The Dance of the Fireflies

Elkmont Fireflies

Elkmont Fireflies; Image provided by Judd Patterson

Our friends over at Wildwater Rafting have given us all the details surrounding the annual synchronized firefly show in the Smoky Mountains. If you are interested in no-cost wholesome entertainment that most people in the world have not experienced, this is truly an event that should not be missed!

There are only two places on earth where you can experience a synchronized firefly phenomenon – southeast Asia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The peak flashing for synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park occurs for only two weeks in mid-June. The Male’s time is short since they live as adults for only about 21 days. So they have a limited amount of time to attract the Females and reproduce (think “Speed Dating” for insect-kind that immediately advances to fourth base).

The Males fly and flash and the usually stationary Females respond with a flash creating a spectacular and unparalleled natural light show. They are the only species in America that can synchronize their flashing light patterns.

The show takes place at the Elkmont Campground. We hear that getting there can be a challenge, but with entertainment like this it’s well worth it. The campground is closed to private vehicles after 5 p.m. Entrance is allowed if you have a campsite reserved or you may ride the trolley for $1 from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Trolleys begin a at 6 p.m. and run every 20-25 minutes. Last trolley leaves at 11 p.m.Be sure to come prepared for the evening. The following items have been recommended:

* A blanket or a small lawn chair to sit on

* A flashlight (cover it with red cellophane to minimize white lights)

* A backpack with refreshments (The only amenities at the campground are portable toilets)

Other important notes:

* Park rangers and volunteers will be available in various locations for questions, guided walks, and assistance.

* No pets or alcoholic beverages allowed.

* If attempting to take pictures or video, do not use a flash. Not only does it disturb the fireflies, but your picture will turn out horrible. Try turning the flash off, setting your aperture to f11 and taking a long exposure of a few seconds.

If you go, be sure to take a Go Blue Ridge Card to get you into all of the best things to do in the area and  let us know what you thought of the fireflies!


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