Friday, May 27, 2016

Where To Find Synchronized Fireflies Right Now In The Great Smoky Mountains

Right now one of the most exciting and mysterious displays in nature is about to peak in the Great Smoky Mountain national park straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, the synchronized flashing of the most famous species of fireflies in the Smokies and Southern Appalachian Mountains - Photinus carolinus.

The Synchronized lightning bugs are actually beetles and have been found by scientists in every single area of the Great Smoky Mountain national park that was examined. The key to finding them is that they initially emerge from under the forest floor when the ground temperature reaches around 55 degrees in spring and since the park greatly ranges in elevation, overhead canopy and exposure to sunlight, some areas may see the coveted fireflies emerge weeks or even a month later than other places.

Right now even though the firefly tours have not officially started they can be found most easily in great numbers along the Little River Hiking Trail in the Elkmont Tennessee area of the Great Smoky Mountains national park and anyone can see them without a parking pass or a hard to get ticket by lottery.

They are also active right now in Tremont, Greenbrier (not open to visitors after sunset), Cosby and Abrams Creek, and the Roaring Fork Area. Activity is also increasing in the back end of Cades Cove this weekend which is a long walk from the Loop Road Entrance but well worth it.

Starting Tuesday, May 31st and running through Tuesday, June 7th, Elkmont will be closed in the afternoon to all cars and vehicles other than those with valid camping reservations so that the firefly shuttles which run from the Sugarlands Visitor center have a place to unload and reload people lucky enough to have shuttle passes they won in the new firefly lottery.

You can learn more than you ever need to know about the Synchronized Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains by visiting this Firefly Information Page.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park plans to Increase Some Use Fees by 25%

Anytime a change is planned for either park policy or fees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), it is often followed by an uproar and the changes planned for reserving campsites in 3 GSMNP campgrounds and the first camping and picnic pavilion use fee increase since 2006 will be no different.

Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is tremendously popular. Last year alone in the Front Country Campgrounds 172,984 camped in a tent while 117,177 used a Recreational. Considering there are no electrical, water and sewer hookups, or even showers that is a lot of people willing to rough it in the nation's most visited national park.

Since the Great Smoky Mountains national park does not collect any entrance fees, one of the few sources of income are use fees such as those for camping or picnicking in a reserved picnic pavilions. The monies collected stay within the Great Smoky Mountains national park and are used for things such infrastructure improvements and maintenance as well as park visitor services. In 2015 alone revenue from camping and pavilion fees in the GSMNP totaled approximately $1.6 million.

The proposed fee increase of 25% is expected to generate and additional $400,000 of revenue per year, far believe what park officials believe is necessary, but enough to help to sustain campground and picnic area operations and support other critical functions in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

"In recent years, the park has compensated for budget imbalances due to inflation by reducing visitor services, delaying maintenance repairs, and in some cases, reducing the length of time facilities are open which particularly affects visitors during the shoulder seasons," said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. "While we recognize that fee increases are often unpopular, we are committed to maintaining this ’crown jewel’ of the National Park Service where visitors can create lasting memories through camping and picnicking in the Smokies."

This use fee increase would be the first since 2006, other than a minor increase when the Cataloochee campgrounds were move over to the online reservation system.

Other proposed changes are to move the Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain and Big Creek campgrounds to the National Recreation Reservation System requiring a paid reservation before entering the park. This would greatly improve how visitors would have to get a campsite or find out there are no longer any available as well as reduce theft of funds or services which has occurred in the past in the Cataloochee campgrounds.

If these fee increases and reservation system changes are approved, changes could take effect as early as October 1, 2016 but it is possible some changes may be deferred until the 2017 season.

The Great Smoky Mountains national park invites the public to comment through June 27 online at, by Email:, or by Mail to: Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Attn: Proposal to Increase Fees
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

There will also be 2 informational open houses regarding this proposal

  • June 20, 2016: Old Oconaluftee Visitor Center, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. at 1194 Newfound Gap Road, Cherokee, NC 28719
  • June 23, 2016: Park Headquarters Lobby, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. at 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738