September 28, 2009
It's late September and the Parkway meadows are filled with Coreopsis and Black Eyed Susan, Queen Anne's Lace, Butterfly Weed, Joe Pye Weed. All of those late summer blooms and early fall blooms that fill the roadside with color.
Typically the Blue Ridge Parkway experiences the much anticipated change in fall foliage around the middle of October. Many factors however contribute to variations in when and where those colors will peak.
The Parkway stretches almost 500 miles north to south. It meanders from east to west facing slopes and most importantly varies in elevation from just under 650 feet at the James River in Virginia to over 6,000 feet south of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina.
So many visitors have been frustrated over the years trying to go to one spot on one day in October hoping to find the leaves in full color. A far better plan is to drive some distance on the Parkway changing elevations and your north/south orientation. Anyone who does this around the mid to late October time period will catch at least some of that great pretty color that we're famous for.
Early signs of fall are present throughout the northern sections of the Parkway. Dogwoods, Tulip Poplars, Maple, Sumac, and Sourwood are showing some color. Still a couple of weeks away until significant color will be seen from milepost 30 through about milepost 106 through the Peaks of Otter. Color change through this area seems to be about a week earlier than usual.
Throughout the high plateau of Rocky Knob south of Roanoke, VA, south into the northwest mountains of North Carolina its harvest time and those adjacent agricultural fields are filled with hay bales and pumpkins, cabbage and other signs of fall harvest.
Leaves are starting to change in the high elevations south of Asheville. Graveyard Fields is starting to turn red and yellow and the Sourwoods, Maples and Mountain Ash are starting to show their color. As you travel south down the Parkway little splashes of yellow and red are starting to appear.
Usual fall flowers are out as well on the south end. Sunflower, Coreopsis, Coneflower, Goldenrod and Astors are all easily seen as you make the southern drive. Mountain Ash is turning the visitor’s heads as these are the first of the fall colors in the Craggy Gardens area.
It’s a busy time on the Parkway so watch out for those built in distractions like great views, wildlife, extra traffic and bicyclists.
Regular updates for color reports will be posted to our web site home page. You can also use the National Park Service information line at 828-298-0398 to keep informed of what's being reported on the Parkway.
For more nature and science information, visit our virtual resource center, http://www.virtualblueridge.com/parkway/general/nature.asp, which will provide you with much more information.
Click here for a list of Blue Ridge Parkway tree species and their colors.
Have a safe parkway visit! Enjoy the view, but watch the road.
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