Congaree National Park will be offering the public opportunities to view the park’s fireflies May 20 through 22, and May 27 through 29.
There are only three species of synchronous flashing fireflies that can be found in North America, out of 2,000 species. The insects hang around the park for approximately two weeks, while searching for a mate. During this time, visitors can witness a beautiful natural occurrence of synchronized flashing.
This year's fireflies event will look different than years past.
In order to protect the health of visitors, staff, volunteers and community partners, viewing will be limited to 25 vehicles per night, according to park officials. Tickets will be available through a lottery system hosted at recreation.gov/ticket/facility/300008, and guests will be required to enter the park on those dates.
The lottery will open at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 15 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 19. The results will be announced April 23. A non-refundable service fee of $1 will be charged by Recreation.gov to enter the lottery. Participants who are selected through the lottery will be required to pay a non-refundable $19 event fee to secure tickets ($20 total), park officials noted.
Tickets will only be issued for passenger vehicles up to two axles that can fit in standard parking spaces (i.e. no motor homes, vehicles with trailers, buses or mini-buses). Lottery details, rules and additional firefly viewing information may be found at nps.gov/cong/fireflies.htm.
“At our most recent fireflies event, over 12,000 visitors came to the park to view the fireflies and on some nights we welcomed over 2,000 visitors,” said Superintendent K. Lynn Berry. “After consulting with public health officials, we determined that a smaller-scale event would be a wise decision. The lottery system, which is based on the one that has been used for a similar fireflies event at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for years, seemed to be the fairest way of determining who will have access each night. We understand that this is a big change from previous years, but the lottery allows us to provide access to firefly viewing in a way that helps ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for participants while also protecting firefly habitat.”
The park entrance road will also be closed to all visitors at 4 p.m. nightly beginning Tuesday, May 11 through Sunday, May 30, to further protect critical firefly habitat. Visitors will not have access to the Harry Hampton Visitor Center, frontcountry trails or the Boardwalk on those dates. However, the following areas of the park will remain open to the public those evenings: Cedar Creek Canoe Trail, including South Cedar Creek and Bannister Bridge Canoe Landings, Bates Ferry Trail, Fork Swamp Trail and all of the park's backcountry.
Visitors are required to wear face masks in federal buildings including visitor centers, historic structures, and museums. When outdoors, face masks are required on NPS-managed lands when physical distance cannot be maintained, according to park officials.
More information about viewing the fireflies can be found at nps.gov/cong/fireflies.htm.