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Weather Channel Lured to Western North Carolina by Fall Color, Waterfalls

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10/16/2009 - Weather Channel Lured to Western North Carolina by Fall Color, Waterfalls
by Asheville Citizen Times

The leaf-peeping quality in the Western North Carolina is so rich, it lured the Weather Channel to the mountains Thursday to feature live spots from Transylvania County, including Gorges State Park, the Cradle of Forestry and Looking Glass Falls.

When people talk about fall color destinations nationally, they think of New England and Vermont, but nationally, we're still a well-kept secret, said Susan Dosier, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Division of Tourism.

We're trying to get the awareness out that North Carolina's changing elevations give leaf season a long life. The high altitudes near Boone will be reaching peak this weekend, and the color will last all the way through Thanksgiving down in the Piedmont.

Getting national exposure on the Weather Channel, which has been featuring fall color destinations from around the country, will be a big help in bringing tourists to the region, said Libby Freeman, executive director of the Brevard/Transylvania Chamber of Commerce.

With the economy like it is, we haven't seen the increase in tourists that we have in previous years, Freeman said. Brevard's visitor center has about 30,000 visitors a year, she said, while the Pisgah Ranger Station in the national forest has some 250,000 visitors each year.

October is the second most popular tourist season in Transylvania County after the summer months, Freeman said. The county, about 35 miles southwest of Asheville, is home to 250 named waterfalls, rivers and streams for boating and fishing, more than 300 miles of mountain biking trails and hundreds more miles of hiking trails within Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest and Gorges State Park, she said.

The cable network aired segments Thursday morning that were taped previously at Gorges State Park. A planned live shoot at Looking Glass Falls was canceled because of breaking news.

Gorges State Park ranger Larry Johnson was interviewed a couple of weeks ago for a taped segment that aired Thursday.

They asked me about people coming to see the waterfalls, said Johnson, a ranger at Gorges, home to several waterfalls. I talked about the safety and how people need to stay on the trails. Especially with all this rain, we encourage people to come and visit, but to be careful around the falls.

I think it's a wonderful thing for Transylvania County, said Brad Campbell, with the county's tourism board. It's a chance to step out of the shadows and show people the wonderful natural and cultural resources we have in the county.

Weather Channel reporter Katy Tur, who is based in New York City, and spent Thursday sightseeing in between live broadcasts, said she had not previously heard about WNC's fall scenery.

The mountains are beautiful, the waterfalls are gorgeous, and the people are wonderful, Tur said. I just had my first biscuits and gravy this morning at the Gatekeeper's Table (in Pisgah Forest). It was delicious.

What's interesting about this area is you can see leaf color for a month and a half. But in Vermont, it's there and then it's gone.

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