North Alabama prime spot for vibrant fall foliage
Staff Report, Hartselle Enquirer
Alabama's mild summer should produce a very vibrant color change this fall. The North Alabama highlands will soon transform into a bright sea of yellow poplars, scarlet dogwoods, orange maples, and golden hickories. Fall colors traditionally peak in Alabama during early November.
Group Travel Leader magazine named North Alabama along with Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware as one of the top places for "falling in love with fall."
The magazine mentioned several Alabama state parks as great locations for viewing fall color. Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne, Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, and Cheaha State Park near Lineville are among top spots for fall color.
Alabama State Parks Director Mark Easterwood said there are several sites in these parks that are especially scenic during the fall color change. Joe Wheeler has a wonderful spot next to the dam and near the cabin area on the Lawrence County side. DeSoto boosts great autumn scenery at Little River Canyon and DeSoto Falls. Monte Sano has breathtaking views of the Tennessee Valley along the Warpath Ridge Trail and its overlook. Cheaha is the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level. Cheaha's Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock trails both have spectacular views. Other state park areas and fall color sites can be found in the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel's Fall Color Trail brochure.
The Alabama Bureau of Tourism &Travel provides leaf watchers with weekly updates on fall colors, recommended scenic drives, and special fall activities.
These weekly updates and copies of the Fall Color Trail brochure are available on the state tourism web site at www.800alabama.com or by calling 1-800- ALABAMA.
The Science of Fall
Several different factors go into producing Alabama's wonderful fall colors.
During the summer, leaves are given their green color by the chemical chlorophyll that the tree sends its leaves in order to conduct photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which trees take in sunlight and convert it into chemical energy while releasing oxygen. The shorter days and cooler temperatures of fall reduce the amount of chlorophyll the tree sends to its leaves. Since the chlorophyll is less and less in the leaves, the leaves begin turning from green to hues of yellow and orange color.
The vibrancy and variation of leaf color is determined by how much sugar is "trapped" in the leaf. The tree produces sugar during the warm afternoon, but it becomes trapped in the leaf when the night turns cool. The more sugar a leaf has trapped in it, the brighter its color will be and the more variations you will see of reds, bright oranges, and purples. The best colors result when there are sunny fall days, cool nights, and enough rainfall to keep the leaves from falling too soon.