Synchronized Fireflies Of The Great Smoky Mountains
For a few short weeks in early summer, a species of firefly native to the Great Smoky Mountains comes out to perform their mating dance. For hours through the night thousands upon thousands of these fireflies blink in unison, flashing in synchronized patterns. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
The exact dates for nature’s little synchronized light show is impossible to predict with precision. Usually it happens between late May and early June. The event has become so popular that Great Smoky Mountains National Park has begun to sell tickets to help with crowd control. This is the only place on earth where the light show happens. Synchronized fireflies don’t exist anywhere else.
Tickets are $1.50 and go on sale in late April. The park reserves Elkmont Campground for the nightly viewings once the fireflies start their synchronized flashing. They seem to congregate most intensely around Elkmont. For each day of the event, the park sells 115 advance tickets, available starting in April. The park then holds onto another 85 tickets that visitors can buy the day of. The best place to track when tickets become available is at this site. http://www.recreation.gov/tourParkDetail.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72413.
If you get a ticket, you’ll be required to buy a trolley pass for $1 for the park to shuttle you from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to Elkmont and back. You’ll also want to reserve a parking spot at Sugarlands, something you can do when you call in to get your ticket. The first trolley leaves Sugarlands for Elkmont at 7 p.m. Generally, you won’t get back to your vehicle until after midnight.
If you go, remember to be thoughtful. Flashlights will disrupt the fireflies, so the park recommends you cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane. Always point your flashlight at the ground and then turn it off once you get to the viewing area. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a great write-up on the fireflies if you want to know more: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.
If you can pull it off, a stop at the park to see the fireflies will be the highlight of your trip.