Arkansas Expects Tourism Bump From Leaf Peeping In October
State parks in Arkansas, which have seen increased visitation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, expect to see even more traffic as temperatures drop and leaves become more colorful. Monika Rued, spokesperson for Arkansas State Parks, says leaf-peeping — visiting an area specifically to view its foliage — is very popular as trees change color each fall.
The state park's website gives general dates to expect trees to be most colorful in different regions of Arkansas, but weather can be a factor, with times potentially varying by more than a month.
"We always recommend [visitors] to call the parks directly. They're happy to let our visitors know if the color is a little behind or when they think it'll reach its peak," Rued said.
Fall foliage typically begins its most colorful period in late September, lasting about six weeks. Rued says some animal sightings are also more common during the cooler months.
"Like at DeGray [Lake State Park in Bismarck], and Cane Creek State Park in Star City, it's kind of a cool thing," Rued said. "You can kayak out there on the water trail and you can see eagle nests and beaver lodges. It's kind of a special place."
Arkansas State Parks have remained open throughout the pandemic, but some services, like indoor dining and guided group boat tours have been limited as a precaution against spreading COVID-19. Attendance has been higher than average since the pandemic began last year.
Travis Napper, director of tourism for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said October has typically always been a busy month even before the pandemic.
"We have some forward-looking booking data for our short-term rentals, and the number for occupancy in October are already almost matching last year's numbers," he said.
The department measures tourism with data on attendance at the state's welcome centers and booking data from hotels, Airbnb's and other short-term rentals, Napper said. Traffic on the department's website, which posts images taken by leaf-peepers, also sees a significant increase in October.
"It is highly popular for people to follow along with the timing [of the leaves changing] and just the beautiful colors whether they're admiring it from their phone or their email or their computer or making plans to go see it in person," he said.