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The Awesome Synchronous Fireflies of Congaree National Park (2024)

| Updated Mar 14, 2024

It's an amazing sight that happens every May: a mystery of nature known as the synchronous fireflies display in the Congaree National Park in South Carolina…

Each year, the fireflies somehow coordinate their blinking to turn on and their lights at precisely the same time. Thousands upon thousands of synchronous fireflies doing their thing in unison.

It's unlike anything you've ever seen before.

To see it, however, requires some planning. To protect the firefly habitat from overcrowding and to provide optimum visitor experience, tickets are required to enter the park during the event. Tickets are distributed through a lottery system.

Here's everything you need to know for a chance to see this incredible natural phenomenon…

When Is the Synchronous Fireflies Event at Congaree 2024?

The 2024 Synchronous Fireflies Viewing Event will take place May 16-25. To protect the fireflies and allow park staff and volunteers to prepare for the event, certain park areas will be closed to all visitors at 4:30 p.m. daily, May 16-25.

During this period, the following areas will be closed:

  • The Harry Hampton Visitor Center, boardwalk, and frontcountry hiking trails.
  • Bannister Bridge Canoe Launch.
  • Cedar Creek between Bannister Bridge and South Cedar Creek Canoe Launch.
  • Longleaf and Bluff Campgrounds

Plus, no backcountry camping permits will be issued during the period of the viewing event.

How Do You Get Tickets to the Congaree Synchronous Fireflies Event?

First off, set a reminder for April 4th on your calendar. That's when the ticket lottery kicks off at 10:00 a.m. EDT, and you'll have exactly one week until April 10th to throw your hat in the ring. Apply through the online lottery page. Entries are limited to one per household!

There's a $1 non-refundable fee to enter the lottery (pretty standard for these things). If you're one of the lucky ones chosen, there's an additional $24 event fee, making your total investment $25.

Not too shabby for a magical night under the stars, right?

Now, the event's super exclusive—only 145 passes are available for each night, ensuring that both the fireflies and visitors get the best experience. You'll know by April 16th whether you've got a pass or not.

How Many People Is the Pass Good For If You Win the Lottery?

Got a pass? Awesome! The pass allows one passenger vehicle with up to 8 people (up to 2 axles and that fits in a standard parking space) entry. During the event, vehicles such as RVs, vehicles with trailers, large passenger vans, buses or mini-buses, will not be admitted.

Just remember, the pass is for a specific date, can't be transferred, and once used, that's it.

As for event night, gates open at 7:00 p.m. and close sharp at 8:30. Don't be late, or you'll miss out on the show!

How Long Is the Synchronous Fireflies Event in Congaree?

Every year for approximately two weeks between mid-May and mid-June visitors to the synchronous fireflies festival at Congaree National Park can experience an awe-inspiring display of synchronous flashing while the fireflies search for a mate.

Congaree National park is one of a handful of locations in North America where one can experience the phenomenon of synchronous fireflies.

You can see the synchronous fireflies at Congaree National Park
You can see the synchronous fireflies at Congaree National Park

Be Prepared for Mosquitos

Unfortunately, Congaree is well-known for another insect that certainly isn't as appealing as fireflies. Yep, mosquitos. So much so that they even have a Mosquito Meter above the entrance to the national park visitor center.

The Awesome Synchronous Fireflies of Congaree National Park (2024) 1

The Mosquito Meter has a half-circle dial with an arrow that points to numbers 1-6.

The lowest in its range reads ‘all clear,’ the midpoint reads ‘severe,’ and at the top of the scale reads ‘war zone.’  

Visitors laugh at the meter but a ranger told us, “It’s no joke.  Lots of folks call us up and ask what the meter says before they come out here.”  

So, prepare to ward off mosquitos while enjoying the fireflies and while camping nearby. Be sure to check out the Best Mosquito Repellent Device for Camping (7 Options).

What Else To Do at Congaree National Park

A boardwalk lets you go deep into synchronous fireflies territory at the park
A boardwalk lets you go deep into synchronous firefly territory at the park

Located about fifteen miles southeast of Columbia, South Carolina, it sits at the heart of an international biosphere reserve of the same name.  The entire park is designated wilderness, more than 25,000 acres of it, and many square miles of surrounding countryside contribute to the complete reserve.  

Two newspaper editors, both of whom were sportsmen, began to promote the idea of protecting the area in the early 1960s.  By 1976 it was a national monument, and was designated a national park in 2003.

When it became a park, it had been a biosphere reserve for more than twenty years.  Both the Congaree River and Cedar Creek run through this lush (and mosquito-infested) bottomland forest.  

It is the largest tract of virgin bottomland forest left in the USA and has the largest tract of uncut deciduous temperate forest in the world.  The largest known examples of fifteen tree species can be found on its acres, including a persimmon that tops out over 200 feet, and many oaks that rise more than 130 feet above the wet forest floor.

Congaree Nationsl Park home of the synchronous fireflies display each May and June
Congaree National Park home of the synchronous fireflies display each May and June

As you might expect, both the tree cover and the insect food supply make it a haven for birds, and it is internationally known for both variety and population.  

There are more than 25 miles of hiking trails, almost entirely flat, more than two miles of boardwalks, and an excellent canoe trail along Cedar Creek.  The entire park is open to canoeing and kayaking, subject to seasonal flooding and other safety concerns.

Unless you’ve been in a forest like this, it’s hard to convey what it’s like.  The trees tower overhead, their leaves many dozens of feet above your head.  

Very little vegetation grows at ground level, so there’s a vast sense of spaciousness interrupted only by the giant trunks rising intO the distance above you.  Birds sing, insects hum, and something is always falling from up there somewhere—acorns, leaves, twigs, you name it.  

In the water or on the wet ground you can see snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, and little fish.  You might easily imagine yourself transported back a thousand years to the time when only Native Americans hunted here.

Have You Seen the Synchronous Fireflies?

If you've been lucky enough to see the synchronous fireflies, please share your experience in the comments below. We'd love to hear any tips or insights you might be able to share.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2024-03-14

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

4 Responses to “The Awesome Synchronous Fireflies of Congaree National Park (2024)”

June 02, 2020at5:35 pm, Leslie said:

We love nearby and have seen the Firefly Festival grow tremendously. Of note last year the boardwalk was reserved for handicap access only. There is a path set up for you to view the fireflies from at ground level. We enjoy walking the loop several times as you can see the full effect of the fireflies. Also only use red light so to not interrupt the fireflies also keep voices low.


May 18, 2020at8:31 am, 8 Best Bike Trails In The U.S. | RV Lifestyle said:

[…] listening to one of our recent podcasts for the RV […]


May 17, 2020at8:01 am, Bev Parkison said:

We visited in early November 2018 and there were no mosquitos. Paddling the creek through the giant cypress trees was an unforgettable experience. The boardwalk areas are stunning. I highly recommend a visit to this wonderful national park.


May 16, 2020at10:10 pm, Paul said:

If you’d like to learn more about fireflies, Lynn Frierson Faust was recently a guest on Creature Comforts (a production of MPB Think Radio). You can listen to the podcast at

Ms. Faust authored “Fireflies, Glow-Worms, and Lightning Bugs: Identification and Natural History of the Fireflies of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada”:

Want to learn more?


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