GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WNCN) — A rare talent that a species of firefly native to the southern Appalachian Mountains has is the ability to synchronize its flash pattern with others nearby.

Synchronous fireflies, or photinus carolinus, are one of at least 19 species of firefly that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And they are one of only a few species in the world to have the capability to sync up their glow.

A lottery that opens up on Friday and closes on May 3 is offering up front-row seats to the amazing show during an 8-day viewing period, during the time the insects’ reproductive display occurs for a couple of weeks every year.

Each year, thousands gather near the Elkmont Campground to catch a glimpse, that is, once they’ve gotten their spot through the lottery system.


  • Lottery Opens: April 29th 10 a.m.
  • Lottery Closes: May 3rd 10 a.m.
  • Results Announced: May 12
  • Event Dates: June 3 – 10

The park will be organizing a viewing area by managing vehicle access at Tennessee’s Elkmont Campground near Gatlinburg. Visitors who wish to view the fireflies must acquire a parking pass via lottery to park in these areas.

Applicants in the lottery may choose two dates – a preferred and an alternate date. All applicants will be notified whether they are or are not awarded vehicle parking on-site for the show. Winners will be charged a $1 application fee and will receive a parking pass at a fee of $24 on the same card used for the application fee in order to help cover the cost of viewing supplies and nightly personnel managing the site.

The number of parking spaces is limited. During the 8-day managed period, Little River and Jakes Creek Trailheads will be closed at night to all but permitted vehicles and foot traffic from registered campers in Elkmont Campground.

Visit the park’s Synchronous Fireflies web page and the lottery page for additional information about the viewing opportunity.