Firefly Viewing in Elkmont | Tickets go on sale Thursday, April 30

elkmont-loves-fireflies-heysmokiesPeak time to view the phenomenon this year is June 2 through June 9. The event has become so popular that the Park Service now limits car access to the campground to registered campers, but others may visit the site via shuttles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

As the purple shade of night draws across the darkening forest in late May and early June at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it brings forth an amazing light display as slowly, then steadily, thousands of fireflies emerge from the lush undergrowth. Looking like tiny, twinkling earthbound stars, the fireflies blink in an age-old mating ritual. These unique fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of 19 species in the park and are the only ones that can synchronize their flashing lights, and by mid-evening around 9:45 p.m. visitors find themselves surrounded by a remarkable display uniquely arranged by Mother Nature. Male fireflies soar and flash while females remain stationary and respond with a different flash.

elkmont-fireflies-heysmokies

Synchronous Fireflies in Elkmont. Photo by Bernie Kasper of Indiana.

GET YOUR TICKETS!

You must obtain a parking pass for Sugarlands Visitor Center as shuttle service is available only to the occupants of cars with a parking pass. Passes are free, but a $1.50 reservation fee is required. Passes are non-transferable (person named on pass must be present), non-refundable and are good ONLY for the date issued.  The first trolley leaves Sugarlands at 7 p.m. and returns (once filled to capacity) about 9:30 p.m. Trolley fees are $1 per person. NOTE: Tours are cancelled only when weather is threatening. Come prepared for inclement (and sometime unseasonably cool) weather. Alcohol is prohibited in the National Park. Portable toilets are available on-site.

There are three categories for parking passes which are available at www.recreation.gov.

  • Advance: Tickets go on sale April 30, 2015 at 10 a.m.  There are 888 passes available for vehicles up to 19’ in length with no more than 6 occupants.
  • Day Before: (85 passes available) each day at 10 a.m. of the 8 day event for cars up to 19’ in length with no more than 6 occupants.
  • Day of: Large vehicles (36 passes only available) for vehicles up to 30’ with up to 24 occupants.
elkmont-fireflies-viewers-heysmokies

Visitors waiting for the big show which begins at dark around 9:45 p.m. Photo by Shawn Poyntner/The New York Times.

Firefly Etiquette

  • Take a flashlight (it will be dark) and cover the lens with blue or red cellophane tape. Shine directly on the ground and use only until you reach your viewing site.
  • Stay on trails to protect firefly habitats.
  • Pack out all garbage (your mother does not work here!)
  • Do not catch the fireflies!

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