Magic Beneath The Surface


Maggie held her breath. She didn’t have to—she had a snorkel that gave her access to the fresh mountain air above—but she couldn’t help it. She was stunned by the variety of colors that surrounded her in the crisp current of the Middle Prong. 

GSMIT CampShe expected a variety of colors among the rocks; she had made rock paint the day before by rubbing different river stones together, covering her arms, legs, and face in the smooth natural pigments to create camouflage for the ultimate game of hide-and-seek. She wasn’t expecting, however, to see so much life.

Maggie was fascinated as she watched the darters in action. She had never seen such brightly colored fish before, with their vibrant red, blue, and yellows shimmering in the sunlight. They seemed to move in perfect synchronization—how did they do that? She watched as they picked up pebbles in their small mouths, moving them into a pile to create a cozy, protected spot for their eggs.

GSMIT SummerThis was Maggie’s third day at Discovery Camp at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. She had come to the Smokies for a typical camp experience—roasting marshmallows, singing songs, playing with other kids her age—but now found she was interested in much more. This week in the Smokies taught her to look closer.

Maggie’s story is not unusual at Tremont, an environmental education center located inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend, Tennessee. Throughout the summer, campers (ages 4-17) spend 3 to 10 days living and learning in the park, experiencing the outdoors in new and exciting ways. For many, this is their first overnight experience away from home; Tremont’s highly skilled teacher naturalists are great at making everyone feel welcome so that Tremont’s campus feels like home throughout their stay.

Camp Summer GSMITTremont offers a variety of summer camps to serve different interests, abilities, and age groups. Campers can choose exploration-based camps, such as Discovery Camp, Firefly Camp, or Smoky Mountain Family Camp, or they can select a science-based experience, such as Girls in Science Camp or the Backcountry Ecological Expedition. Teenage campers may opt for something wilder, camping in the backcountry during Teen High Adventure Camp or the Wilderness Adventure Trek. Registration for all camps includes food and lodging inside the national park.

GSMIT Discovery CampMaggie realized that there was so much more to this river than she had ever imagined—so much life and beauty that was hidden just beneath the surface. She wondered what other small wonders were happening around her, at Tremont, home, and school, unseen until she chose to look.

Give the young explorer the summer of a lifetime in one of the most ecologically diverse parks in the world. Registration is open for 2023 summer camps; in fact, some have already sold out! Learn more and register for an awe-inspiring summer adventure at


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