When You Can See Them: Dates to be Determined by Park Service
You might have seen fireflies flickering their lights after dark before, but have you ever seen them synchronize with each other? There are at least 19 different species of fireflies that live within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Synchronous Fireflies are one of them. These are one of the rare species in the world known to synchronize their flashing patterns.
Important Dates for 2019:
- Friday, April 26 at 8:00 AM: Lottery for Vehicle Passes opens
- Monday, April 29 at 8:00 PM: Lottery for Vehicle Passes closed
- Friday, May 10: All lottery applicants will be notified that their application was successful (and they are awarded a vehicle pass) or unsuccessful (and they were not awarded a vehicle pass)
- Dates to be Determined by Park Service: The park will provide shuttle service to the viewing area
Why Do the Fireflies Synchronize?
No one really knows why the fireflies flash together. One theory is that males are competing and they all want to be the first to flash. Or, another theory is that if the males all flash at once they will have a better chance of being noticed, so that the females can make comparisons between them.
Experiencing This Natural Phenomenon
During this peak firefly display period, you will have a chance to see this amazing display of natural beauty. Great Smoky Mountains National Park organizes a shuttle service that will take you from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Elkmont Viewing area. This is where a huge population of synchronous fireflies can be found.
In past years, the first shuttle has left the main parking lot at around 7pm. The shuttles will start to return from Elkmont later in the evening when they are full, which will likely be around 9:30pm and they will continue to run until everyone has returned.
The viewing area at Elkmont consists of small paved areas and walking trails and the park rangers will be in the area in order to provide information.
Winning Tickets Via the Lottery System
In order to ride the shuttle and view the fireflies, you must acquire a pass. The number of parking spaces and the capacity of the shuttle is limited. Due to the limited number of spaces, the parking passes will be distributed via a lottery.
It is free of charge to enter the lottery and it will open on Friday, April 26 at 8:00 AM. After the lottery closes, the winners will be chosen and the results announced soon after. This year the winners of the lottery will be charged a $25 reservation fee to cover the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies, and nightly personnel to manage the event. A $2 (cash only) round-trip fee will be collected when boarding the shuttle at Sugarlands Visitor Center. If you win a parking pass, there will be no rain checks, transfers or refunds.
In 2017, the park distributed 1,800 vehicle passes, which includes 1,768 regular parking passes (225 per day). [Source]
In order to use the parking pass the lottery winner must be within the vehicle and must present their photo identification before the vehicle will be admitted to the parking area. Only one application can be completed per household. This is a fair way of giving everyone a chance to obtain a pass for this very high demand event.