The Photinus carolinus firefly isn’t much longer than your fingernail, but it puts on an amazing light display every June that draws thousands of vacationers to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee’s beautiful Wears Valley. As dusk settles over the Smokies, the evening light show begins as the fireflies begin courting. Both males and females flash in a specific pattern at set intervals. What makes the Elkmont Firefly Viewing Event so spectacular is that the insects flash in synchronization, lighting up and going dark on cue as if directed by an unseen conductor. It’s one of nature’s wonders that brings vacationers back to the Smokies year after year.
The best place to see the firefly display is around Bearwallow Creek in the community of Elkmont within the national park. This year, the park service will be running firefly shuttles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to Elkmont from June 6-13. Due to limited parking at the visitor center, vacationers will need to make advance reservations for a parking pass. Passes go on sale at 10 a.m. the day prior to each of the 8 viewing evenings and can be obtained at www.recreation.gov.
The firefly show is just one of the activities that make a Wears Valley vacation memorable. Bicycling, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and auto touring are favorite Smoky Mountain pursuits. On hot days, tubing down the valley’s streams and creeks is a fun way to cool off. For the thrill seekers in the family, Dollywood is in nearby Pigeon Forge. Nights in the Smokies are made for star-gazing or telling ghost stories around the fire pit.
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