers with the Alabama State Parks Department earn salaries that range between $26,464.80 and $43,339.20.
Of course, there are several factors that affect salary including education and previous experience. Park rangers in Alabama are paid using a 21-step pay plan. The more experience and/or education they have, the more likely they are to start out at a higher step on the pay plan:
- Step 2: $26,464.80
- Step 3: $27,120
- Step 4: $27,806.40
- Step 5: $28,516.80
- Step 6: $29,224.80
- Step 7: $29,954.40
- Step 8: $30,724.80
- Step 9: $31,488
- Step 10: $32,287.20
- Step 11: $33,086.40
- Step 12: $33,902.40
- Step 13: $34,735.20
- Step 14: $35,589.60
- Step 15: $36,489.60
- Step 16: $37,389.60
- Step 17: $38,347.20
- Step 18: $39,290.40
- Step 19: $40,252.80
- Step 20: $41,258.40
- Step 21: $42,266.40
- Step 22: $43,339.20
Additionally, park rangers in Alabama receive a benefits package that includes things like:
- 13 days of leave per year
- 13 paid holidays per year
- 13 sick days per year
- Health and dental insurance (single and family)
Additional entry-level salary data is shown in the tables below. This includes various titles that park rangers in various roles are recognized:
Recreation Workers Salaries in Alabama
Tour Guide and Escort Salaries in Alabama
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Alabama
Lake Guntersville State Park
Lake Guntersville State park in northeast Alabama is often considered the flagship state park of the Alabama state park system.
With 6,000 acres of natural woodlands along the banks of the Tennessee River and breathtaking views of Lake Guntersville and Taylor Mountain, it’s one of the most scenic destinations in the state. Beyond that, the park boasts several resort caliber amenities that give visitors a luxury experience.
Park Ranger Responsibilities in Lake Guntersville State Park
Park Rangers in Lake Guntersville State Park provide services in a wide range of areas often associated with work in large parks. Law Enforcement is a major aspect of Lake Guntersville park rangers’ jobs. Rangers patrol the park and ensure that rules and regulations are being followed. They often issue through citations using eCitation equipment. Sometimes park rangers are involved in more large-scale investigations, such as when ongoing thefts occur within the park.
Park ranger jobs also include overall management of lake Guntersville state park, including visitor safety and experience. Sometimes this might involve facilities management and maintenance and traffic control duties, especially for special events. Other times, this might include overseeing volunteers or other workers involved in construction or park improvements (including overseeing the upcoming construction on a zipline attraction planned for the coming year) and making sure natural resources go undisturbed.
Park rangers at Lake Guntersville also help engage visitors through park programming and education. One unique duty for park rangers at Lake Guntersville is leading eagle-watch tours as part of Alabama’s Eagle Awareness Program. This allows park rangers to interface directly with visitors and also teach them about a national symbol and endangered animal alive and well right there in the park.
Park rangers also are invaluable contributors to search and rescue efforts. Hikers often go missing on the park’s extensive trails and park rangers lend their expert knowledge of the terrain to search and rescue teams in order to help locate them. Park rangers also have first aid and emergency training that can be indispensable in a crisis situation, including many incidents that arise on the Lake itself.
It’s also important to note that park rangers at Lake Guntersville State Park are often on call after hours and will receive calls about issues in the parks in the middle of the night. These service calls often involve noise violations or public intoxication. Emergency situations also arise at night and park rangers must always be prepared.
Working in Lake Guntersville State Park – A Place Like no Other
Lake Guntersville offers visitors a unique combination of natural wonders and luxury experiences that make it a popular destination. Park rangers can expect to oversee the safety of guests as they participate in a variety of daytime activities, or stay in one of the park’s many campgrounds or other luxury accommodations. The park also offers several special event spaces that bring extra traffic to the area.
Day activities — Lake Guntersville State Park offers guests a wide variety of day activity features, including:
- Town Creek Fishing Center, which offers a variety of boat rentals and fishing licenses
- Eagle’s Nest Golf Course, an 18-hole championship course
- Beach Pavilion for picnics and available for special event rental
- 36 miles of hiking, biking, and horse trails
- Pinecrest Dining Room with full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner menus
Camping and Lodging — Lake Guntersville State Park offers a large campground along the shores of Lake Guntersville with over 318 campsites available for rental. The campground also has bathhouses, as well as a playground and recreation area.
Guests can also book rooms in the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge, which offers 99 rooms and 13 suites. Rooms come with an array of state-of-the-art amenities, as well as breathtaking views of Lake Guntersville. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool. Guests can also choose to rent one of 15 cabins or 20 mountaintop chalets.
Special Events — The Lake Guntersville State Park Convention Center hosts a wide array of special events that brings extra traffic to the park, from retreats and corporate meetings, to weddings and receptions, to reunions and other special occasions. The convention center has 7 meeting and banquet rooms with more than 13,800 square feet of space and can accommodate up to 300 people. It also boasts some of the finest facilities in northeast Alabama.
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Little River Canyon National Preserve is a 14,000 square acre preserve located at the top of Lookout Mountain near the city of Fort Payne, Alabama. The preserve was created in 1992 to protect the Little River and the surrounding canyon, often considered the country’s longest mountaintop river and the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi.
The preserve features a wide range of natural delights, from forested areas to canyon bluffs, waterfalls, and sandstone cliffs. The preserve is also home to many different types of wildlife, including 145 different species of birds alone. There is also a wide array of recreational activities available to the 200,000 visitors who come to the preserve each year.
From Fire Management to Search and Rescue: Job Duties at Little River Canyon National Preserve
Park rangers with the Little River Canyon National Preserve focus a great deal of their energy on law enforcement. They patrol the highway that runs through the preserve to provide traffic control and issue speeding tickets.
Park rangers also monitor much of the backcountry roads throughout the park, and in an effort to protect the preserve’s natural resources they issue steep citations for vehicles that deviate from designated paths. They also issue heavy fines in instances where endangered species might be harmed. Park rangers also enforce the ban on ATV vehicles, which has been in effect since 2010.
Park rangers also assist in fire management efforts throughout Little River Canyon National Preserve. This might include making sure that visitors follow policies in the preserve about campfires and the use of bar-b-q’s and other equipment. This also means being involved in the preserve’s efforts to implement prescribed burns each year in an attempt to reduce wildfire risks. Park rangers also alert visitors to smoke from these prescribed burns.
Public relations and visitor interaction is a large part of park ranger responsibilities in Little River Canyon National Preserve. This is due in large part to the fact that the preserve’s visitor center also doubles as the Park Ranger headquarters. This means that park rangers spend a lot of time interacting with visitors and sharing their passion for the preserve with people as they come and go.
Park rangers in Little River Canyon National Preserve are also often involved in search and rescue or first aid/emergency efforts. This might involve hikers or bicyclists along the preserves many trails or backcountry roads. This might also involve swimmers or kayakers utilizing stretches of the Little River. Park rangers not only lend an expert knowledge of the area to search and rescue efforts, but are also well trained in first aid and first responder techniques.
Guest Activities in Little River Canyon National Preserve
Little River Canyon National Preserve has several unique recreational options to offer guests, weather spending the day or taking advantage of one of the backcountry campsites.
Day activities – The preserve is a popular place for visitors to come and spend the day, with several activities perfect for taking in the natural beauty of the preserve for a few hours:
- Canyon Mouth picnic area, which includes a pavilion with tables, bar-b-q grills, restrooms, and an easy 1-mile trail to hike
- The Little River Falls, which are accessible by car and include restrooms
- An 11-mile scenic drive along the western side of the canyon, featuring 9 scenic overlooks and other stops.
- 23 miles of dirt roads for backcountry exploration and mountain biking
- Several hiking trails
- Kayaking on Little River
- Rock climbing
- High Rock swimming hole
Backcountry Camping — The preserve has an extensive backcountry area including 23 miles of dirt roads utilized by bicyclists, horseback riders, and designated vehicles. The preserve also has 3 primitive campsites in the backcountry area: Billy’s Ford, Hartline Ford, and Slant Rock. Campsites are available on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis.
Oak Mountain State Park
The immense Oak Mountain State Park is the largest state park in Alabama at nearly 10,000 square acres. The park was created in 1927 as part of a State Land Act and has grown steadily in size since then.
Today, the park features over 50 miles of trails and two large lakes, and is one of the most popular places for visitors in the state. It offers a wide variety of day-use activities, as well as camping and lodging facilities. The park hosts several events each year and also features the beautiful Peavine Falls, a 65-foot, spring-fed waterfall.
Park Ranger Job Responsibilities in Oak Mountain State Park
The biggest challenge facing park rangers in Oak Mountain State Park is the sheer size of the park itself. This means that Oak Mountain park rangers primarily serve as law enforcement agents, who patrol large areas where they must be vigilant in looking out for anything amiss.
The goals of Oak Mountain park rangers is to help visitors enjoy their time in the park, but also make sure they do it safely and adhere to the rules and regulations of the park. Sometimes this includes dealing with visitors who have brought prohibited items into the park, including illeagal drugs and firearms.
Oak Mountain park ranger jobs also involve working to protect the natural resources of the park. Tree felling, for example, is a common problem in the park. In a park this size sometimes people don’t realize they’ve crossed boundaries or just assume no one will notice if they cut a few trees down. Park rangers in Oak Mountain State Park often catch people cutting trees down for firewood or other purposes. They often issue citations and can even kick people of the parks or make arrests if necessary.
Oak Mountain park ranger jobs also involve focusing a great deal of attention on interacting with park visitors. Park rangers help campers, bicyclists, and hikers in whatever way they can, whether that means providing first aid or emergency assistance or facility maintenance at campsites. Park rangers might also assist visitors in crisis situations such as finding a lost child or pulling a drowning victim out of the lake.
Park rangers also help a lot with traffic control. Oak Mountain State Park sees a lot of visitors, and this also means there are often accidents or people with car trouble. Park rangers provide roadside assistance in these situations. Speeding is another major issue in Oak Mountain State Park that park rangers are tasked with patrolling.
Park rangers in Oak Mountain State Park are also often called in to provide search and rescue assistance. Park rangers are often called in because they have special knowledge of the trails that can assist search and rescue teams. Sometimes these searches can last for hours or even all night.
Park rangers at Oak Mountain State Park should be prepared to work unusual hours, especially in the summer months and through the holidays. Park rangers will be on call at all times and will often be called in while off duty to handle a situation, sometimes in the middle of the night.
The Activities and Natural Beauty that Oak Mountain State Park has to Offer
Day-Use Activities — Oak Mountain State Park has a wide array of day-use activities available to guests. Park rangers are tasked with overseeing the safety of visitors partaking in a variety of activities, including:
- Guided horseback tours at the Oak Mountain Stables
- Visits to the Alabama Wildlife Center
- An 18 hole golf course
- Over 50 miles of hiking and biking trails
- Petting/Exhibit farm featuring a wide array of loveable animals
- BMX track with racing events
- Two fishing lakes with fishing boat rentals
- Marina with pedal boats and canoe rentals
- A designated beach and swimming area
- 2,500 square foot Oak Mountain Interpretive Center
Camping and Lodging — Along with the vast number of day-use activities that oak Mountain State Park has to offer guests, there are also a variety of overnight opportunities that park rangers must supervise, including:
- A campground area with close to 150 campsites available by reservation
- A 12-site equestrian campground
- Designated backcountry campsites throughout the park
- RV storage
- 10 fully-equipped cabins available for rental
Park Events — Park rangers in Oak Mountain State Park are also responsible for enhancing visitor experience and overseeing public safety during several nature program events that occur in the park throughout the year. The park also hosts large-scale events, like the Baumhower’s ShrimpFest and Bar-B-Q, a tour of Alabama state parks and showcase event for Alabama Gulf seafood.