Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Synchronous fireflies and their admirers are about to invade the Great Smoky Mountains national park

In a few days just as they have done for years, millions of the Smokies beloved lightning bugs will start to shine with their amazing bioluminescence that will synchronize with one another. While this is happening about a 1,000 people a night will crowd the Little River Trail in the Elkmont section of the GSMNP which was a former rail road bed for the Little River logging company to watch and be amazed by natures light show.

Actually there are 14 species of fireflies that have been identified in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, but only one the Photinus Carolinus, performs its magical light show in a synchronized manner that is always a crowd pleaser.

This little former glowworm emerges at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and likes to keep by slow moving water while it uses its greenish glow to attract mates. This phenomenon actually takes place all throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains, but the best place to observe it is in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, and Elkmont is one of the most convenient and safest places to observe these fireflies flash at what could be their mates.

While you can observe synchronized fireflies in virtually every section of the GSM national park, in order to accommodate so many visitors who come for the light show, the national park service has decided to close Elkmont entrance road at firefly peak season to anyone other than registered campers at 5 pm. No parking is permitted along Little River Road at this time so that cars will not hit pedestrians in the dark.

What the Great Smoky Mountains national park does do for visitors with the help of the City of Gatlinburg, which provides trolleys, is run a shuttle for $1 round trip from the Sugarlands visitor center starting 7 pm to the Elkmont trailhead.

As soon as the parking lot at the Sugarlands Visitor Center fills up or it is 9:00 pm, no more people transportation to Elkmont ends. Most every run may sell out, so come after 6:00 pm to be sure you will get a seat on a trolley to see firefly show!

If you are bringing a flashlight, you need to bring red cellophane or a red lens cover so as not to disturb the fireflies flashing or other visitor's night vision. You can only bring what fits on your lap and no coolers alcoholic beverages, or pets can go on the trolley.

The park advises the last trolley will return to the Sugarlands at 11 pm, however historically the last trolley is much later but be there before then so you will not be left in the dark at Elkmont!

Peak firefly season when the trolleys will be running and Elkmont road is closed this year will be from June 5th to the 13th.

Related Smokies Fireflies News Stories

Synchronized Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains

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