Familiar Face: Karen Johnson


The park rangers and maintenance mechanics may be the most-visible, uniformed staff at Lake James, but there’s little doubt of which job is critical to the whole, multi-million dollar operation – the office administrator.

Karen Johnson joined the Lake James State Park team in early 2018, but she’s no stranger to North Carolina state parks. She already has more than 13 years under her belt in the offices at Crowders Mountain and Chimney Rock state parks.

A native of Colorado, Johnson has a deep love for the outdoors, as well as an academic background in the study of international affairs. She got her first taste of working within the park many years ago when she served as a summer tour guide at Glacier National
Park in Montana. “I knew I wanted to be working outdoors in some way,” she said of that experience.

Now, Johnson is in charge of much of the daily functions that keep Lake James State Park running; from payroll to purchases, answering visitors’ questions to writing reports, she has her finger on the pulse.

“This is a multi-faceted operation and I’m still learning how everything comes together,” Johnson said modestly. “I enjoy talking with visitors and helping them get the most out of their time at the park, be it finding the best campsite or the perfect trail to hike.”