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Looking for fall colors

PRINCETON - Now is the time to start planning for the perfect fall drive through Illinois to see the turning leaves of autumn.

The U.S. National Parks Association has set the peak time for this year’s fall colors to be mid-October to early November.

With that in mind, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Illinois Office of Tourism have announced Oct. 6-13 as the 2012 Illinois Scenic Byway Week.

To help Illinois residents map out their fall trips, the Illinois Office of Tourism has launched a new interactive link on its website detailing the state’s seven historic routes, one of which is the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway which runs through Bureau County.

Anaise Berry, director of the Illinois Road National Scenic Byway, said the autumn is the perfect time of the year for residents and visitors to enjoy Illinois.

“With the fall colors nearly upon us, this is perhaps the most beautiful time of year to explore Illinois’ scenic byways,” Berry said. “These byways provide glimpses into our state’s rich history, extensive natural resources and recreational opportunities, while taking travelers through many unique communities along the way.”

Though some residents may think they’ve seen all there is to see in Illinois, traveling around the state will bring new highlights and sights each year, Berry said.

Locally, the Illinois River Road runs 291 miles on both sides of the Illinois River from Ottawa southwest to Havana. The Illinois River Road Byway enters Bureau County on Route 6, north of St. Bede Academy, and runs through Spring Valley, switching just west of Spring Valley onto Route 29. The Byway continues through DePue and Bureau, with a scenic pathway looping into Princeton as a designated gateway community.

On Tuesday, Princeton Tourism Director Joni Hunt said she hopes people will take advantage of all that the Illinois Valley area has to offer, not just during the Illinois Scenic Byway Week but throughout the year.

“We are very lucky to be part of the Illinois River Valley Byway. There aren’t a lot of national byways, and we have one in our own backyard,” Hunt said. “Through the Byway we are exposed to nature, history, culture and just fun. Whatever your interests are, you will find it along the Byway.”

In addition to the Illinois River Road Byway, the other six scenic byways include the Illinois Route 66 Byway, Illinois Lincoln Highway, the Illinois National Road, Great River Road, the Great Rivers Byway, and Ohio River Byway.

In announcing the Oct. 6-13 Scenic Byway Week, IDOT secretary Ann Schneider said the scenic byways in Illinois help connect travelers to the past while they discover the present.

“The byways are found in every region of the state and are a true testament to the network of beautiful roadways from east to west and downstate to upstate,” Schneider said.

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