KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced the dates when a limited number of park visitors will gather to watch the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual synchronous firefly viewing opportunity at Elkmont Campground beginning Friday, June 3 through Friday, June 10.
The public may apply for the limited viewing opportunity by entering a lottery for a vehicle pass through www.recreation.gov. The lottery for vehicle pass applications open Friday, April 29 at 10 a.m. through Tuesday, May 3.
Due to high demand, the National Park Service has utilized a limited lottery since 2006 to reduce traffic congestion and minimize disturbance to the unique fireflies during the peak mating season. In total, 800 passes will be up for grabs during the eight-day event. One hundred pass holders will be allowed each day.
Results of the lottery will be available by Friday, May 13. Each vehicle pass provides admission for parking directly at the Elkmont viewing location for one passenger vehicle with a maximum of seven occupants. During the application process, 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.
During the viewing period, access to Elkmont is restricted after 4:00 p.m. to passenger vehicles with a parking pass, registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground, or backcountry campers with a valid permit. Visitors are not allowed to walk or ride bicycles on the Elkmont entrance road or Jakes Creek Road after 4:00 p.m. due to safety concerns.
The display usually begins around 9:30 p.m. and continues through the night. Throughout the display, the bugs will flash multiple times then stop flashing for 6 to 8 seconds leaving the area nearly pitch black, before beginning the flashing again.