Great Smoky Mountains National Park's Fireflies Are Too Popular
PHOTO: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Each year, from the end of May to the beginning of June, one of the most curious biological phenomena in the world takes place at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For just a brief two-week period, a certain species of firefly puts on a mesmerizing light show as part of its mating ritual, lighting up in brilliant synchronicity. In addition to attracting mates, this light show has been attracting visitors; so much so that park officials have had to set up a lottery for parking passes.
Access has been limited to the Elkmont area where the fireflies put on their show since 2006. It was at this point the park began issuing parking passes to limit access and reduce traffic and congestion within the park, as well as to protect these beautiful bugs from the harms of human intervention.
However, interest has been growing exponentially and the demand for parking passes has far exceeded the number of passes available and, when made available on recreation.gov, the national parks reservation system, passes have sold out in seconds.
“Last year, we had so many people log in online, almost simultaneously, to attempt to reserve a parking pass for the firefly event that the online system and phone system were maxed out,” said superintendent Cassius Cash. “I quickly learned that trying to reserve a parking pass was like trying to get a ticket to a popular rock concert. Unfortunately, we can’t accommodate all those who want to come to see the fireflies at Elkmont, but we are hopeful that the new process for registering to reserve a parking pass will be an easier, less frustrating experience for visitors.”
Dates for the eight-day shuttle-operating period will be announced on April 26 and the lottery will be held from 12 p.m. Friday, April 29 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 2. Those who receive passes will be notified on May 10 via email. There will be a total of 1,800 vehicle passes available for the event.
There is no fee for the lottery and, those who receive passes, pay $1.50 for the reservation fee and are awarded the pass for parking at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
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