Wanderlist – Fall Color Parks
Every fall the days get shorter and the leaves turn a magnificent bouquet of rich colors on trees all across the state. Join us as we discuss the beauty of fall colors in our state parks.
UTTS: S3:E13: WANDERLIST – FALL COLOR PARKS
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[NARRATION] Every fall season as the days get shorter, a wonderful and warm display of red, amber, and orange colors illuminate the leaves of trees throughout the Lone Star State.
On the Wanderlist, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine Editor Louie Bond and I discuss the beauty of fall colors in our state parks. We’ll share what colors you can expect to see with the different tree species in parks all across our state. We’ll also reveal some of our listener’s favorite places to see fall color as shared through our Instagram account. Stay with us.
[MUS—AS SWEET AS IT CAN]
[NARRATION—02] From Texas Parks and Wildlife, this is Under the Texas Sky’s Wanderlist. I’m Randall Maxwell, and joining me by phone from her farm near Wimberley, Texas, is Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine Editor, Louie Bond.
[RANDALL & LOUIE]
[RANDALL] Hi Louie, how’s it going?
[LOUIE] Hi. It’s going great. I’m looking out the window at all the fall color and all the trees changing. I just love fall so much.
[RANDALL] Well that’s what our Wanderlist is about, the fall colors. What are some of your thoughts on the fall colors and how do feel about when things start changing, the temperature starts getting a little bit cooler?
[LOUIE] Well, you know, for me if Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of the year, it’s the fall and Thanksgiving. I don’t know, it’s just that first crisp air and fire in the wood stove, and watching the leaves change, of course I’m watching it from my window this time because I went on that hiking with dogs we recommended and you know how that went. So I have the broken ankle, but I’m looking out the window and seeing the beautiful changes in the weather and, you know a lot of people say that, you know, we don’t have fall color in Texas, but you know, only in the Northeast and places like that. They have, you know, truly great changes of season. And you know, while it’s true we may not have what everybody else has, we certainly have our own fall here. I’d like to share a little passage with you Randall that Melissa Gaskill wrote when we did an article about fall color. We write about it every fall in the magazine of course. But here’s what she wrote about Tyler State Park to do her attempt to debunk that myth about Texas fall color.
[RANDALL] Yeah, I would love to hear it. .
[LOUIE] Thanks. Here it goes. “Leaves decorate the sandy trail like seashells on a beach, in shades of yellow and red and shapes resembling stars, spear points, paw prints and candle flames, ranging in size from as small as my little finger to as big as my face. I’m walking the Lakeshore Trail at Tyler State Park, discovering the magic of fall here where East Texas Pineywoods meets Post Oak Savannah.”
I just love that. You know, she just uses really simple language, but it really conveys the wonder of autumn for us here in Texas.
[RANDALL] So I know there’s a cycle of life with the leaves on the trees, but how do they end up changing all these different tones of colors?
[LOUIE] You know, it’s so interesting Randall, and I don’t know how I missed it in biology class. I was probably, you know, looking out the window (laughs), but in reality, you know, when you go for a walk, these questions pop up into your mind and you realize, I don’t really know why this happens. So there’s this magical substance called chlorophyll and in a leaf there’s always all these colors. But in the summer and in the spring, chlorophyll, it’s got to make food. It’s going to make sugar, so you gotta love chlorophyll if it’s a sugar maker.
[LOUIE] And it just gets so busy that the green just overpowers everything. And that’s great for the tree because it’s growing, it’s producing leaves and fruit and whatever it’s doing. But then as the days grow shorter and the temperatures get a little colder in the fall, the trees have this signal that it’s time to prepare for winter. And so, they stop producing magical chlorophyll, and as it kind of fades we begin to see those other pigments that are already there, the orange keratin, the yellow xanthophyll, and the red anthocyanin. And some of the leaves just turn brown, and evergreens of course they just stay green all the time. But the leaves that do turn, the timing just depends on the first cold snap, and the intensity of color comes from how much rain and what the temperatures have been when the freezes are, it’s that little magical mix of are we going to have a great fall color, or is this going to kind of limp into brown.
[RANDALL] Well you know some of our listners that are on Instagram that follow our account there, they definitely had some really interesting comments. So, Nana Bread says she loves the Hill Country, Lost Maples, Garner, and those are some of the most popular answers for sure. Mel Kinca agreed and she said please send rain. Yeah we do hope for more rain for sure, we’ve been dry for a few weeks. Lots of people mentioned West Texas, like Melm Cree who loves the leaves in the Chisos Mountains. Justinian B412 likes West Texas too, and they recommend the cottonwoods near Davis Mountains State Park.
[LOUIE] Yeah, we posed this question last week, just asking them for their favorite spots and things like Buffy Orpington who must be a chicken lover I guess, says that Lockhart State Park was surprisingly autumnal last weekend. So you may really think about some places beyond the usual Hill Country spots that are so popular.
[RANDALL] I gotta mention a few more here. J Brash 6886 likes to see the leaves while driving along East Texas roads. Stephanie 7 recommends Huntsville State Park, the lake with the trees there makes it so vibrant she says. If you live in a lovely place with great trees like Cam Lea Long, your answer is at my table with my coffee in hand. (laughs) So, they must be looking out the window.
[LOUIE] Yeah, lucky them.
[RANDALL] Jedidiah the Great because he likes to watch them floating down the Gaudalupe River near Comfort and Boerne. That’s a beautiful area.
[LOUIE] Yeah, there’s kind of a theme here of seeing them near the water. You know, there’s always that reflection and the leaves floating on the water, that’s so beautiful.
[RANDALL] Yeah, it really is, and then Kelly Mc 225 said, anywhere, just being outdoors in the crisp air, and not heat and humidity is just the best. Well, we couldn’t agree more with Kelly. When you think about the types of trees you know, there’s a lot of different trees in Texas, right Louie? I mean, there’s Bigtooth Maples and there’s Texas Red Oak, what are some of the trees you can tell us about?
[LOUIE] You know I think those Bigtooth Maples at Lost Maples is certainly the most famous trees in Texas, especially in the fall. But really, there are quite a few others that put on quite a display themselves. I know every Thanksgiving time I love to drive around the Blanco River and around the Hill Country and look at the cypress trees along the river. They turn a gorgeous color. Those Bald Cypress trees, they turn kind of a coppery-red. You can see them at places like McKinney Falls near Austin and the Frio River, Garner State Park, and hiking and biking trails at Lake Bob Sandlin, and they really put on a beautiful show. There’s the Texas Red Oaks that you mentioned, they’re a deep dark red. The Bigtooth Maples, you know they also put out that red and Sweetgums that are bright orange and yellow, and purple, and red. They are really show-offs. Sweetgums might be one you’re not as familiar with, so you can look for those in East Texas, like at Daingerfield State Park. Cottonwoods, they are golden-yellow and you can find those in Caprock Canyons or the Guadalupe River, Palo-Duro Canyon. Sumacs. We have those out here in the Hill Country. They are a vivid red, and you can find those also in Dinosaur Valley. Sycamores are the last one that I have here and they turn bright, bright orange. You can see those at this really special place called Honey Creek at Guadalupe River State Park, or again at Dino Valley. And you know, any of these state parks that you want to visit, it’s really important to know that there are capacity limits in place, and you really need to make an advance reservation. Even if you’re just going for the day. But there’s a really good aspect to this Randall that we didn’t think about. My managing editor thought to himself, you know, I really want to go to Lost Maples. It’s been a long time, and he signed up, I don’t know, maybe a week or so in advance for a day pass, and this year he got to go to Lost Maples to see all the beautiful leaves. Not stand in line, not get turned away, not be frustrated.
[RANDALL] And you can do all this online, right Louie?
[LOUIE] We’ve made it so easy. The online reservation system is just great. You know, it’s something people have to get used to because they like just jump in the car and go to the park, but literally in just a few minutes you can get online, see if there are reservations available. Make one, pay for it, and then when you get to the park you can just go straight in.
[MUS—WORLD OF WONDER]
[NARRATION] When we come back, Louie and I will tell you a few more places where you can find that picturesque fall foliage. But first…
[SPONSOR] Support from Toyota allows us to bring you stories from Under the Texas Sky. Toyota has been a proud sponsor of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation since 2002, providing generous support to help the department provide outdoor programs for Texans and to conserve the wildlife of the Lone Star State.
This is Under the Texas Sky’s Wanderlist from Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Randall Maxwell…Wanderlist is a collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. Editor, Louie Bond, and I have been talking about the color of fall foliage. She’s about reveal some of most iconic Texas State Parks known for their diversity of color every fall season, and that’s where we pick up our conversation.
[RANDALL & LOUIE]
[RANDALL] Louie, why don’t you take us to some parks that are across the state that are known for multiple colors?
[LOUIE] Well you know I love being the tour guide here Randall, so let’s start in East Texas at the mysterious Caddo Lake. Dark mystery meets a splash of romance. I love everything about Caddo Lake, it’s history, it’s mystery, and in the fall you get to see all the colors from a canoe as you glide over, you know, these marshy, beautiful, swampy areas. You can see the colors swirling around you in the water as well. It’s just amazingly beautiful. And the Bald Cypress we talked about earlier, that’s what you’re going to see here at Caddo Lake. Next we will head up to Lake Bob Sandlin State Park. This is one of those that you may not think of and you might want to check out for the first time. There’s a Lakeview Loop, and you can get that dreamy lake mirror-reflection photo, or even stop to fish while you’re admiring the leaves. There’s a pier that has that kind of hazy morning mist, where you can get those great sunrise photos that really set off the color. This East Texas park has sumacs, dogwoods, and sassafras, so you’re going to see all those colors while you’re looking at hickories, red maples, and sweetgums that show you all those great fall colors next to the famous East Texas evergreen pine trees.
[RANDALL] You know, those are some of the most iconic vegetation in the state, you know, when you drive through there, and those towering pines, you just know you’re in a different world.
[LOUIE] The first time I drove my daughter through there, she said, I never knew trees could be this tall (laughs). It was very impressive.
[RANDALL] It’s kind of like our own California Redwoods, you know, these trees are just tremendous.
[LOUIE] East Texas is a whole other world. If you haven’t been there yet, you have to go. It is just a wildlife paradise.
[RANDALL] What about West Texas, Louie?
[LOUIE] Well, you know, a great place to go in West Texas is Davis Mountains State Park, of course that’s in Fort Davis, where every autumn along Limpia Creek you can see those big yellow cottonwoods, and they look so great against that bright blue Texas sky. You can also drive up to the scenic overlook on Skyline Drive, right about sunset, and as the sun sets, it just looks like a golden torch all the way across the valley below you, and it’s just gorgeous.
[LOUIE] Well, you can also head up to Northeast Texas you know, you can go up to Daingerfield State Park, and there’s a two and a half-mile Rustling Leaves Nature Trail. You know that’s the place you gotta be. You can travel through the “Cathedral of the Trees” along the 80-acre lake, and lay out your picnic blanket, and if you’re daring you might want to jump in the water or make leaf angels along the lakeshore, that’s our Texas version of snow angels I guess. There’s a lot of wildlife and a panoramic overview of the park up on the Mountain View Trail as well.
[RANDALL] And you know, one of the most famous parks in Texas known for its color is Lost Maples State Natural Area down in Vanderpool.
[LOUIE] Well, if it’s not the most famous year-round, it is certainly the most famous in November every year (laughs). I mean, that’s all the calls we get is about Lost Maples. It’s actually a state natural area, but like the state parks, you really need to get that day pass, but it is a great place to see fall color in action. You can bring the kids with you, and bring a tree identification guide and just go crazy, because there are all kinds of like the Uvalde bigtooth maple. The park’s namesake maple trees have survived in this little isolated pocket since the last ice age. Get that Randall.
[LOUIE] The last ice age. And so, they turn the deepest red when the temperatures begin to drop. And this always happens, you know, some time right around Thanksgiving. A little before Thanksgiving. It all kind of depends on when that first frost comes.
[RANDALL] And you know you can view all of the fall foliage reports for Lost Maples online at tpwd.texas.gov/lostmaples. Thanks so much Louie for sharing this information.
[LOUIE] I hope they just get out because no matter where they go, even with no destination in mind, it’s a beautiful day for a country drive.
[MUS—BACK AT HOME]
[NARRATION] We’re done wandering for this podcast…but Louie Bond and I—or our executive producer, Cecilia Nasti—will be back with more fascinating things to see and places to explore in the Lone Star State.
Before heading to any state park, historic site or natural area, call ahead or search online for updated admission information. For state parks and natural areas, you can reserve camping sites and day passes online by visiting Texas State Parks dot org.
Also, keep an eye on the Under the Texas Sky Instagram account, which is @Underthetxsky. We’ll use it to notify you of some of the Wanderlist subjects we plan to cover, and give you a chance to ask questions, some of which we’ll answer on the podcast.
Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife. We produce our Wanderlist series in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine in the Media Production Studios in Austin, Texas. Yours truly did our sound design. Whitney Bishop does our social media. And we get distribution and web help from Susan Griswold and Benjamin Kailing.
Stream or download Under the Texas Sky and Under the Texas Sky’s Wanderlist wherever you get your podcasts. And please leave a review while you’re there and let us know how we’re doing and what you’d like to hear.
Until next time…keep on wandering Under the Texas Sky. I’m Randall Maxwell.