WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says elk bugles have graced Peck Ranch Conservation Area (CA) for a few weeks now and fall colors are finally joining the show. Peak color should arrive the first week of November according to Terry Thompson, MDC’s forestry regional supervisor, making the first weekend of November a great time to take a drive.
Despite warm temperatures that’ve delayed Missouri’s usual stunning autumn color display, the red hues of dogwoods and yellow tones of hickories are beginning to turn in the Ozarks. Thompson said oak species such as White Oak, Black Oak and Scarlet Oak that generally make up the bulk of the fall colors, should peak in about two weeks.
“It could be a bit earlier depending on the weather,” he said.
When those oaks brighten up, Thompson has a few recommendations on driving routes that give the best views of autumn foliage.
“My personal favorite fall color drive is from H Highway to Peck Ranch, with a loop up to Stegall Mountain for those long vista views,” Thompson said.
Peck Ranch CA also provides a driving tour where elk are likely to be seen and heard. Wyatt Layman, a MDC naturalist at Twin Pines Conservation Education Center, said elk have been bugling for several weeks, but should continue their song into November.
Other recommended routes include state Highway 19 from Salem to Alton and state Highway 160 from West Plains to the Branson area, Thompson said.
Despite the weather and the late arrival of the colors, Thompson said the Ozarks are the best area in Missouri to enjoy the fall colors, especially when elk provide the soundtrack.
For fall color updates throughout the state, go online to mdc.mo.gov.