October 24, 2010

Fall Colors in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri

As we enter late October, the fall colors are beginning to show at near peak proportions. Oaks, hickory, walnut, sugar maples, sassafras, and poison ivy are all showing their various browns, yellows, oranges, and reds. In fact, in all honesty, poison ivy is the best color plant of them all.

Our trip into Hercules Glades Wilderness in the Mark Twain National Forest allowed us an up close look at these beautiful autumn hues as they approach their peak. It is interesting because many trees remain green and have not even started while others have already lost all of their leaves.

I have posted the full hike description for the wilderness over at the Hikemaster's Trail Description site at: http://www.hikemasters.com/2010/10/coy-bald-loop-hercules-glades.html

Sugar maples near the creek add a splash of color
I read that peak colors in the Ozarks, while not as brilliant as New England, last longer due to the milder conditions and far less concentration of sugar maples. But, while not common, sugar maples are found on the edges of the streams and provide brilliant color to the otherwise drab browns and yellows.

Various freshwater snails in the creek
The calcium-rich waters of this region supports some of the highest freshwater mollusk diversity in the world. The combination of limestone which provides abundant calcium for their shells, diversity of water temperatures from cold springs to warm ponds, different substrates such as rocky surfaces to muddy bottoms, and ancient stable conditions that allowed them to diversity (as opposed to major destructive events like ice ages up north).

We have also seen some other interesting site, such as this amazing walking stick. I'd seen the brown form, but have you ever seen a yellow one with red and green lines on it?

Well, as the fall colors reach their peak over the next two to three weeks, we'll be exploring northwestern Arkansas, hiking of course, but also learning about Ozark history and culture. Once the leaves have fallen off, we'll be migrating to the lower Mississippi Valley to explore Antebellum plantations in Mississippi, bald cypress swamps, and Cajun Culture. We might even take a trip over to the Gulf Coast to play in white sand beaches which we hope won't be brown with oil.

Clear waters of Long Creek in Hercules Glades Wilderness

Autumn colors starting to move into the Ozarks

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