Clatterbuck Gives His Fall Foliage Outlook

With annual rainfall five inches above normal for the year, East Tennessee’s fall foliage is set to be a showstopper.

Wayne Clatterbuck, professor of forestry, wildlife and fisheries studies, recently talked to USA Today for an article about the fall 2017 foliage outlook and says we can expect a colorful season. In the article, Clatterbuck said, “The three factors that trigger color are day length, temperature, and moisture. We have had all the rain we need.”

Clatterbuck suggests heading up to the Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway or Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

In Tennessee, autumn color begins first at the higher elevations in response to cooler temperatures and shorter days. The average peak period of fall color in Tennessee ranges from the last week in October through the first week in November, according to a UT Extension publication from Clatterbuck.

“Leaf color occurs everywhere, so you do not have to be near forests to observe it,” Clatterbuck said. “But in the mountains, tree cover is more continuous. The other advantage in the mountains is that you can watch the progression of leaf color with the change in elevation. When leaf color is prime in the valleys, leaves have already been shed at the upper elevations.”

The 42-mile Cherohala Skyway traverses the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina between Tellico Plains, Tennessee, and Robbinsville, North Carolina. The road climbs from an elevation of 900 feet above sea level to 5,400 feet above sea level at its peak near the state line.

Big South Fork is on the Cumberland Plateau in north central Tennessee, near Oneida. Encompassing 125,000 acres, the park boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, is rich with natural and historic features, and provides visitors with a range of outdoor recreational activities.

Other locations mentioned in the USA Today article include Lilly Bluff Overlook at the Obed Wild and Scenic River and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.