How to see the fireflies in Congaree National Park.
South Carolina, United States

How to See the Fireflies in Congaree National Park in 2020

You might not believe your eyes, but millions of fireflies will light up South Carolina this spring! That’s right. May 2020 welcomes the return of the synchronous fireflies in Congaree National Park, a rare phenomenon that few are lucky enough to experience. Whether you’re young or young at heart, come on down to Congaree and enjoy the magic of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 spectacular.

After you see the fireflies in Congaree National Park, make sure to visit some these other amazing hidden gems in South Carolina. From ancient ruins and sunflower fields to haunted cemeteries and historic cities, there are endless ways to explore in The Palmetto State.


What Are Synchronous Fireflies?

Whether you called them fireflies or lightning bugs, we all grew up with fond memories of these magical little creatures. Maybe you chased them around the yard as a child. Perhaps you admired them twinkling in the tall grass just after dusk. But if you’ve never seen the synchronous fireflies at Congaree, you are missing out on the experience of a lifetime!

Synchronous fireflies are one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders — and also one of the most rare. There are only three species that can be found in North America. Unlike your average lightning bugs, synchronous fireflies all flash in unison. The phenomenon, known as bioluminescence, is a mating ritual that causes them to light up at exactly the same moment. The result? A stunning light show that is much too beautiful for words!

How to See the Congaree National Park Fireflies in 2020

If you get excited seeing just one lightning bug, imagine seeing thousands all at once! Bring your friends, bring your significant other, or come solo, and see it all for yourself at Congaree National Park. Your journey begins from the moment you arrive at the nature preserve. Take a moonlit stroll through the enchanting woodlands, follow the Firefly Trail, and watch the magic unfold before your eyes! 

While anyone could attend the 2019 Fireflies Festival at Congaree National Park, there are a few changes this year. In 2020, there is a nightly limit to the number of visitors allowed in the park. You can still attend the festival, but you’ll want to make reservations ahead of time. This change was made to prevent overcrowding, protect the fireflies, and provide an enjoyable viewing experience for everyone. Admission and parking are free. Just make sure to plan ahead so you don’t miss out! 

When Is the Best Time to See the Congaree Fireflies in 2020?

There are no exact dates for the firefly festival: it’s entirely up to Mother Nature! However, based on previous years, the park has scheduled the festival dates for May 11-24, 2020. No matter which day you decide to go, plan to arrive just after dark (around 8:30 p.m.). The best time to view the fireflies is typically between 9 and 10 p.m.

Tips Before You Go

Before you attend the Congaree National Park Firefly Festival, there are a few things you should know:

1. Leave Flashlights and Cameras at Home

Unless you are a professional photographer, it’s nearly impossible to get a good photo of the fireflies (trust us, we’ve tried). Leave the camera behind and just enjoy being in the moment!

Flash photography, headlamps, flashlights, and phone screens are strictly prohibited as they interfere with the fireflies. If you do bring your phone, however, the park staff will provide you with a red screen cover to dim the light. 

2. Do Not Capture the Fireflies

While it may feel nostalgic to capture the fireflies in mason jars, this is not allowed at Congaree National Park.

3. Wear Close-Toed Shoes

Keep in mind that you’ll be walking through a dark forest with very little light. It’s possible to step on a root or tree stump, so make sure to wear reasonable shoes!

4. Limit Noise

Fireflies move away from light and sound, so try to keep noise levels to a minimum. You’ll see more of them if you’re as quiet as possible.

More Things to Do at Congaree National Park

From fishing and kayaking to hiking and biking, Congaree National Park has something for every outdoor enthusiast! Get out and explore miles of scenic nature trails, enjoy a relaxing paddle along Cedar Creek, or cast a line right from the shore. Want to stay overnight? There are also beautiful campgrounds for visitors who’d like to sleep beneath the stars. Just make reservations with the park ahead of time! 

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