“We know that people have limited time and they want to plan their trips to see leaves well so we thought it would be helpful for park rangers to give weekly updates on how the leaves are looking at that time so they can see if it’s almost peak or past peak,” said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. “The website feature has the regular updates from the park rangers. It has last-minute availability accommodations that might be available at the mountain parks if people want to stay for a few days and enjoy it.
“It has an event calendar of all the programs going on at all our state parks and historic sites. ... There’s also a link to the Georgia Forestry Commission. We’ve partnered with them the past couple of years and they have professional foresters who are out there in the woods on a regular basis. They have a blog and they often talk about what they are seeing from the trees. So there’s a link to their blog on our Leaf Watch so you can get a professional perspective of someone who has a degree in forestry.”
While Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site and Red Top Mountain State Park are close in proximity for Bartow’s residents to enjoy, the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites reports its top 10 parks for leaf gazing include Amicalola Falls, Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, Moccasin Creek, James H. Sloppy Floyd, Smithgall Woods, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi and Vogel.
“I’ve [heard] people say that they used it to plan their vacation, particularly people who are farther away, like in Florida, because we have the closest mountains,” Hatcher said, referring to Leaf Watch. “So I heard one family had gone one year and they had felt like they had kind of missed peak leaf season, so they used Leaf Watch to plan again the next year so that they would hit it in [its] peak.
“Everybody says, ‘When is fall color going to peak?’ You just can’t predict that, even if you do have ideal conditions, which is warmer, sunny days and then cold, crisp nights but not below freezing. That’s what you really need for the best fall color. But, at the last minute, you could have a storm that would come in and blow down all the leaves or you could have a warm snap or a cold snap. So it does change. It’s nice to have regular updates. Usually around mid-, late October is the peak for north Georgia but you can also still get pretty color in early November and I noticed that some leaves are already starting to change right now.”
In addition to Leaf Watch’s website, online users also will be able to access the Georgia Forestry Commission’s offerings by visiting www.gatrees.org.
“On our website, gatrees.org, we’ll have a fall leaf report,” said Mark Munns, chief ranger for the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Bartow, Cherokee and north Fulton office. “... They’ll have weekly updates with some photos of all of north Georgia, kind of mapping out the peaks of the color change. So that will be a regular source to follow for regular updates.”