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(Updated 11/22/2005)


With gas prices climbing up and colorful leaves tumbling down, Southeast travelers can rest easy that they don't have to go far to enjoy spectacular fall foliage. Through October and early November, Leaf Watch 2005  will help leaf peepers track fall color at state parks throughout Georgia, tempting them to stay in state this autumn.
 
BEST PARKS FOR FALL COLOR

TIPS FOR RESERVATIONS

SAFE HIKING TIPS

WHY LEAVES CHANGE COLORS

COLORATION OF GEORGIA TREES

BEST PARKS FOR FALL COLOR

This year, the state has seen fairly warm temperatures and a good amount of rain, causing leaves to be not as bright as past years ~ but also to still be on the trees later in the season. Since Mother Nature determines when ~ and how quickly ~ leaves change color, predicting the best time to visit can be difficult. For this reason, the parks below provide weekly updates on their autumn leaves. But remember, Mother Nature can change her mind, and conditions can change overnight.

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MOUNTAIN PARKS
Parks in the mountains usually have the most vivid color, which can bring out leaf peepers in large numbers. For a quieter experience, visit during the week or explore the longer hiking trails.

Amicalola Falls State Park, Dawsonville ~ Most of the color has faded and leaves are steadily falling off the trees. The color came and went very quickly, but was enjoyable while it lasted. Even though the color is gone, there is still much to see. Winter berries now adorn the forest where there once were leaves, and views and vistas only available in winter can be enjoyed throughout the park.

Black Rock Mountain State Park, Mountain City ~ Leaf season for 2005 has come and gone here on the Blue Ridge crest.  The leaves are down and so are the temperatures, with our morning lows close to 20 degrees the last several days.  Black Rock Mountain's fall color, while delayed and somewhat brief, was certainly pretty while it lasted, but "winter-looking" woods are beautiful, too, and mountain vistas can be enjoyed by hikers all along our highest trails.  Come with a sweater, yes, but come nevertheless.  It's still a wonderful time to visit this part of Georgia!

Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn ~ Autumn is over at Cloudland Canyon.  Heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday have left the trees bare but for sparse foliage on the Red Maples. Temperatures have dropped significantly but are still wonderful for long hikes on the park; bring a coat and gloves. And there is finally some water in the creeks and the falls are perking up again. With the leaves down park views have never been better.

Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth ~ The Autumn colors are still good, but the leaves are beginning to fall rather quickly. Most of the poplars are nearly completely bare as well as some oaks. Yellows, reds, oranges, and browns are still visible across the mountain tops. At present, forest conditions are extremely dry. Please use caution with all outdoor activities to prevent forest fires.

Moccasin Creek State Park, Clarkesville ~ There is still isolated areas along the mountains and senic Highway 197 that has some color. Some of the rhododendrons are blooming due the previous cold snap and then a sudden warming trend. Viewing the waterfalls just off the park and surrounding areas should be exciting with forest canopy opened up. Hiking and camping should be great with the warm temperatures.

Red Top Mountain State Park & Lodge, Cartersville ~ The featured trail this month is Lakeside. It is a loop trail that begins and ends at the Lodge, so you can walk either direction. It is paved and handicapped accessible, with wooden park swings and benches that over look the lake. This one-mile long trail is level and follows the shoreline. A section of trail from the rear of the Lodge to the Log Cabin is next to a field, so there is an area of Sun for the Sun worshippers. The forest is a mixed blend of tall loblolly pines with a variety of hardwoods. The black Tupelo is one of first to make a fall showing with a bright scarlet. The sweet gums are starting to turn red, which is a good color mix with the ripe sweet gum balls. A bonus of the trail this time of year is the high water mark that shows the summer shoreline. The water level has been lowered for the winter and items normally beneath the water are revealed. After the hike, stop in at the restaurant for a snack or a full meal.

Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, Helen ~ The leaves have really started to fall rapidly this past week. Some pockets of color remain throughout the woods. Red Maples, purplish Sweetgum, bronze Oak play against the green of pine needles. There is more dappled sunlight in the woods as they open up; this, and the crunch of fallen leaves add nice dimensions to hikes. A rigorous hike up Shallowford Road and down Tower will show some pretty stretches of leaf color and views of the mountains at these higher elevations. There is a guided hike for the public on November 22 at 1:00 p.m. (call to pre-register). Please call ahead to check the public hunting schedule ~~ on some days that would preclude longer hikes.

Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls ~ Most of the leaves have blown off the trees here at Tallulah Gorge State Park. The remainder are either completely brown or have very little color left. Nevertheless, with one more whitewater boating weekend, there are many more opportunities to enjoy the scenery as well as the excitement of water releases & kayakers in the gorge. Furthermore this weekend,our visiting artist is Alan R. Young, Georgia's premier wild bird artist.

Unicoi State Park, Helen ~ The peak colors of Unicoi have come and gone, though there are some reminants of orange and yellow on a small portion of the poplars and oaks. The ground is scattered with leaves, which provide a relaxed feel when exploring one of our trails. This time of the year you can expect much different views of the mountains that this area has to offer. Mornings and evenings are very cool, be sure to pack an extra layer of clothing.

Vogel State Park, Blairsville ~ The trees at Vogel are settling in for a long winter's nap. They have lost their leaves. This is not to say that the woods are not beautiful. This is a perfect time to take a hike on one of the park trails. With the leaves gone, the views through the forest are exceptional. You are able to see sights that cannot be seen during other seasons. Take a walk to a secluded spot and then just sit. Wait for the wildlife to become active again as you sit there quietly. You will be surprised at what you will see and hear. Like humans they too are getting ready for a cold season.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park, Comer ~ This has been a somewhat "bland" year for leaf watching as Mother Nature has treated us to a warm and dry fall season. The "peak" color came late and passed in a hurry as we are now beginning to see the final stages of late fall before the wintertime takes over until spring. There are only a few leaves left - but this is just another part of the beautiful seasons of our outdoor landscape.

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NORTHERN GEORGIA

These parks have some of the same tree species as those in the mountains and are not as heavily visited during autumn. Some are on lakes, giving boaters a chance to enjoy fall color.

Fort Yargo State Park, Winder ~ The leaves are almost gone at Fort Yargo. We have some maples and oak leaves left after the heavy rain, but the majority of the trees are already barren. We had a quick leaf season this year with the dry weather we have had. There are several areas that are still beautiful including Picnic Area #2 and the Public Fishing Area. We would love to have you visit this holiday weekend and enjoy our hiking and mountain bike trails or have a picnic with your family.

Hart State Park, Hartwell ~ There are a few leaves still hanging on. There are some roadside maples and dogwoods that still show color. A hike along one of our trails is still enjoyable with cool, crisp air, and a fantastic view of Lake Hartwell.

Sweetwater Creek State Park, Lithia Springs ~ It is still a time of lovely color here at Sweetwater Creek State Park, however it is past it's glorious peak of last week. There are many leaves remaining on the trees of various hues with the most dramatic being the reds of the maples and oaks and the golden yellows of the hickories. Come enjoy the nine miles of trails through our glorious hardwood forests.

Tugaloo State Park, Lavonia ~ The leaves here at Tugaloo are almost gone. Another week and it will be over. Still some pretty sites from the lake. The wind is starting to blow every day and the leaves are falling fast.

Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston ~ Things have not really changed much this passed week. There are a few colors hanging around, but the forest is mostly bare. The leaves keep falling thus making an inviting hike much more exhilarating with the crunch of leaves under every step. There is strill time to enjoy the pre-winter park before the harsh winter cold gets here.

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MIDDLE GEORGIA

Not as vivid as parks in the mountains, these still have pretty autumn color and a good chance for solitude in the wilderness.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain ~ It is like a painter has taken his brush and speckled the landscape with of gold, mustard, and cinnabar colors. Join for this variety pallet of hues that pop up through the landscape.

Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge ~ The morning sky was majestic~~clouds piled on clouds, sea-blue skies, a rainbow over the golf course~~usually a sign of a great change in the weather. Sure enough, this afternoon a cold wind began to bluster across Hard Labor Creek State Park, pushing out what few clouds held a small hope for rain, and causing leaf showers throughout the forest. Many leaves are still clinging to the branches, though color is fading. It's the time for kicking up piles with your feet while you hike the trails, and time to appreciate the symmetry and starkness of the emerging Fall landscape; the time when the warmth of a blazing red-oak campfire can't be beat!

High Falls State Park, Jackson ~ The leaf color at High Falls State Park reached peak late last week and the trees almost simultaneously dropped their leaves.  At this junction, the cooler temperatures make for pleasant hiking conditions along our 2.5 mile trail that is covered with the dropped foliage.  Come and enjoy what's left to see of mid-November fall color.

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SOUTH GEORGIA
Autumn's cool weather makes this the perfect time to visit these parks. Some tree species and many wildflowers offer pretty colors this time of year.

Providence Canyon State Park, Lumpkin ~ We have very few leaves left, but we are still seeing a little bit of color in the red sumac, the golden leaves of the sassafras and some red dogwood. Sweetgum trees have very few leaves left, but what is left are many different shades. The tulip poplar have still got a few large yellow leaves and the oaks are browning and have started to fall.

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo ~ Although most of the best colors will be gone by the end of this weekend, there will probably be about one more week of viewing in the Okefenokee. Some of the black gum is still ranging from a bright red to a slightly darker red. All of the cypress have lost the green of summer and are now starting to change from a bright orange red to more of a brown color as the needles begin to fall. As the shrubs and smaller trees begin to lose their fall foliage, the green leaves and red berries of the dahoon holly have become more visible.


TIPS FOR RESERVATIONS

Because autumn is one of the busiest times to visit north Georgia, cottage reservations are almost always needed. Reservations are accepted 11 months in advance, which means most mountain cottages are already booked for October weekends. If you want a cottage for an October weekend, make your reservation the first morning that they are accepted. It is not unusual for the most popular cottages to be booked by that afternoon. (Hint: mark your calendars to call THIS November for reservations NEXT October.)

Campsites and lodge rooms do not book as quickly as cottages; however, they are still in high demand. Make camping and lodge reservations as soon as possible. To avoid crowds, visit during the week or explore parks in middle and south Georgia. Of course, cancellations do occur, so you might find a last-minute reservation by calling 1-800-864-7275.

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SAFE HIKING TIPS

No one ever plans to get lost, but it does sometimes happen. Each year, Georgia’s park rangers spend numerous hours searching for hikers who did not return on time, slipped on waterfalls, got off the trail or encountered other problems. Rescue teams average 50 responses each year. Follow these tips from the pros for a fun and safe dayhike.

Tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Don’t forget to check in with them when you get back.

Stay on marked trails. Making shortcuts, cutting through switchbacks and exploring areas off the trail causes erosion and greatly increases your chance of becoming lost. As you hike, pay attention to trail blazes (paint marks on trees) and landmarks. A double blaze indicates a change in trail direction.

Never climb on waterfalls. Many injuries and deaths occur on waterfalls.

All hikers should carry a whistle. Three short blasts on a whistle is a sign of distress. Also carry a small emergency kit with waterproof matches and energy snacks.
Teach children to “hug a tree” if they become lost. This means staying in one place so that rescue personnel can find them more easily. Also, tell children to answer if they hear someone calling their name in the woods.

Carry plenty of drinking water and never assume stream water is safe to drink. Frequent hikers might consider buying a water filter at an outdoor supply store.
Don’t count on cell phones to work in the wilderness, but if they do, be able to give details about your location. Telling rescue personnel that you’re lost by a big tree won’t help much as telling which trailhead you started from and how long you’ve been hiking.

Invest in good hiking socks such as those found at sporting goods stores. Avoid blisters by carrying “moleskin” and applying it as soon as you feel a hot spot on your feet. Available in the foot care section of drug stores, moleskin is like felt that sticks to your skin.

Be prepared for unexpected rain and wind which can lead to hypothermia. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/articles/27848-1.asp Always carry quality rain gear and turn back in bad weather. If you become wet or cold, it is important to get dry and warm as quickly as possible.

Dress in layers and avoid cotton. Luckily, today’s hikers can choose from numerous fabrics that wick moisture, dry quickly or conserve heat. Many experienced hikers wear a lightweight shirt that wicks moisture, while carrying a fleece pullover and rain jacket.

Dogs are welcome on all Georgia State Park trails (except Panola Mountain); however, they must be leashed at all times.

More hiking tips from the American Red Cross. http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/hiking.html

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WHY LEAVES CHANGE COLORS

It’s a common misconception that Jack Frost causes trees to turn colors. Actually, freezing temperatures can shorten the length of time that trees are most vibrant. Experts predict this will be a great season for color, although hurricane winds have blown many leaves down prematurely. During spring and summer, leaves serve as food factories for trees. This process, called photosynthesis, takes place in the tiny leaf cells that give leaves their green color. These chlorophyll bodies make food by combining carbon taken from the air with hydrogen and minerals found in water gathered by roots. As the days shorten and the nights get cooler, a chemical clock kicks in and releases a hormone that slows the sap flow to each leaf. Eventually, the leaf is sealed off from the branch and the green chlorophyll fades away to reveal other pigments - colors that have been there all along. The Native Americans had a fantastic idea that leaves changed color because celestial hunters had slain the Great Bear, with his blood dripping on the forests and turning leaves red, and fat splattering out of cooking kettles and turning other leaves yellow.

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COLORATION OF GEORGIA TREES
  YELLOW
~ White Ash
~ Black Cherry
~ Buckeye
~ Umbrella Magnolia
~ Sweet Birch
~ Yellow Poplar
~ Black Locust

YELLOW-GOLD
~ White Basswood
~ Hickories
~ American Beech
~ Black Walnut

BRONZE
~ Chestnut Oak
~ American Elm
~ Black Oak

RED
~ Black Gum
~ Scarlet Oak
~ White Oak
~ Persimmon
~ Red Maple

RED-ORANGE
~ Sassafras

RED-PURPLE
~ Sweet Gum
~ Scarlet Oak
~ Sumac

RED-BROWN
~ Southern Red Oak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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