Great Smoky Mountains announce synchronous firefly viewings plan

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Under a modified plan, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will welcome back hundreds of visitors to view the naturally-occurring phenomenon that causes thousands of fireflies to flash in unison.

The park will host the annual synchronous firefly viewing opportunity at Elkmont Campground beginning Tuesday, June 1 through Tuesday, June 8. The public may apply for the limited viewing opportunity by entering a lottery for a vehicle pass through www.recreation.gov.

The lottery opens for vehicle pass applications on Friday, April 30 at 10:00 a.m. through Monday, May 3 at 11:59 p.m. A total of 800 vehicle passes, 100 passes per night, will be issued through the lottery process. Results of the lottery will be available by Friday, May 7.

“I’m pleased that we’re able to once again offer an opportunity for visitors to experience synchronous fireflies at Elkmont in a safe manner,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Last year, we canceled the viewing opportunity due to concerns about using shuttle operations during the pandemic. Our staff worked hard to develop a new operational plan that allows limited parking for passenger vehicles directly at the site for 2021.”  

Every year in late May to early June, thousands of visitors gather near the Elkmont to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously.

Access to the Elkmont area has been limited during the eight days of predicted peak activity since 2006 in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to this natural phenomenon.

Each vehicle pass provides admission for parking directly at the Elkmont viewing location for one passenger vehicle with a maximum of seven occupants. Lottery applicants may enter two possible dates to participate in the viewing opportunity over the eight-day period. 

All lottery applicants will be charged a $1.00 application fee. Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and a $24.00 reservation fee will be charged to the same credit or debit card used for the application fee. Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season.

Visit www.recreation.gov and search for “Great Smoky Mountains Firefly Viewing Lottery” for more information and to enter the lottery. Visitors may also call 1-877-444-6777 to enter the lottery, but park officials encourage the use of the online process.

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