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Fall colors in the refuge are less vibrant this year

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COMANCHE COUNTY, Okla._

Every year, people travel from all over the state, and even the country, to see the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge transform into a sea of warm colors.

Normally the greens turn yellows, oranges and reds in the fall months, but this year, Wildlife Refuge employees say the colors are less vibrant after a harsh dry summer.

This fall, Wildlife Refuge volunteer Donna Phillips says describing the beauty of the fall foliage in the refuge has been a difficult job to do.

"You almost have to have seen it," said Phillips.

She says normally in past years everywhere you looked the colors would overcome you.

"When the sun hits the trees when they're in full foliage it's awesome. It's just like they glitter, they shine, there's the browns and the reds and the yellows. It's just something that you need to experience," said Phillips.

But despite a limit of fall colors droves of cars continue to make their way into the refuge to experience what they can during fall foliage tours.

Here they can see Mother Nature at work and learn how she does it.

"When the temperature drops, it slows down the chlorophyll that is the coloring of the leaves. So the coloring gets slow, and they start doing the color change then," said Phillips.

Phillips says this years drought compounded with fires took a big toll on the normally breath taking view.

"Fires, naturally would burn. It depends a lot of it on the fire, some of it's a fast moving fire, it will not do the damage of a slow, really hot fire," said Phillips

Phillips says the sugar maples in Hollis Canyon are normally a hot spot for visitors, and the first stop on refuge foliage tours.

But as luck would have it, Hollis Canyon fell victim to one of this years fires.

"It went through really fast, so the maples are going to survive, but we need rain in order for that to happen," said Phillips.

But Phillips said regardless of the color of the leaves, no day spent in the refuge is a day wasted.

"Anytime that you come to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge, you're coming to a very special place. History wise, it's number one. I've been volunteering eleven and a half years out here and I consider this my refuge. But, you're never going to be disappointed," said Phillips.

There is one last fall foliage tour of the season next Saturday at 10:00 am.

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