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Smoky Mountain’s fall colors building to late October peak

Smoky Mountain’s fall colors building to late October peak

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 8:02 pm

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — It’s almost show time in the great outdoors of Tennessee.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweet gums, red maples, and hickories are among about 100 species of native trees primping to give leaf peepers another flashy autumn parade, along with wildflowers such as skunk goldenrod and ironweed.
Tennessee Forestry Division spokesman Tim Phelps said Monday that fall color is still patchy but is leading up to expected late October peaks in the Smokies and Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee and an early November peak in the lower elevation Cumberlands.
Phelps said dry, crisp weather enhances fall color but long spans without rain in southeastern Tennessee have caused some trees to go dormant early.
Visitors can get foliage forecasts from telephone hotlines and online sites such as http://www.thegreatsmokymountains.org/fall—leaf—color and http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/fallColors.php
Smokies spokeswoman Nancy Gray said “there always are areas in the Smokies that just are spectacular.”
In the park’s high elevations the show has already started. At 6,643 foot-high Clingmans Dome along the ridge that is half in North Carolina and is the highest point in Tennessee, some trees have already lost their leaves. Gray said the park several weeks ago “had a dusting of snow in the highest elevations.”
Through mid-October, the fall display develops above 4,000 feet and usually reaches its peak at mid and lower elevations between mid-October and early November.
Gray said the park, unlike some areas to the south, has had plenty of rain and there’s no reason the color won’t provide spectacular views.
“Fall in the Smokies is good any year,” Gray said.
Terry McDonald, a spokesman for the Cherokee National Forest that the park divides into northern and southern sections, said in an email there is already fall color at higher elevations.
McDonald said that until recent rains in southeastern Tennessee some leaves “were turning brown quickly and dropping off, without much if any gradual color change.”
He said that rain relieved some stress on trees and the “browning out” slowed.
“We’re starting to see some gradual normal leaf color change scattered throughout the forest,” his email said. “It is hard to predict but the normal peak color period is toward the end of October.”
Tom Adkinson, a spokesman for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, said recently that in the foothills of America’s most visited national park foliage is “starting to turn just a little bit.”
“The conditions are right this year,” Adkinson said. “Everybody in town wants cool clear days and crisp nights.”
Adkinson said records from a city gross receipts tax in the foothills of the park show visitation has been up slightly compared to last year, which rebounded some from downturns in 2008 and 2009.
“The typical Pigeon Forge visitor comes multiple times for short visits through the year,” he said.
Summer is busiest but “October will usually show up as the third or fourth busiest volume month,” Adkinson said.
At Lookout Mountain, William Moorman of Woodstock, N.Y., was among visitors enjoying a breezy recently outside the top Incline Railway station. Moorman said he and his wife drove through some fall colors on their trip.
“I don’t think they are here just yet,” he said of the view from the 1,800-foot elevation mountain that overlooks Chattanooga and northwest Georgia.

Published in The Messenger 10.19.11

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