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Fall takes its colorful leave

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Although many trees in the Kanawha Valley are still wearing green leaves, other parts of the state are approaching the prime of the fall foliage season.

 Trees in West Virginia's highest elevations always turn first, so some leaf-peeper hot spots like Spruce Knob are fast approaching the peak of their season, Division of Forestry spokeswoman Leslie Fitzwater said.

She estimates Spruce Knob, Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls all will hit peak colors this weekend.

Fitzwater said foresters originally were concerned trees in the state's western counties would turn early this year because of a lack of rain.

That didn't come true, however, thanks to a few waves of thunderstorms that have passed over the Mountain State in recent weeks.

"We thought it was going to be a little early a couple of weeks ago, but now it looks like it's going to be right on time," Fitzwater said.

The state's northern and eastern counties also are on schedule.

While trees in those high-elevation areas are almost ready to lose their leaves, there are still many leaf-peeping opportunities in the state's southern counties.

Fayette County's Babcock State Park, one of the state's most popular fall destinations, has not reached its peak yet. Fitzwater said the maple trees there have turned but the oak trees are still green.

"I always tell people, you're never disappointed in the second or third week of October," said Sissie Summers, state parks programming administrator for the state Division of Natural Resources. "In my mind, southern West Virginia has really good fall foliage colors later in the month."

Summers said West Virginia's different regions provide totally different foliage views because of the state's great diversity in tree species.

"If you have a striped maple at Blackwater Falls, you don't see a striped maple in the Ohio Valley," she said.

She said it's also not unusual to take a train ride at Cass State Park toward the end of October and see fall foliage dusted with snow.

"It's phenomenal . . . but it's cold," she said.

The Division of Forestry recently launched a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/wvforestry) and is currently using it to keep fans updated on foliage around the state. Leaf enthusiasts also are using the page to ask questions and give recommendations to other peepers.

Forestry officials also are using Facebook to release the foliage report that is published each Thursday. The reports also can be found at www.wvforestry.com.

Summers said many state residents do not realize how fortunate they are when it comes to foliage. She said most scenic states either have beautiful views of trees or beautiful views of water. West Virginia has both.

"Of course all of Appalachia is that way, to a degree. But West Virginia has it all," she said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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