While spotting a group of fireflies in the night sky is nothing short of magical, this national park in South Carolina may just have the ultimate experience.
Found in Congaree National Park, a rare species of fireflies — called synchronous fireflies — put on a stunning light show during their spring mating season, drawing thousands of visitors from across the nation and heralding the start of summer.
The natural phenomenon only occurs two weeks between mid-May and mid-June in Congaree, and this year, the public viewing dates are set for May 20-22 and May 27-29, 2022. During those six evenings, visitors can enter the park after hours to see this rare spectacle light up the dark hardwood forest.
Passes to view the event are limited, with visitation capped at 120 vehicles per day.
To get one of the coveted vehicle passes, you’ll need to enter the pass lottery at Recreation.gov. The lottery opens on Thursday, March 31 at 10 a.m. EST and closes on Wednesday, April 6 at 10 a.m. EST, winners will be notified on April 14.
When entering the lottery, you’ll need to enter the date you would like to visit and a credit card to pay the $1 non-refundable application fee (charged to all applicants). Lottery winners will be charged an additional $19 for a vehicle parking pass (bringing the cost to $20 total).
Only one application per household is accepted and there are no refunds, transfers, or reservation changes allowed. In addition, only standard vehicles will be admitted to the park — no motor homes, vehicles with trailers, buses, or mini buses are allowed.
On the big day, passholders can enter the firefly viewing area at 6:30 p.m. (well after the park closes at 4 p.m.) and stay until 10 p.m.
The best time to view the fireflies is just after dark, usually between 9 and 10 p.m.