Blog for Zipline Attraction in the Smoky Mountains
Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on April 16, 2019
One of the most spectacular annual events in the Smokies is coming up soon, and if you want to participate, you'll have to play the lottery.
We're not talking about the Tennessee Lottery but Great Smoky Mountains National Park's lottery that awards a limited number of parking passes to see this year's synchronous fireflies.
Okay, let's take a step backward before we pass on the lottery info. First, for those who don't know what synchronous fireflies are, they are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in the national park. What makes them unique, however, is that they are the only species in America that is capable, as a group, of flashing their lights in unison. This phenomenon occurs exclusively in the Elkmont section of the national park and only one other location on the entire planet.
Let's clarify: Not every single pulse of light from every firefly literally flashes at the exact same moment. But they are synchronized in the sense that the population will repeatedly flash their lights as a group for a minute or so and stop. Then a few minutes later, the fireflies will resume flashing in unison for a few minutes and stop. This pattern repeats for hours.
The lighting process, called bioluminescence, is part of the fireflies' annual mating display. Each species has a specific flash pattern that helps its male and female members recognize each other. The synchronous males fly and flash, while the females usually remain stationary and respond with a flash. (So this is one instance when flashing in the national park is perfectly legal.) The peak period for this synchrony lasts about two weeks, but scientists aren't able to predict exactly when this will take place each year. To cover their bases, the national park's viewing period runs from the third week in May to the third week in June.
Once upon a time, just a few years ago, anyone could simply drive to Elkmont, find a place to park their vehicle and walk to the viewing sites. But the event became so popular that there simply wasn't enough room to accommodate all the visitors. So the national park began operating a shuttle to transport a limited number of guests from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to Elkmont. And to be able to park at Sugarlands, you now have to enter an online lottery, taking place this year between Friday, April 26 and Monday, April 29. Applicants will be notified whether they were randomly selected or not on May 10.
Starting this year, you'll have to pay a $25 fee if you are selected. Also, there's a $2 per-person cash fee collected at the time you board the shuttle. This is all to help offset the park's costs of staging the event.
For more information about how to enter this lottery, visit: Firefly FAQ
As the time for the fireflies grows closer, we'll post another blog with specific information about the fireflies themselves and how this phenomenon occurs. We'll also pass along some tips as well as some do's and don'ts when it comes to firefly-viewing etiquette.
While early summer nights are great for watching fireflies, spring and summer days are made for ziplining. So here's a suggestion for a great outdoorsy day in the Smokies. You could start with a trip to our Smoky Mountain zipline adventure, located just two miles off the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. You'll spend hours here flying among the leafy treetops, enjoying fresh mountain air and some awesome views of our nearby mountain peaks.
Then, if you were lucky enough to get selected to receive a parking pass, you can drive less than a half-hour to the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg and get ready to experience one of the most fascinating sights in nature.