Lifestyle

What’s Glowing in the Great Smoky Mountains?

Every summer, visitors flock to an area of the Great Smoky Mountains to see a jaw-dropping natural light show.

The Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee draws hundreds of people out into its woods every summer. In the pitch black of night, they sit in silence and wait.

Early June is the peak time for the phenomenon that draws visitors from all parts of the country. Visitors are taken from the parking lot in vintage-style trolleys to a remote campground in the forest. Once they arrive, they are instructed to pick a spot, get comfortable and simply wait.

So what are they waiting for? It’s a stunning light show, but not like anything you’ve seen before. Every June, a species of synchronous fireflies that call the park home light up the forest with a breathtaking, flashing yellow glow.

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Flickr/ihhs

So what causes this amazing natural occurrence? The synchronous fireflies are one of at least 19 species that call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Elkmont home. In early June, when visitors flock to the forest, the fireflies are engaging in their mating ritual. The male species flash their glow on and off at the same time simply to attract females. The creatures only live as adults for about 21 days, so finding a mate is crucial for their survival.

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Flickr/Ryan Atkins

The result of this natural mating call is an amazing sight that draws visitors of all ages year after year. If you want to see this wonder for yourself, you’ll have to plan ahead. Parking passes must be bought from the National Park Service, and they usually sell out quickly.

If you do get a pass and make it out to Elkmont, there’s a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind. Get there early, make sure you have a comfortable place to sit, and cover your flashlight with colored cellophane so you won’t ruin the show for others if you have to move around the area. Visitors aren’t allowed to catch fireflies at the park in order to preserve the species and light show for years to come.

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Flickr/Ryan Atkins

The travel and preparations for this once in a lifetime sight are definitely worth the wait. To find out more about the annual event, visit the National Park Service’s website.

Next: 15 Best Places for Stargazing in the US 

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What’s Glowing in the Great Smoky Mountains?