AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – As communities around the Texas Panhandle and High Plains region look forward to autumnal festivals and, eventually, cooler weather coming with the change in season, they’re also getting ready to peer up at the treetops to get the best view of the vibrant fall foliage.
However, although autumn will officially start on Sept. 23, it may be a month or two before fall colors peak. Meteorologists as well as experts with Smoky Mountains National Park recently published predictions – and an interactive map – for how fall colors will spread through the trees on the High Plains in 2023.
Foliage changes in the US tend to happen in a southeastern swoop, with the northernmost states in the West and Midwest seeing changes by September, as noted by the Farmers’ Almanac. How the other states follow in the days after is a game of waiting and weather, meaning people in Dalhart, Texas may see their leaves shift weeks after their neighbors in Clayton, N.M.
Below is a look at the fall color forecasts for each major area of the High Plains region, as detailed by the released forecast map.
The Texas Panhandle is expected to see the very beginning of the leaves changing in mid-October, with “minimal” changes starting around Oct. 16. That will progress over the next couple of weeks and become fittingly visible by Halloween, but truly “peak” around Nov. 13.
However, Collingsworth, Childress, and Hardeman counties are expected to reach their “peak” later than the rest of the region, around Nov. 20.
Fortunately for the Texas Panhandle, that timing means that events such as the Canadian Fall Foliage Festival set for Oct. 21-22 will likely be able to mark the very beginning of a vibrant few weeks for the area.
New Mexico will likely see a change in leaves a few days before Texas, with a predicted start of its “minimal” changes resting around Oct. 9. The Eastern New Mexico counties are expected to have a more significant spread of fall foliage than most other areas around the High Plains by Halloween, and reach its “peak” by Nov. 6.
In part due to its position as the westernmost portion of the High Plains, New Mexico stands apart as the area that will most likely see its most noticeable leaf changes first.
Much like Texas, the Oklahoma Panhandle is expected to see its leaves change from mid-October to mid-late November. Cimarron, Texas, and Beaver counties are likely to see their foliage change aligning with the northern Texas Panhandle counties, with the first changes spotted around Oct. 16 and the “peak” arriving around Nov. 13.
The majority of Kansas as a state is expected to keep a pace similar to eastern New Mexico when it comes to shifting leaves, but the southernmost counties could see a toss-up between leaves changing alongside New Mexico or the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Seward County in Kansas may see its leaves start to change just slightly earlier than the Texas or Oklahoma panhandles, on Oct. 9, like New Mexico. However, its peak is expected to align a bit more with its southern neighbors by arriving around Nov. 13. As such, that area may see the “longest” fall foliage season out of anywhere on the High Plains by about one week.