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Leaves start to change colors and boost tourism in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fall visitation to the Mountain State is growing this time of year as the leaves start changing colors, according to West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby.

Secretary Chelsea Ruby

“We’re the third most forested state. Because of our varying elevations, we have color for quite a while. We’ll have a good month of color across the state,” Ruby said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Higher elections of Tucker County are reporting 80 percent color with a peak expected over the weekend, according to the latest fall foliage report released Wednesday by state Tourism Office.

With help from the state Division of Forestry, officials release a report on fall colors each week. In the latest finding, officials said leaves on maple trees near West Virginia University and Coopers Rock State Forest are starting to change to red and orange.

Color is at 50 percent in Pendleton County including Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob.

Social media photos through the hashtag #AlmostHeaven are also used to build a live leaf map.

“We quickly get them up on that live leaf map on our website so that if anybody wants to look and say ‘what does the color look like today in this area’ using user generated content, we can show you,” Ruby said.

Ruby said travel writers and West Virginians who share their stories have helped boost tourism. The designation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve has been a huge driver to the Mountain State.

“It’s translating the visitation. That area is up, near to date, 44 percent. We are already well over one million visitors to the park this year,” Ruby said. “It doesn’t just help that area, it really helps the whole state because it really raises our profile as a tourism state.”

This weekend’s recommended scenic drive is state. Route 24 in Preston County to U.S. 219 in Tucker County.

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