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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Check out the fall color updates

How do I find out about Arkansas Foliage?

The Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism has a network of fall color spotters in every region updating weekly. This information is reported, and available by 5 p.m. Central Time each Thursday for nine weeks. Arkansas provides this information so travelers can make plans to see the foliage on the weekends. Reports are available by calling 1-800-NATURAL (answered live 24 hours a day) or (501) 682-7777 (normal business hours only). You can also order an Arkansas Vacation Planning Kit by calling either of these numbers. Check our Web site: for updates and a wealth of other travel information. And plan a stop at one of the 13 Arkansas State Welcome Centers.

What are the Fall Foliage Regions?

Foliage changes in these three regions are described: northwest/north central Arkansas (Ozarks), central Arkansas/Ouachita Mountains and southern/eastern Arkansas. We report specific areas and highways during peak color times.

Where are the Best Locations in Arkansas to see the brilliant hues of autumn?

The Natural State has a variety of scenic drives that afford great viewing. They are located all over the state and are denoted on the official Arkansas State Highway Map with a yellow highway symbol. Picturesque town squares; the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains; city, state and federal parks, plus the Ozark, St. Francis and Ouachita National Forests also provide terrific vantage points for viewing the oranges, reds, greens, yellows, and bronzes of fall.

Why Do Leaves Begin to Change?

There are three primary factors responsible for the color changing process in the fall. The first is how the leaves produce food. The leaves use sunlight via photosynthesis, carbon dioxide, water and other nutrients from the soil to provide the tree with food. The different trees’ leaves react differently and have different pigments including carotenoids (yellows and oranges), anthocyanin (deep reds to purples to blues) and chlorophyll (greens). Chlorophyll is the second factor. The shortened amount of sunlight in the days slows down the chemical change in the production of chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color during spring and summer. When the days grow shorter, the chlorophyll lacks the sunlight needed so it breaks down into sugars allowing the red, yellow and orange hues to show through. The third and last factor that affects fall foliage is the weather.

How Does Weather Affect Fall Foliage?

Weather patterns during September and October (in Arkansas) are very important for fall foliage. Leaves produce sugars for food during the day but cooler temperatures at night keep these sugars from moving out of the leaves and into the tree, meaning warm days and cool nights at the beginning of fall are very good for production of red, yellow and orange colors.

When everything comes together at the same time, we enjoy a statewide outbreak of vibrant colors that are always present in one area or another each year. Most years, great color appears in different regions at various times in October and November, and knowing when makes the weekly updates valuable.

Does Rain Affect Fall Foliage?

Rainfall affects fall foliage because it provides us with healthy trees. A drier autumn helps keep the leaves intact on the trees. Sunny days and cool, crisp nights are the best weather conditions to produce fall colors. Frost and freezing conditions can destroy the colorful foliage.

When Do the Leaves Change?

Color change usually begins in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas in late September or early October. The trees in central Arkansas and the Ouachita mountain range of west central Arkansas are changing noticeably by early to mid-October. Southern and eastern Arkansas foliage usually begins changing during mid-October. But most people are more interested in the "peak" of color, the period of a week or so when the foliage in a particular area is at its best. Historically, the peak occurs during late October or early November in the Ozarks, early November in central and western Arkansas and early to mid-November in the southern and eastern regions. This is an average and varies from year-to-year.

What Trees Will I See?

Here’s a short list of foliage that changes early in Arkansas and the color(s) they are likely to display:

· Blackgum (red)
· Hickory (yellow)

· Sassafras (red, orange or yellow)

· Sweetgum (red, yellow or purple)
· Red Maple (red, yellow or orange)

· Dogwood (brownish red)

· Poison Ivy and Poison Oak (red)

· Sumac (red)

· Buckeye (red)

When Should I Go?

Foliage looks great shortly before peak, too. Never wait until the last minute to visit an area of outstanding color. Only fragile stems hold the colorful leaves onto the trees and wind, rain, hail or frost can bring an end to color in an area in a matter of hours. Plan to stay a few days and let the foliage serve as a backdrop for camping, hiking, canoeing, photography, scenic highway tours, craft fairs, fishing and other favorite autumn activities.

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