As always, the Oklahoma weather is ever-changing and the abundance of moisture this summer has been a blessing to the flora and fauna throughout the state.
In most Oklahoma state parks, the native trees that would normally be heat-scorched and shedding leaves at this point, are still displaying beautiful canopies of green.
“This year, trees are in a healthier condition especially in the rural areas of the state,” said Mark Bays, Urban Forestry Coordinator with Oklahoma Forestry Services. “In the past, the drought has prematurely defoliated trees and the leaves dropped early. The significant amount of rainfall we've received this year has been good.”
For those who look forward to the changing of the seasons and the parade of dazzling colors that occur during the fall, this year promises to be impressive.
“Within the next month, some color will start to show up in the far north and begin moving south. In the northwestern parts of the state the best color is usually more localized in the lower areas of the rolling hills and waterways. You'll see it first in the plums, smaller oaks and in clumps of sumac, elm, hackberry and sugarberry,” Bays said. “The largest trees in the state are cottonwoods, which are cousins to the aspen, and they will start showing their golden yellow colors,” he adds.
Oklahoma state parks in the north and western regions that offer prime foliage viewing opportunities include Boiling Springs, Great Salt Plains and Roman Nose parks. Nature lovers can extend their sightseeing tour by booking a comfortable cabin or lodge room now so they can explore the outdoors later.
Traveling north and east, the landscape takes on a completely different appearance that includes plush greenery, thick forested areas and an abundance of lakes.
“This part of the state has more oaks and hickories,” Bays said. “The color difference is pretty substantial with a greater variety of trees. Where you have a nice mixture of trees, you'll also have a nice mixture of colors.”
Osage Hills State Park is tucked away in the densely wooded areas and hills of eastern Osage County, near Pawhuska. The park is a popular destination because of its quiet serenity and beauty of the landscape that surrounds the park. Osage Hills has eight cabins, all with fireplaces.
If you're looking for a location where you can pack a picnic lunch and load the family into the min-van for a driving tour, then head to the northeastern corner of the state to Grand Lake State Park. The park areas on the north end include Twin Bridges, Honey Creek and Bernice and Cherokee on the south end. Each area offers beautiful lake views and enough room to spread a blanket, enjoy lunch and take pleasure in the kaleidoscope of colors.
It's well known to foliage enthusiasts that one of the most renowned destinations for touring is southeastern Oklahoma. This particularly vibrant locale where forests, mountains and streams dominate the countryside offers the most spectacular fall color. The Talimena National Scenic Byway, which winds its way through the Ouachita National Forest is teeming with visitors from late October through the peak of the season in early November. Several state parks are located in this area and offer perfect fall getaways where visitors can reflect on the splendor of the season.
In the midst of this explosion of color are Robbers Cave, Lake Wister and Beavers Bend State Parks. Each location offers cozy cabins and lodging accommodations are available at Belle Starr Lodge at Robbers Cave and Lakeview Lodge at Beavers Bend. If your fall travel plan includes the southeastern part of the state, don't wait. Book now and stay later.
“I'm enthusiastic about this year because of the conditions going into winter,” Bays said. “From all indications, it looks like this will be a great year for color.”
For information on fall foliage tours across the state and to book a lodge room or cabin at an Oklahoma State Park, visit TravelOK.com. Keli Clark is the marketing coordinator for Oklahoma State Parks.