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Synchronous Fireflies In The Smoky Mountains

Firefly Info | Light Show Etiquette | Trolley to Elkmont | Recommendations and Rules

Synchronous Firefly Information

The Smoky Mountains are the perfect place for a summer fling, especially if you're a firefly.

For two weeks each June the synchronous fireflies look for love by putting on a simultaneous light show in the Elkmont area of the park, each male lighting up at the same time to attract their perfect summer mate.

Synchronous Fireflies In The Smoky Mountains

The synchronous fireflies' light show is quite the spectacle and continues to attract thousands of visitors to the national park year after year. This season, the park is gearing up to make the most of the firefly-viewing experience and will offer spectators shuttle service from the Sugarland Visitors Center to the viewing area in Elkmont June 6-13.  

Reservations for the shuttle service and event parking will be accepted starting April 29. Advance registration is required to take advantage of this service, and spots are expected to sell out very quickly.

You can learn more about the synchronous fireflies or reserve your spot by visiting Recreation.gov and searching for the Great Smoky Mountains firefly event. The trolley/shuttle fee is $1 per person, and riders will be required to pay in exact change. Parking passes start at $1.50.

According to info from the National Park Service,  the synchronous fireflies are one variety out of at least 19 species of lightning bugs found in the Great Smoky Mountains. They are the only species in American that lights up in chorus.

The flashing is more than just display: It's actually part of a complex mating process  that ensures the survival of future generations of these beautiful beetles. The all-at-once flashing pattern across the night sky lets females make sure they're attracting members of their own species.

The firefly event is a great experience for a nature-curious family, or could even be a low-key, romantic date for a couple. Make the most of your time in the Smokies by taking advantage of PigeonForge.com's trip planning resources, including Pigeon Forge lodging information, things to do in the Smokies, and more!

Light Show Etiquette

Flashlights disrupt the fireflies and impair people's night vision. The light show is best when you:
  1. Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane.
  2. Use your flashlight only when walking to your viewing spot.
  3. Point your flashlight at the ground.
  4. Turn off your flashlight when you find your viewing spot.

Parking and Trolley Information

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced that the Elkmont entrance road will be closed to motor vehicles and pedestrian use every night starting at 5:00 p.m. until midnight, June 6-13, 2013, except to registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. The closure is to accommodate transportation service for visitors planning to spend the evening viewing the natural-occurring, synchronous firefly beetles at Elkmont. Plan ahead, because the national park service has implemented some very specific viewing hours and rules. Pre-registration is required via a new online ticketing system at recreation.gov.

The City of Gatlinburg, in partnership with the Park, will provide the trolleys for this activity. The trolley service, coinciding with the expected peak flashing period, will be the sole transportation mode for visitor access during this period; no private vehicles will be allowed to enter Elkmont. This year also new restrictions will be in place to prohibit motor vehicles from parking along roadsides, pullouts, or any other areas besides at the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area for the purposes of viewing fireflies at Elkmont. Only those visitors parking at the visitor center will be allowed to ride the trolleys.

Due to the high demand of visitors traveling to see the firefiles there is a new reservation system for 2013. There is an online reservation system where visitors can sign up for a parking pass that will ensure their parking spot at the Sugarlands Visitor Center on their desired date. This will prevent guests having to arrive hours in advance and will also provide you with an arrival time to prevent congestion in the parking lot. The reservation fee for the pass is $1.50 and will be required for each vehicle in the parking lot. These tickets went on sale April 29, 2013.

The trolleys will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7:00 p.m. The trolleys will continually run until the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area is full or until 9 p.m., whichever comes first. The last trolley to return visitors from Elkmont to the Sugarlands Visitor Center is scheduled at 11 p.m. The cost will be $1 round trip per person as in previous years.

The annual appearance of the synchronous firefly beetles, which occurs during their mating behavior, has become so popular that Park officials began managing the number of visitors to the trailhead several years ago. The Elkmont area has very limited parking spaces that were designed to accommodate day use for several trails. The dates that the mating behavior begins can vary each year due to weather and other natural factors, but generally starts around the second week in June.


Recommendations and Rules

For those riding the trolleys, it is recommended that visitors bring flashlights with red cellophane covers to reduce white light. Visitors can bring lawn chairs, and carry food and water in backpacks which can fit on their laps in the trolleys; there are no services available at the site. In order to help prevent any disruption to the firefly show, or destruction to the National Park, visitors are prohibited from bringing coolers, alcoholic beverages, or their pets.

Related Articles:

4 Things You Didn't Know About Synchronous Fireflies in the Smokies - The synchronous fireflies you see every June in Great Smoky Mountains are the only simultaneously flashing species in North America.

Synchronous Fireflies Flash for Love - Synchronous fireflies look for love by putting on a simultaneous light show in the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  
 
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