Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the transportation schedule for visitor use during the mating period of the synchronous firefly beetles at Elkmont. The plan, coinciding with the expected peak flashing period, will be in operation from June 8-16, 2007.
In order to more safely accommodate an anticipated large turnout for this year, the City of Gatlinburg trolley service will once again operate transportation between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont. The trolleys will start at 6 p.m. picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area. The trolleys will continually run until the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area is full or until 9 p.m., whichever comes first. The last trolley to transport visitors from Elkmont to the Sugarlands Visitor Center is scheduled at 11 p.m. The cost will be $1 round trip per person.
The Gatlinburg trolley service will be the sole transportation mode for visitor access during this period; no private vehicles will be allowed. In order to accommodate the public transportation, starting at 5:30 p.m. each night June 8-16, the Elkmont entrance will be closed except to registered campers staying at Elkmont.
The annual appearance of the synchronous firefly beetles in the Park has become so popular that Park officials began managing the number of visitors to the trailhead. This area has very limited parking spaces that were designed to accommodate day use for several trails. The dates that the mating behavior begins can vary each year due to weather and other natural factors, but generally starts around the second week in June and lasts for about two weeks.
"The public who visit this area for the purpose of watching fireflies in the dark should recognize this is a natural environment with no other restrooms or other facilities and that
the fireflies flashing synchrony becomes more apparent later in the night," said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "So for those catching the early trolleys, there will be several hours before the fireflies come out," he explained.
In order to provide a safe and enjoyable experience, the following procedures will be in effect during the firefly managed viewing period June 8-16 in the Elkmont area:
It is recommended visitors bring flashlights with red cellophane covers to reduce white light. Coolers and alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Visitors can bring lawn chairs, and carry food and water in backpacks that can fit on their laps in the trolleys; there are no services available. Dogs/pets are not allowed on the trolleys or on the trail.
"No Parking" at the Little River Trailhead will be enforced. The Little River Trailhead parking area will be used to serve as a turn-around area for the trolleys. Starting at 5:30 p.m., the public will not be allowed to access the Elkmont Entrance Road, except for those camping at the Elkmont Campground. Park Rangers will be stationed at the intersection of Little River Road and the Elkmont Entrance Road to manage this restriction.