Fall color should be spectacular

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Recent weather patterns should produce some colorful fall foliage this year. The string of sunny days and cooler nights is expected to make the changing leaves more vivid.

Fall color is expected to peak in southwest Missouri during the last two weeks of October, according to Ozark Forestry Regional Supervisor Tom Draper.

"My gut tells me the maples, dogwoods, black gum and sumac will be spectacular this year," said Draper. "Hurricane Gustav and Ike pumped a lot of moisture into the Ozarks, so trees will sustain their vigor, which should set the stage for a very good fall color show in the Ozarks."

Some of the prime viewing spots for fall foliage in Barry County can be found along Sugar Camp Road in the Mark Twain National Forest, the Shell Knob overlook on Highway 39 and along the trails that run through Roaring River State Park.

Foresters around the state agree that 2008 is likely to be a fall season to remember. Last year, thousands of trees were damaged in ice storms and normally colorful leaves were drab due to unseasonably cold temperatures in the fall.

Weather this fall has been remarkably moderate, and Missouri has broken out of a drought cycle that has plagued the state for the past five years. Night-time lows in the 50s and 60s are causing chlorophyll in the leaves to break down, which allows other colors such as reds, yellows and oranges to reveal themselves.

Area residents will have a unique opportunity to view fall colors during the four-mile Roaring River Hills Wild Area Hike, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 25.

The wild area encompasses 2,075 acres of Roaring River State Park, which are set aside for hiking, bird watching, biological research and enjoying the Ozark hills and hollows.

Interested hikers should meet at the Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center at 9 a.m. The hike will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. Participants are asked to bring a lunch, daypack, canteen, binoculars and a camera. Proper clothing and sturdy footwear are also recommended.

For more information on the Roaring River Hills Wild Area Hike, call the Nature Center at 847-3742.

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