The buzzing, glowing, zipping, lights-up-the-night nature party is back in Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year.
America’s most popular national park will host the annual synchronous firefly viewing in Elkmont June 3-10.
The only way to get tickets to the light show is to enter a lottery for vehicle passes through entertainment.gov. The lottery for vehicle pass applications opens from 10 AM on 29 April to 10 May 3 May. According to a news release from the park, all applications, regardless of time or date of admission, are considered equally in the pool of lottery applicants.
Every year from late May to early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to watch the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that glows synchronously.
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Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to eight days of anticipated peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors during peak mating periods. Minimizes turbulence in these unique fireflies.
A total of 800 vehicle passes, 100 passes per night will be issued through the lottery process. Each vehicle pass provides access to direct parking at the Elkmont viewing location for one passenger vehicle with a maximum of seven people.
During the application process, lottery applicants can enter two possible viewing dates over a period of eight days.
The number of passes issued each day is based on parking capacity and the site’s ability to safely accommodate large numbers of spectators, while minimizing the impact on resources. The lottery system uses a random computer drawing to select applications, which cost $1 per applicant.
Successful applicants will be automatically awarded a parking pass and charged a $24 reservation fee, which includes the cost of the pass, on-site portable restrooms, supplies and nightly personnel for managing the viewing opportunity at Elkmont.
Hitting the lottery is not easy.
Park spokesperson Dana Sohan said a total of 24,401 families applied for vehicle passes last year. Applicants were from all 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico and three countries – Australia, Canada and Great Britain.
The top five states to apply were Tennessee (35%), North Carolina (19%), Georgia (7%), Florida (5%) and South Carolina (3%).
Sohne said the park issued 800 passes in 2021, with 100 passes for each of the eight nights.
Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable and only good for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail by May 13 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “failed” and were not able to secure a parking pass.
During viewing periods, access to Elkmont is restricted to passenger vehicles with parking passes after 4 p.m., registered campers residing at Elkmont Campgrounds, or backcountry campers with valid permits.
For more information and to enter the lottery, visitors can visit entertainment.gov and search for “Great Smoky Mountain Firefly Viewing Lottery”.
Visitors can also call 877-444-6777 to enter the lottery, but park officials encourage online applications. For more information about synchronous fireflies, visit the park’s website at nps.gov/grsm.
Karen Chavez is the Content Coach/Investigation Editor for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. advice? Call 828-712-6316, email, [email protected] or follow on Twitter @KarenChavezACT,