OAK HILL, WV (WOAY-TV): Now that Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, many of you are probably looking forward to the fall foliage season here in West Virginia.
As Dave Bieri with the New River Gorge Park and Preserve says, there are places to go where you can see the leaves change color first. “In late September and early October, anywhere in the park, you’re going to see nice colors. But earlier in the season, again, some of the higher elevations will be where you start seeing the colors first earlier. October, I’d recommend going up to Grandview area after that, anywhere in the park that overlooks in the park here at Canyon Road. Visitor Center. Probably one of the best places to come out and drive to see the fall colors is Fayette Station Road and to our visitor’s center. That gives you a whole different range of elevations. You see the fall colors at different stages.”
The natural decrease in intensity and duration of sunlight and cooler temperatures trigger the leaves to stop their food making process and the leaves to change colors. Now, the perfect recipe for the most brilliant colors includes warm, sunny days and cool nights, but no hard frosts. The frost can actually trigger the leaves to weather and fall off the tree.
Bieri said, “I think it works best when you’ve got some nice cool temperatures at night and you might get warm in the day, but when you get in those cool temperatures at night, that’s when you always start to see the fall colors.”
The degree of color may also vary from tree to tree, so leaves directly exposed to the sun may turn red. Those leaves on the shady side of a tree may be a little bit yellow and those in the sun will become red.
Bieri said, “We do usually see better colors when we’re getting a little bit more rain. “Really the temperatures more than anything (trigger the color change), though, you get those cooler nights and cooler temperatures really start kicking in the fall colors.
Now, if we have a stretch of warm, cloudy, rainy weather, then the leaves tend to have less coloration in terms of drought, which our area hasn’t really been suffering from.
We’ve been in some abnormally dry spells, but no drought. Typically what happens is the drought process actually causes stress on the trees, so the trees will begin to change early and the fall foliage season will not last as long. A moderate drought, on the other hand, such as what they are experiencing across the Shenandoah Valley, can delay the onset of the fall color.
So all in all, we should have a brilliant fall foliage season here in southern West Virginia, keeping on par with previous years in terms of the color. And folks, the sweet spot right off Fayette Station Road is the place to go to see the fall colors. You can look across the ridge line. You’ll be able to see the dichotomy of fall colors from the top of the ridge where the colors will change first to the bottom of the ridge.