Synchronized fireflies may disappoint viewers this year
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An unseasonably warm spring may mean disappointment for those planning to view the synchronized fireflies found in Elkmont at Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the planned June 2-10 event.
Park officials say warm temperatures have caused the fireflies to make their earliest recorded appearance — meaning the best show may be over by the time the event happens.
The shuttle service to the event site is still scheduled to take place for ticketed reservation holders only. Park biologists are predicting there may still be some activity during the weekend of June 2, but the display will be past peak and may taper off significantly well before the following weekend.
Those with reservations are being advised of the possibility that the display will not be as good as in previous years.
This early showing has prompted the Park to close the Elkmont entrance road to motor vehicles and pedestrian use every evening through June 10. Only registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground will be allowed to access the road.
The Park had set aside 25 parking passes to make available the day before the event though http://www.recreation.gov . These passes may be withdrawn depending on the activity of the fireflies. Please visit http://www.recreation.gov for current status on these passes.
The popularity of the annual firefly event has made it necessary to close access to the Elkmont viewing area to protect park resources and visitor experiences. This closure requires the availability and coordination of a large number of park staff and the shuttle service provider. The event is generally scheduled based on the recorded timing of firefly appearances in past years, but spring 2012 was uncharacteristically warm and made it difficult to accurately predict well in advance. Due to the logistics involved, the Park does not have the flexibility to switch the event operations forward or backwards to match the peak firefly activity.
Every June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of synchronous fireflies. Photinus carolinus is of 14 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but they are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns, according to the Park.
The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly.
In 2005 the Park began closing the Elkmont entrance road each evening and operating a mandatory shuttle bus system to and from the viewing area.
In 2011, more than 7,000 people rode the mandatory shuttle system from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area to Elkmont to view the fireflies. As the popularity increased each year, firefly watchers began to arrive earlier and earlier.
In 2011, visitors started arriving in the parking lot as early as 2 p.m. in order to ensure they would be able to ride the shuttle that transports visitors to the viewing area beginning at 7 p.m. Some visitors, who had traveled from long distances, had to be turned away because the parking lot was full.