Every June in Great Smoky Mountains National Park a rare event occurs, as countless fireflies gather in a mating ritual and synchronize their glow of lights on and off together. This is something so rare in the world that you’d have to go to Southeast Asia to see it duplicated.
While there are at least 19 identified species of firefly in the National Park, only this particular one (Photinus carolinus) shows this extraordinary feature of synchronicity, which science can’t explain.
The Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is where a large population of these fireflies gather to glow in unison, and also has the largest campground in the Park, which is good for the number of people who travel in from all over to see the fireflies.
People are now the limiting factor to seeing the fireflies – there are too many people. Now the only way to get to the site is by reserved parking at Sugarlands Visitor Center, and special Gatlinburg Trolley service up to the viewing area (click here for details). This year for 2014 the peak of the event when the area is open with shuttle service is June 4-11.
Tickets for the parking go on sale in early April and sell out really quickly, so the only chance for most of us is to hope for good video or photographs of the little creatures and their magic. Of course, it seems almost impossible to capture the reality of the event film. We live in hope.
Firfelflies are elusive even in their ones and twos. We all know that uplifted feeling when suddenly at twilight a firefly lights up where before we were just gazing at the lawn. Somehow this makes us happy. And then more pitch in, and our gaze is drawn here and there to keep up with them, and try to spot and track them.
Now multiply this by thousands and thousands.
You can see why it’s a contest to get a chance to view the famous synchronous fireflies. So keep your fingers crossed for that one magical photograph or even video clip this year!