The Leaves in South Jersey Are A-Changin'

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It seems the unseasonably warm weather that lasted into the end of September has robbed South Jersey of early fall colors.

But never fear, the recent cool nights could ensure a spectacular autumnal display of changing leaves.

Dr. Jason Grabosky of the Ecology Evolution and Natural Resources department of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension explained the variables involved with the timing of the leaves changing from green to hues of red, yellow and orange.

rabosky said daylight and temperature affect when the leaves begin to change.

“Daylight,” he said, “or the photosynthesis period, does not change from year to year.”

When the days get shorter, the trees begin moving their resources into storage rather than pushing for more growth.

Grabosky said the reds and yellows are always present in leaves, but the chlorophyll masks those colors with the summertime green.

Once the sunlight lessens, that green color begins to diminish, letting the fall colors surface.

“Cool nights and clear, blue skies during the day will bring out the reds, as long as there is sufficient water present,” he said. “With cool nights and rain, the yellows will be bright, but you need the sun to bring the reds out.”

Grabosky said he drives through the state often, and has seen some change in leaf colors in the northern counties.

“There’s still a lot of green foliage, but I have hope that with cooler temperatures and rain, we’ll see some good color soon,” Grabosky said.

Here are nine South Jersey locations to visit and enjoy the colors of the fall leaves.

Salem County

Fort Mott State Park — Pennsville Fort Mott is part of a fort system consisting of Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, and Fort DuPont in Delaware City, Delaware, to deter enemy ships from traveling upriver to Philadelphia during the Civil War. The fort’s ruins are surrounded by beautiful state park land, full of color-changing leaves. Visitors can also catch a view of the vibrant fall colors on Pea Patch Island out in the water.

Parvin State Park — Pittsgrove Parvin State Park is 465 acres of natural forest situated just on the edge of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. The changing forest reflects on the lake’s surface making Parvin a picturesque fall leaf viewing spot. Parvin offers camping, boating, and birding with more than 180 species that call the park home.

Cumberland County

Bridgeton City Park — Bridgeton Bridgeton City Park is New Jersey’s largest municipal park system with 1,000 acres of woodlands, Sunset Lake, the Cohanzick Zoo, and several hiking trails through the changing leaves. The view around Sunset Lake provides a great spot to take in the fall colors.

Willow Oak Natural Area — Vineland Maintained by the Vineland Environmental Commission, the Willow Oak Natural Area is just that — a dense forest filled with walking trails, colorful trees and countless varieties of birds for the bird watchers. Be sure to mark your path, as the trail system at Willow Oak has been described as a “labyrinth of grassy paths.”

Atlantic County

Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge — Galloway With 47,000 acres of forest, marshland, and bay, the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge is a great place to take in the fall colors. Located just outside the hustle and bustle of Atlantic City, with a view of the city’s skyline just across Reeds Bay, the refuge provides a serene spot for hiking, birding, and just relaxing among the autumnal color show.

Wharton State Forest — Hammonton Stretching through Atlantic, Burlington, and Camden counties, Wharton State Forest is the largest, single tract of land in the New Jersey’s state park system. Wharton is covered in dense forestry, hiking trails, rivers, streams, and historic Batsto Village. Take a drive through the forest and enjoy the scenery or take a day trip to historic Batsto to see the autumn colors come to life.

Absecon Heritage Park — Absecon Absecon Heritage Park is a peaceful, woodland filled with fall foliage situated around a pond and near the Absecon Municipal complex. The park features several walking trails, a playground for the kids, and Heritage Park Pond and beach for a great place to relax and take in the autumnal atmosphere.

Pine Barrens

The Pinelands, or Pine Barrens, stretch over more than 1.1 million acres of the state — approximately 22 percent of New Jersey’s landmass. Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Cape May counties all share the Pinelands' forests. While the land is named for its nutrient-poor soil, it does support a vast forest which provides a spectacular show of color this time of year.

New Jersey Lighthouses

What better view of the autumnal spectacle than to see if from high above the treetops?

New Jersey has several lighthouses where leaf gazers can take in the fall colors.

Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May County, Finns Point Rear Range in Salem County, Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic County, and Barnegat Lighthouse in Ocean County are just four of the 11 major lighthouses in the state.

New Jersey Turnpike

There’s a highway that stretches 122 miles through New Jersey from Salem to Bergen county that provides a great leaf peeping road trip. The N.J. Turnpike can sometimes seem monotonous and mundane, but when the leaves begin to change, this roadway can provide a scenic fall passageway. So jump on, pay the toll and take a fall trip amongst the leaves.

Related: Patches to Find the Perfect Pumpkin in South Jersey

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