Predicting fall color to pose challenge

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Autumn is here Photo by Kerry Hays/Missouri State Parks Fall colors are already beginning to emerge around Roaring River State Park. The photo above shows the foliage along Highway 112 southwest of the park.

This year could prove to be a challenge in predicting the outlook for autumn color, according to Tim Smith, Roaring River State Park naturalist.

"I don't really know what the outlook is this year," said Smith. "Last year, we had a hot dry summer and spectacular foliage. This year, we have already seen some trees changing."

Smith said he has noticed that many Sassafras and Sumac trees have already started to develop fall color even though fall colors traditionally begin to appear in southwest Missouri in mid-October.

"If you look in the forest, you will see the trees are already starting to change," said Smith. "It could be a long, drawn-out fall color. With it starting out now, it may run the whole month of October."

Smith said he still expects the most vibrant color display to be viewed around Oct. 19, 20 and 21.

"I don't know if it will be as spectacular as last year," said Smith. "It will be interesting to see how the cool front impacts the fall color. The trees may change significantly over the next week."

Smith said fall color is impacted by the shortness of the days, cooler weather and moisture.

The fall foliage change traditionally begins when night-time lows fall into the 50s and 60s and trees stop producing green pigment. Sugars that are stored in leaves undergo chemical changes that result in a display of reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

Smith encourages local residents to visit Roaring River State Park or Sugar Camp Scenic Drive to view fall foliage. He said other good viewing spots can be found along Highways 112, 76/86 and 248.

"Any of the roads in southwest Missouri that go through the forest will offer good vantage points to view fall color," said Smith.

Community members will also have the opportunity to view fall foliage during a wild area hike at Roaring River State Park on Oct. 29. Individuals planning to take part in the hike should meet at the Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center in the park at 9 a.m.

"We will hike out Fire Tower Trail into the natural area," said Smith. "We will visit both the wild and natural areas of the Roaring River Hills."

Participants will hike around four miles. The trail will take hikers to the fire tower constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company #1713 in the 1930s.

"We will stop for lunch out there and plan to be back around 2 p.m.," said Smith.

Hikers must bring their own lunches, water and snacks. Participants are also encouraged to wear sturdy shoes and pack cameras and binoculars.

"Bring a day pack," said Smith. "This will be a nice hike into Roaring River State Park."

For more information, call the nature center at 847-3742.

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