You Can See Thousands of Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains This Summer—Here's How to Enter the Lottery

To view the stunning synchronous firefly event that occurs in late May and early June, you must enter a lottery, which grants a lucky few access to the Great Smoky Mountains. Submissions are now open and will close on May 3 at 10 a.m.

If you've ever wanted to see thousands of fireflies illuminate the night at once, head down to the Great Smoky Mountains. Visitors can enter the Elkmont area, a large campground in Tennessee, where the largest population of synchronous fireflies live. Beginning at the end May and continuing into early June, the fireflies will begin their mating ritual in the national park, which involves synchronizing their flash patterns. To view the spectacular site you must enter into a highly competitive lottery, which grants you access to a front row view of the annual ritual.

Firefly Festival

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 19 different firefly species, including the Photinus carolinus, which is the only synchronous firefly species that exist in the United States. According to the National Park Service, fireflies take from one to two years to mature from larvae, but will live as adults for only about 21 days. Each species of firefly has a unique flash pattern that helps the males and females to recognize each other. The males flash while they fly around stationary females, who respond to the mating call with their own flash. At first, the mating ritual is slow with just a few fireflies flashing their lights but over the course of a couple of weeks, thousands of flies will join and share their glow with park visitors.

The only way to get a ticket to the highly popular event is by entering a lottery for a vehicle pass through The lottery opens on April 29 at 10 a.m. and closes on May 3 at 10 a.m. All applications are considered equally, no matter what time or date they're submitted. When applying, you should choose two dates you would like to attend to the event—your first choice and an alternative date. According to USA Today, a total of 800 vehicle passes, or 100 passes per night, will be issued to successful applicants. Each pass allows you to park directly at the Elkmont viewing location.

The number of passes issued each day depends on parking capacity and the park's ability to safely accomodate a high volume of viewers, while minimizing impacts on resources. Successful applicants will be awarded parking passes and charged a $24 reservation fee to cover the cost of restrooms, supplies, and nightly personnel costs. Last year, a total of 24,402 households from all 50 states applied for a vehicle pass. Most of the applicants (35 percent) came from Tennessee, followed by North Carolina (19 percent), Georgia (seven percent), Florida (five percent), and South Carolina (three percent), USA Today reports.

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