Those in New Jersey who are looking forward to "the colors of autumn" may be disappointed this year.

Tom Sheppard, chief park naturalist for the Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation, says the prolonged dry spell in the state will make the chlorophyll which makes the leaves green, will break down quicker this fall.

"I would see the trees to turn very quickly. So you are not going to see a prolonged season of color." He also says New jersey will not see that, "collage" of color that we expect for the fall season.

According to Sheppard, we are in desperate need of some rain, and we are starting to see the chlorophyll begin to break down.

"You are starting to see some trees starting to turn with their color already. And the secondary chemicals of the leaves are what determines the alternate colors that come out for the fall."

Sheppard says even if we did get some rain now, the season's colors are pretty much "set."

"I would expect it for the season, just because we have been in the drought state for so long, that any rain that we get now is not going to retard the process that much. I will cross my fingers and hope that I am wrong and that we will have a good fall foliage season."

The best spots in the state for autumn colors will be along creeks and ravines, protected from the sun.

Sheppard says the best fall foliage is likely to be in what he calls a "micro habitat" along creek corridors or the ridge and valley areas of the northwestern part of the state, in Sussex, Warren and Passaic counties.

He says in Hunterdon County, one of the places for the color change is down along the Hollow Brook Lane in Lebanon Township.

"I would expect maybe the same thing in up in Hacklebarney State Park (Chester Township), where they have the nice river running through the park and there is a ravine area aspect running through it."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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