Flashy fall foliage colors Ozarks countryside

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
The colorful berries of the Firethorn Shrub are just one sure sign that fall has settled in the Ozarks. Melonie Roberts Cassville Democrat

Weekend drives perfect time to view changing colors

Southwest Missouri is known for its nooks, crannies, highways and byways that meander through quaint towns, along country fencerows, through national forests and atop scenic overlooks that are prime real estate for leaf watchers in the fall.

In Cassville, Roaring River State Park is starting to dress in fall colors of red, yellow, orange and purple as the temperatures begin to dip and the days grow shorter.

"It looks like the colors will be very vibrant this year," said Kerry Hays, park manager. "The weather is cooler and the colors are amazing."

Hays said the park, located on Roaring River, is starting to see maples turn their varying shades of red and orange, and the hickories have started to turn.

"With the colors just starting to come out, we'll see a good six to eight weeks of fall foliage, depending on the weather," Hays said. "After the first hard frost, the leaves will start dropping. That said, we've seen 60 degree temperatures through December some years."

Dropping into the valley from Highway 112 into Roaring River State Park, motorists are greeted with a palette of Mother Nature's best colors.

"It's beautiful here," Hays said. "There is a lot to do here in the park. Anyone can go on the trails. It's also a great time of year to go through the wild areas. Hikers will see a variety of different eco-systems when they hike the trails."

But, leaves aren't the only attraction at the park.

"The beautiful part is eagles start turning up early in October," Hays said. "We have about 25 that winter here and we typically see them early in the morning and around sunset each evening when they come in to roost. Other wildlife guests might see are deer, waterfowl, Canadian geese, ducks and Great Blue Herons."

While the concessions shut down on Oct. 31, Campground No. 1 is open year round on the honor system. Fees are $19 per night.

"Just because the concessions are shut down doesn't mean the park is closed," Hayes said. "Everyone has their own thing to do, even in the off season. It's important that people realize there is always something to do at Roaring River State Park at any time of year."

The park has a scheduled wild area hike starting at 9 a.m. on Oct. 25, providing participants the opportunity to enjoy the foliage while taking part of the guided tour.

Avid fishermen might also choose continue their hobbies throughout the catch and release season, starting Nov. 14 and ending Feb. 9, 2015. Limited fishing hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Monday during those months.

The park can also provide a wealth of material for professional and amateur photographers, as well.

"When the snow is on the ground, the mist rises up and freezes to the branches of the trees along the river," Hayes said. "It's really beautiful."

Eagle viewing is also planned for 3 p.m. on Dec. 20 at the park.

So far, along some of the country roads and fencerows, Virginia creeper and poison ivy are starting to turn red, along with sassafras tucked in along woodland edges.

For those wanting a weekend getaway, an overnight trip to Eureka Springs, Ark., allows for plenty of opportunity to see the fall colors painted along the hills on the trip, but also enjoy some of the activities the small community has to offer, such as a night at the haunted Crescent or Basin Hotels. There are eight suggested fall foliage tour routes throughout scenic Arkansas: Crowley's Ridge Parkway, Great River Road National Scenic Byway, the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop, Talimena National Scenic Byway, Scenic 7 Byway, Pig Trail Scenic Byway, Interstate 530, and Mount Magazine Scenic Byway. For more information, people may visit www.arkansas.com/fall/fall-color-locations.

Those heading to Branson for a bit of sightseeing might also take the opportunity to take in a wine tasting and picnic among some of the area's scenic locations. Those include three self-guided driving tours: Table Rock Lake, Kimberling City; downtown Branson, Forsyth and Rockaway Beach; and Bull Shoals Lake, Peel Ferry, and Mark Twain National Forest. For more information, people may visit www.explorebranson.com/fall/drivingtours.

For those hoping to stretch the fall season out a little longer, Oklahoma's fall foliage peaks around Halloween and continues into November. Motorists can take in the sights of the foliage and the sounds of festivals by driving any of three suggested routes: Talimena Scenic Drive, the Ouachita National Forest, and the Chickasaw National Recreational Area. For more information, people may visit www.chiff.com/travel/oklahoma-foliage.htm.

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