Local fall foliage peak likely to be weeks away, some experts say


For a day or two this week, when a cold front that was actually cold swept over northeastern Oklahoma and drove temperatures down into the 40s and 50s, it seemed as if — finally! — fall had fallen upon Tulsa and its environs.

Even though temperatures this weekend are forecast to return to summer highs, at least we have had some actual proof that cooler weather is in the offing.

And with that cooler weather comes the technicolor splendor of fall foliage, when trees begin to turn dormant and their leaves turn landscapes into a riot of reds and oranges and yellows.

The current issue of the Farmer’s Almanac, which likes to champion that its predictions about all things to do with weather are 80 percent accurate, states that fall colors in Oklahoma will likely peak the final week of October through the first week of November, with the changes happening first in the northern regions of the state.

Exactly when fall colors will be at their full peak and how colorful the Oklahoma landscape will turn remain matters of some mystery.

A recent Associated Press story about the storied fall colors to be found in New England stated that the unusually warm temperatures the region experienced in September caused trees to continue to produce the chlorophyll that creates the green in leaves.

Oklahoma has been experiencing predominantly warm and dry weather throughout the summer months of 2017, which could mean the fall foliage will not be as colorful nor as long-lasting as it could be.

“Last year, we stayed green around here right into November,” said Bart Haake, meteorologist at the

 National Weather Service office in Tulsa. “The front that came through earlier this week was the 

first really cool weather we’ve experienced this season, and in the 20 years I’ve been here, I don’t recall an air mass like that one coming in as late as this.”

The National Weather Service’s monthly forecast for October predicts temperatures to run slightly above normal throughout the month, with precipitation forecasts being significantly lower than normal.

Craig Marquardt, an area forester for east central Oklahoma with the Oklahoma Forestry Services, agreed that what fall color Oklahoma does experience will likely be later in the year — and perhaps a bit less colorful than in years past.

“Right now I’m in LeFlore County, and everything’s pretty green around here,” he said. “There hasn’t been much rain here and the nights have been warm, which really affects the fall colors. And trees are smart enough to know what to do under moisture stress. They don’t really need their leaves, so they’ll just drop them.”

The Oklahoma Tourism Department’s TravelOK website (travelok.com) has a Fall Color Report that is updated on a regular basis. The most recent update, posted on Tuesday, states in its entirety: “Fall foliage is just beginning at Boiling Springs (in northwestern Oklahoma) with yellow starting to pop through in the trees and many of the vines already turning red. Typically, foliage can be viewed at its peak from the last week of October through the first week of November.”

To help you prepare to take in the colors of fall, whenever and wherever they may appear, here are some of the best places in eastern Oklahoma to do a bit of leaf peeping.

Midtown

The starting point is Woodward Park at the corner of 21st Street and Peoria Avenue, where you can take a leisurely stroll through the park’s grounds, enjoy a picnic or add to your horticultural knowledge with a trip through the Tulsa Garden Center and the Linnaeus Teaching Garden. Then take your time traversing through the neighborhoods encompassed by 21st Street to the north, 41st Street to the south, Peoria Avenue to the west and Yale Avenue to the east for some of the more spectacular fall foliage in the city.

Riverside Drive

With A Gathering Place for Tulsa still under construction, you cannot traverse the full length of this boulevard, but there is still plenty to be seen and marveled at along this route that follows the Arkansas River.

Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness

On the west side of the Arkansas, between 41st and 61st Streets, is the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness, whose densely forested acres hold the potential for a host of fall colors. You can enjoy from a distance, while passing by on U.S. 75, or explore from within along one of the many hiking and biking trails through the area.

Oologah Lake

Head northwest to Oologah Lake in Rogers County, with its 209 miles of shoreline and more than 18 miles of equestrian and hiking trails — or bring a book and enjoy the views of the changing of the trees from the lake itself. You can round out the trip by taking Oklahoma 88 into Claremore to visit attractions such as the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and the J.M. Davis Gun Museum.

Oklahoma 10

Start in Miami and follow Oklahoma 10 south as it threads through the eastern portion of Green Country, past Grand Lake, running along the Illinois River until you gets to Tahlequah, where you can explore some of the history of the Cherokee Nation at the Cherokee Heritage Center.

Talimena National Scenic Byway

This 54-mile stretch of highway, which starts at Talihina State Park and treks through the Ouachita National Forest to Mena, Arkansas, is considered one of the region’s premiere fall foliage destinations. A nonstop drive along this route can be completed in just over an hour, but when the fall colors are in full force, one will want to take advantage of the more than a dozen scenic vista stops along the way.

Robbers Cave State Park

So named because outlaws such as Belle Starr and Jesse James were said to have holed up here at one time or another, Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton, on Oklahoma 2, is the perfect place to experience what autumn brings to the foliage covering the San Bois Mountain Range.