The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its great diversity of species, including 65 species of mammals. The raccoon, known as the “masked bandit” is an intelligent, mostly nocturnal mammal. Fully grown, raccoons weigh from 8-14 pounds, and live up to 7 years old. They feed on many aquatic species such as frogs or crayfish, and the nests of both birds and turtles. In the fall, acorns are the food of choice, helping build up their fat stores for the winter. Raccoons can be found from Canada to Central America and have an average home range of 200-500 acres, mostly along stream courses. You can help raccoons stay wild by keeping your trash put away, as they are frequent visitors to camprounds, such as Elkmont, or Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Up the Creek RV Camp in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the Elkmont Campground located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to witness the naturally occurring phenomenon of “Photinus carolinas,” a firefly species known for flashing synchronously. There are 19 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but Photinus carolinas is the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.

Fireflies (also called lightning bugs) are beetles. Their light patterns are part of their mating display. Each species of firefly has a characteristic flash pattern that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other. Most species produce a greenish-yellow light. The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash.
It is not understood why the fireflies flash synchronously. The fireflies do not always flash in unison, and instead flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.

The firefly shuttle operating dates are June 2-9, 2015. Advance reservations of parking passes have sold out, however, 85 parking passes will be available for each day of the event. These 85 passes will go on sale online at 10:00 a.m. the day before the event. Passes can be purchased online at or by calling (877) 444-6777. During the program operating dates, a parking pass is required for evening access tp the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot and the firefly shuttle to the Elkmont viewing Area.

Elkmont is not the only place to view synchronous fireflies. On many occasions, synchronous fireflies have made an appearance at Up the Creek RV Camp in Pigeon Forge, TN.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is commonly observed at Up the Creek RV Camp. Readily attracted to bird feeders, it spends much of its time laboriously carrying seeds away to hide them in crevices. It gets its name from its habit of jamming large nuts and acorns into tree bark, then whacking them with its sharp bill to “hatch” out the seed from the inside. White-breasted Nuthatches are agile birds that creep along trunks and large branches, often turning sideways and upside down on vertical surfaces as they forage.

White-breasted Nuthatches are loud, and often their persistent nasal calls will lead you right to them. The largest nuthatch, it has a large head and almost no neck, with a very short tail and a long, narrow bill that is straight or slightly upturned.

White-breasted Nuthatches are blue-gray on the back, with a white face and underparts. The black or gray cap and neck frame the face. The lower belly and under the tail are often chestnut. You can identify the White-breasted Nuthatch and many other native birds while camping in Pigeon Forge at Up the Creek RV Camp.

May 9-13, 2017, is Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Last year, the International Festivals & Events Association awarded Wilderness Wildlife Week as the “Best International Event of 2016”. Most events including demonstrations, classes, storytelling, and a photography contest will take place at the Leconte Center in Pigeon Forge. Outdoor Excursions are also part of the event, including guided walks to Charlies Bunion, Walker Sisters’ Cabin, Mount LeConte, Grotto Falls, Goshen Prong, and Porters Creek, and historic bus tours of Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Pittman Center and Cosby. Whitewater rafting, tubing and birding safaris are also on the schedule.

From the beginning, Wilderness Wildlife Week was intended to be an event, “committed to the education and enjoyment of the public as to the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” With the creation of an enjoyable and enriching series of walks, talks, workshops, and informative exhibits, participants are encouraged to experience the abundant opportunities available in our beautifully diverse area. Wilderness Wildlife Week has since expanded into a celebration of wildlife throughout this country in “an attempt to illustrate how all things are truly connected.”

For more information, including a schedule of events for Wilderness Wildlife Week visit

Up the Creek RV Camp has campsite openings for this event. Call 865-453-8474 to reserve your campsite in the Smokies!