State’s fall colors as beautiful as any

Published 10:04 pm Monday, November 9, 2009

Pack your bags and hit the road for north Alabama if you want to see one of the most stunning displays of colorful fall foliage in the nation.

I suppose it’s a result of aging: we tend to slow down and marvel at God’s creations and the beauty in what was once considered mundane back in our younger days.

For those with the opportunity, viewing the brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow on Lookout Mountain, along the Natchez Trace Parkway and on the road to the Walls of Jericho will be a trip not soon forgotten, especially if you take the time to snap plenty of photos.

John Dersham with the DeKalb County Tourist Association in Fort Payne said north Alabama is a unique melting pot for plant species, which adds greatly to the colorful display.

“This particular part of north Alabama is host to both the southern and northern hardwood deciduous trees, which gives us a real advantage,” Dersham said. “Right now, we’re near our peak on Lookout Mountain. Sand Mountain is probably several days behind. What we have that makes this so exciting for tourism and the consumer is the fact we have the largest stand of maple – both southern red maple and sugar maple. That tree, in particular, gets everything from a bright yellow to a bright red. Along the Little River Canyon rim, the colors are really popping.

“The real difference in north Alabama, say from Birmingham north, to south Alabama is the concentration of hardwoods is a lot greater in north Alabama. And it’s also the type of hardwoods – yellow poplar, hickory, maples, sweetgums, hickory, white oaks, chestnut oaks, blackgum – all deliver a much greater color variety and intensity than the southern hardwoods. That’s a gift for us to get that color.”

Although other areas of the country rave about their fall foliage displays, Dersham insists those areas have nothing on northeast Alabama.

“That’s what surprises people when they come here,” he said. “They say, ‘We went through Vermont and it’s no more colorful than here, and I always heard it was.’ I tell them we have variety whereas Vermont is mostly maple, and that’s all you see. So, in this part of the state, our colors are equal to or better than any points to the north.