“The synchronous firefly viewing area at Elkmont simply isn’t spacious enough to safely allow hundreds of people to gather under the current health guidance,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “While disappointing, the safety of our employees, volunteers and visitors continues to be our number one priority.”
Every year in late May or early June, the firefly species Photinus carolinus creates a natural light show after dark when males of the species flash in unison as part of their mating ritual. The spectacle attracts thousands of visitors to Elkmont Campground, where the fireflies occur in large numbers. Last year, 28,958 people from all 50 states and 19 countries entered the lottery for shuttle access to view the fireflies, and passes were distributed to applicants from 42 states, Canada and the Federated States of Micronesia. About 8,000 people in total viewed the fireflies.
In addition to concerns about the area’s ability to accommodate crowds, park officials noted that shuttle service to the event would not support CDC guidelines requiring individuals to maintain 6 feet of distance from each other. Due to on-site parking limitations, the shuttle service is the only mode of transportation for visitors during the firefly viewing.
The entire park is currently closed to visitors until further notice due to the pandemic. The original closure announcement was from March 24 through April 6, but on April 1 the park announced that it would extend the closure indefinitely. The only areas that remain open during this time are the Foothills Parkway and Spur between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Park managers will continue to evaluate regional conditions and work with local communities to assess dates for an orderly reopening of park facilities in a manner that provides for the health and safety of employees, volunteers, partners, residents and visitors. Updates will be posted at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm and social media platforms.