Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for the synchronous firefly viewing event in Elkmont. The ticketed event will take place from Tuesday, June 2 through Tuesday, June 9, 2015. The online ticketing system, operated through www.recreation.gov, will again provide visitors with guaranteed parking passes for Sugarlands Visitor Center where ticket-holders will park for reserved shuttle service to Elkmont.
Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Access to the viewing area during the 8-days of predicted peak activity is provided through a shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass.
The parking pass covers a maximum of 6 persons in a single passenger vehicle (less than 19 feet in length). Four passes for oversize vehicles, like a mini bus (19 to 30 feet in length and up to 24 persons), will also be available. Each reservation costs $1.50. Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one parking pass per household per season. Each reservation through www.recreation.gov will receive an e-mail confirmation and specific information about the event.
The number of passes issued each day is based on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity. Passes will be issued with staggered arrival times in order to relieve congestion in the parking lot and for boarding the shuttles. The shuttle buses, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg, will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7:00 p.m. The cost will be $1.00 round trip per person, as in previous years, and collected when boarding the shuttle.
The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.
The parking passes will be available online for sale beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 30. The park will hold back 85 passes for each day to accommodate individuals who did not learn of the need to pre purchase tickets. These 85 passes will go on sale online at 10:00 a.m. the day before the event and will be available until 3:30 p.m. on the day of the event or until the passes are all reserved.
Passes can be purchased at www.recreation.gov. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials strongly encourage the use of the online process because it provides more information to visitors about what to expect when they arrive at the park. The online process is also faster which enables a better chance to secure a pass. The $1.50 reservation fee covers the cost of processing the request for the passes. The park will not receive any revenue from the parking reservations or the shuttle tickets.
For more information about the synchronous firefly event, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.