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2Cooleys Guide To Ozark Fall Foliage

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Ozark Fall Foliage Information
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When Is The Peak?
Ozark Fall Foliage Photos
Best Foliage Driving Tours
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About Ozarks Trees
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Ozark Foliage Color - What Makes It Happen?
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Ozark Fall Foliage Trip Planning
for the North Central Arkansas & South Central Missouri Corridor
Norfork Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, White River, Glade Top Trail, and Ozark National Forest areas

Details To Guidelines
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Rule 4 Details - You Find The Color

Unlike northern states the Ozarks do not offer much in the way of organized foliage tours. If you are the type of person who enjoys few crowds and lines, this is your place for fall foliage. While there are a few fall festivals ( Beanfest In Mountain View, Arkansas comes to mind), they are not the grand events found in New England. You can find many places to meet and enjoy locals. There are all kinds of little stores, diners, restaurants, and a few attractions to enjoy while out leaf-peeping. We detail all of these in our Sylamore Tour.

Here is a list of foliage-finding techniques:

You Arrive But There Is No Peak Color
If you follow the dates we give and keep up with weather forecasts, you are still in luck. If your destination is not yet in peak but close, drive north 30 to 50 miles and you'll find peak color. Conversely, if your destination is past peak, drive south 30 to 50 miles and again, you will find peak color.

Your Destination Is In Peak When You Arrive
Drive mostly east and west. Of course you can drive north and south too, but limit it to about 25 to 30 miles.

Change Direction Of Travel
When you find the color you will be driving in one direction at first. If color is good, turn around and drive back the way you just came. Change directions every 15 miles or so. You will be amazed at how many different colors you will see by doing this. A word of caution here: Be VERY careful about how and where you turn around. DO NOT turn around in curves or anywhere you CANNOT SEE what is coming. Locals drive like maniacs. And if you are in the middle of the wrong lane when a fully loaded logging truck comes around the turn at 50 miles per hour, you are history. Be very careful in these winding mountain roads.

Change Time Of Day
The middle of the day is the worst time to go leaf-peeping if the weather is clear and sunny. Instead get out before 9 AM in the mornings, and after 5 PM in the evenings. This is when foliage tends to glow, to flourese.

Go In Different Weather Conditions
For a truly beautiful experience go out on a cloudy rainy day, or just after a rain. Wet leaves take on colors that no dry leaf will ever have. On a cloudy day there are no shadows, light is even and diffused. Colors really glow in these conditions. This is when you will see the true color. Sunlight changes these colors.

Change Elevation
Our aerial photography clearly shows that trees turn colors in low, narrow valleys and river bottoms first.  As the sun sets and temperatures drop, warm air from the valley floors trapped during the day change place with the cooler air up on the ridge tops. Cool air drains downward and stays there all night. The result is trees in low-lying areas get those cool night temperatures sooner than ridge top trees.

Our photos show that trees in low areas are already bare at the time that ridgetop trees are still half-green. Be sure to drive up and down in elevation for this reason.

Visit The Understory
Most people don't realize that some of the most enjoyable color is found UNDER the tall trees. Saplings, shrubs, vines, and berry plants are all only a few feet high. Yet they have some of the most beautiful colors you'll ever see. Wherever you park be sure to walk in a little ways UNDER the trees. Of course you can't do this whizzing down the highway at 60mph.

The best way to get in under the trees to view understory foliage is by either walking down one of the many area hiking trails for a few hundred yards, or to drive down one of the hundreds of dirt back roads. We tell you where to find these in our Sylamore Tour and our Glade Top Trail tour.

Visit The Hilltops
You would think that in an area calling itself the Ozark Mountains there would be many places to stop on top of a hill where you can look out over miles of foliage. Well there are not, as strange as it seems. The reason? The "mountains" are really just hills. Few are higher than 1,000 feet above sea level. When you drive past a spot where you can see a mile or two down into a valley and across to other hills and ridges, stop if there is a place to park. This is as good as it will get!

Visit The Waters
There are hundreds of little creeks, big rivers, and several ponds and lakes in the Ozarks. Walk along the creeks. Or rent a pontoon boat and get out on one of the lakes. Or hire river fishing guide and tell him you want to leaf-peep. They love it. That is why they are full-time professional guides. The fishing is nothing more than an excuse to get out on the water for them. Our Sylamore Tour points out several locations for all the above.

Use All Your Senses
Take in the entire experience. Find a back road. Stop your car in a safe spot. Get out and stand quietly. Breath deep. Listen. Look. Feel. Take in the scent of fall. Listen to the leaves rattle and clatter as they slowly float to the ground. Look at not just the color before you, but the rocks, the texture of the tree barks. Get close to the ground and look at the microcosm of moss, little ferns, and leaves on the ground. Listen to the crickets. Feel the breeze, the tree bark, the rocks. Let yourself go and act like an excited child! Speaking of children, if they are with you they'll love doing this - even your sulky teens will like it.

Look For Nature
Along any highway you'll see all kinds of hawks, falcons, and eagles sitting on snags, posts, and powerlines. During fall the White River area is a major flyway for millions of migrating waterfowl, hawks, and song birds. Whitetail deer are in rut so expect to see the big buck or two. Wildflowers bloom in great numbers right up until the first frost, which happens most years well into November. And as long as there are flowers in bloom there will be butterflies.

Details To Guidelines
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