CASSVILLE, Mo. — Roaring River ought to be just about ready.
If you’re looking to catch the fall color show, consider visiting the state park in Southwest Missouri soon.
I went last weekend — ostensibly to catch trout but instead ended up on a morning wander that took me on several of its trails.
The overstory of oaks still showed predominantly green, but the understory was popping, especially dogwoods, which had turned wine-dark, if I can steal a phrase from Homer that seems more appropriate for this Ozarks native in autumn than the Aegean Sea.
Anyway, I told my wife after returning from the woods that I am now ready to fire up the chainsaw and slash up the callery pear that was in the front yard when we bought our current home and replace it with the venerable dogwood. I’ll add it to the to-do list that always gets in the way of these kinds of trips.
Back at Roaring River, sassafras was popping, with a range of color like Jacob gave Joseph — mostly red, yellow and orange, not to mention the surviving shades of green. Sassafras has as many color options this time of year as sweetgum, and both can also show purple.
Hickory were wearing yellow, and even poison ivy’s sole virtue was on display, turning patches of the forest floor fiery orange.
Roaring River might be right this week for another reason: We are now between the park’s two fishing periods, which means the crowd thins.
Catch-and-keep trout season ended Thursday; catch-and-release trout season doesn’t begin until Nov. 8. (Catch-and-release runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday through Monday from the second Friday in November through the second Monday in February.)
I didn’t make it to the Sugar Camp Scenic Drive last weekend, but if you should find yourself at Roaring River State Park, take Missouri Highway 112 south out of the park for a couple of miles, until you come to Forest Road 197. Last time I went, there was still a sign marking the Scenic Drive turnoff. The rock road takes you along ridge tops through the Cassville district of Mark Twain National Forest, offering some spectacular vistas as well as places to park and wander through the forest. The forest road emerges at Eagle Rock.
If you go to Roaring River, keep in mind that the Eagle’s Nest Trail is still closed for construction. But other trails are open, and you can combine them into a longer hike, as I did last weekend.
And even though catch-and-keep trout season has closed, the park isn’t done, by any means.
Bald eagles return to Roaring River for the winter, and from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21, and again on Saturday, Jan. 19, there will be eagle-viewing events, which begin with a video at the nature center, followed by a trip outdoors to look for eagles coming in to roost for the evening. Remember to dress for the weather.
I didn’t see any eagles last weekend but have no doubt they are on the way.
Andy Ostmeyer is the editor of The Joplin Globe. Contact him at email@example.com.