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Drench yourself in fall color along the Rogue River

If you want to see fine fall colors, get yourself to the Upper Rogue River Trail sometime soon.

At midweek, vine maples were showing off their finest shades of crimson, copper and saffron in the area around River Bridge, where Forest Road 6210 crosses the river a few miles north of Prospect.

A sudden hard freeze could cause the leaves to drop quickly, but relatively mild temperatures and dry days are expected to continue through the weekend.

Fall has been gentle, warm and mostly dry so far, and the leaves have stayed on the trees long enough for us to see them change colors.

Some of the shades (the yellows, mostly) have always been there, masked until the leaves stop making green chlorophyll in preparation for going dormant for the winter. Other pigments, such as the reds, purples and oranges in vine maples, are brand-new.

Researchers don't know why the trees make them.

Sometimes we take fall color for granted, but that's probably because we don't realize it's a relatively rare phenomenon outside of North America.

Biologists say the temperate zones of Europe and Asia rarely produce the weather conditions that enhance leaf colors.

Vine maples make some of the brightest colors and the Rogue River Trail is one of the easiest places to view good numbers of them. The leaves of alder, dogwood and other hardwoods add their colors to the composition.

You don't even need to get out of your car to see some of them. There's a wonderful cluster of vine maples right at the bridge, barely two miles off Highway 62.

There's lots more color to be seen along the trail, which basically follows the river from Prospect to Union Creek. The 1.5-mile stretch between River Bridge and Woodruff Bridge (farther upstream) is an easy, mostly flat walk close to the river.

This area is popular with anglers, and many small trails lead from the main trail right down to the bank of the river, where the colors are reflected in the water. It's easy to see where the French impressionist painters drew some of their inspiration.

To reach the trailhead, take Highway 62 to Prospect and continue past the ranger station through the corridor of tall trees.

Look for Forest Road 6210 about three miles north of the ranger station, and turn left. Follow the road down to where it crosses the river and find a place to park in the campground.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail:bkettler@mailtribune.com