Mid to late October is traditionally when Kentuckiana sees its most spectacular fall foliage, though some recent years have been a bit of a disappointment in that department. Unseasonably warm temperatures and wet autumns are factors that have inhibited the showy display that has become synonymous with the fall season. However, conditions seem to indicate that the autumn of 2013 will be graced with excellent foliage color throughout the region.
A common misconception is that colder temperatures cause leaves to change color. While temperature may affect the color or brilliance of the leaves, the change is actually caused by the lesser amount of daylight. Less light leads to decreased chlorophyll production. As the chlorophyll breaks down, the chemicals that remain in the leaves begin to emerge as shades of brown, yellow, orange, red, and even purple, depending on the conditions and the species.
Red maple is the rock star of fall foliage trees, with its brilliant red display that is impossible to miss. Other native species are less renowned for their color, but no less impressive—sumac, sassafras, sweet gum, beech, as well as many species of oak.
Our region is graced with a multitude of locations from where to view nature’s annual display of colors. While any place outdoors in the autumn is a fine place from which to watch the show, a few areas within our local parks systems stand out as top-notch viewpoints:
The Parklands of Floyds Fork – Hike the Big Beech Woods Trail along wooded bluffs above Floyds Fork for spectacular color underneath one of the oldest forest canopies in all of Jefferson County.
Cherokee Park – Walk or drive along Olmsted’s meandering thoroughfares through Louisville’s most beloved park.
Iroquois Park – Hike or bike up Top Hill Rd. for some of the most spectacular vistas in Louisville in another one of Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscape masterpieces.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest – Drive south of town to 14,000 acres of rolling hills on October 19th for Bernheim’s annual ColorFest, boasting “affordable family fun surrounded by fall’s spectacular beauty with great food, Kentucky crafts and more”.
Jefferson Memorial Forest – There are over 35 miles of trails to hike in the largest municipal forest in the United States. The “Knobs” which make up this region of the state are sure to provide countless vistas of vibrant fall color.
The Parklands of Floyds Fork is one of the nation’s largest new urban parks projects. Under construction and opening in phases through 2015, it is a system of four new parks, connected by a park drive, world-class trail system and the Louisville Loop. 21st Century Parks is the nonprofit responsible for the development and long-term management of The Parklands, a donor-supported public park. Andrew Oost is a member of The Parklands Natural Areas Team. You can find out more about The Parklands and how to get involved at www.theparklands.org or by calling 502-584-0350.
About the Author
Andrew joined the 21st Century Parks team in 2012 as the Natural Areas Team Leader, responsible for the restoration and maintenance of the woodlands, meadows and trail system within the park and worked on The Parklands project until February 2015. Previously Andrew worked for Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy, NativeScapes, Inc., and the National Park Service, at both Rocky Mountain National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Geography.