The Magical Synchronous Fireflies of the Smoky Mountains

Like the soft beginnings of a piano prelude ushering in the soul-stirring melodies of an orchestra, the first flashes float on the feigning light of dusk amongst the lush green forests: the rare dance of the synchronous fireflies begins. As one of the few places in the world where you can play witness to this hypnotic display, the beautiful mating ritual of the fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains has drawn more onlookers as the years have passed and word of its enchantment has spread.

Your chance to experience this short 2-week naturally occurring fairytale has not passed, however! Below we will explain everything you need to know about the synchronous fireflies: where to enter the 2019 lottery for parking, why there is even a lottery, when passes are confirmed, and when and where to stay!

Electric Love: What exactly is going on during this short time span?
The Photinus carolinus, our synchronous fireflies, are 1 of 19 species of bioluminescent flying beetles that inhabit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They earn their name, however, by being the only species in America with the ability to synchronize their flashing patterns. After taking 1 to 2 years to completely mature, these little incandescent beetles only exist as adults for 21 days. So, in their short lives as adults, they need to find a mating partner with some desperate flair!

In the 2-week period, usually falling from late May to mid-June, the males will dance in the night, flashing their yellow rears while hovering a couple feet from the forest floor. The stationary females answer with their own flashes of light-like Romeo stepping into the moonlight, “I take thee at thy word, Call me but love.” It’s a truly magical sight in the dense, freshly sprouted forests of springtime, deeply dark to allow the romance of these beetles to shine brightly on display, flickering hundreds of times each hour.

Musical Chairs: Why there is a Lottery and why it should not deter you
It’s magical and soul-stirring…like the New York Ballet in the Smoky Mountains with fireflies. So, it should not be too much to wonder why the curious crowds are drawn to the hypnotic, enchanting lights. As to not disrupt this pivotal time in the life of the Synchronous fireflies, Recreation.gov has constructed a lottery system by which a randomized computer drawing assigns parking passes.

Don’t let the ambiguity of the lottery system deter you from applying! This not only protects the mating dances of the synchronous fireflies from human disruption, but also means that if you are chosen, there is not an oversized crowd to compete with for good seating. Plus, it’s totally FREE to enter the lottery!

Ticket and Show Dates: When and how to enter the Firefly Event Lottery
The lottery opens for a very short period of time, so be sure to mark your calendars.

The lottery opens on Friday, April 26, 2019 at 8 a.m. EST and closes on Monday April 29, 2019 at 8 p.m. EST. Don’t feel the anxiety of logging onto your computer to fill out the application as your fingers hover over the keyboard at 7:59 a.m. that Friday morning; the randomized computer lottery system gives no preference to the order in which each application is received.

Visit Recreation.gov’s Firefly Event Page to find the application and submit during the designated time in which the lottery is open!

Everyone will receive a response to their applications, both for confirmation of receipt and, subsequently, an email stating the “success” or “unsuccessful” application on Friday May 10, 2019. Upon success, those applicants will be charged $25 for the parking reservation fee which covers the viewing supplies, personnel, and processing.

The Meet-Up: When to expect the performers to take their natural stage
You will choose your preferred date and alternate date provided on the application. These dates are meticulously decided by the scientists and researchers at the Elkmont Institute after monitoring temperatures, soil moisture, and a host of other environmental contributories.

Since 1993, however, the crescendo of the synchronous firefly dance has most often taken place third week of May to the third week of June, just in time for your family’s first summer vacation of the season! Once notified of your awarded parking pass on May 10, it’s time to start planning your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains!

Before and After the Show: Escape to your dream cabin in the mountains
Whether you are bringing a couple families or sharing this incredible display of nature with a special someone, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Cabins has the perfect mountain chalet for you! Soak in all the nature you can with a cabin on the river or a secluded abode with breathtaking mountain views to really round off your inspiring, fun time in the Great Smoky Mountains during the synchronous firefly event.

Get more details and answers to frequently asked questions on this momentous event here!