Behold, the yellow leaf.
For some, that is an indication that fall has sprung — according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fall Color Finder, the yellow leaf icon indicates that fall colors are at 25-50 percent of their peak, about when leaves start turning yellow. And, as of mid-week, of the 76 state parks and recreation areas in Minnesota, Buffalo River State Park near Moorhead, Minn., is the furthest along, the only one with yellow-leaf status.
That’s good news for hikers wanting to experience at least some fall colors as they gather for the North Country National Scenic Trail’s annual celebration, being held over the weekend in and around the Fargo, N.D./Moorhead area. And such monitoring is good for all those “leaf-peepers” in Minnesota and across the Northland.
Each Thursday, staff from Minnesota state parks and trails will update the tool to help people find the best color displays as well as fall color programs and special events. The website includes a slideshow and photo uploader so people may share their favorite images.
As a general rule, the DNR said that colors peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third, which includes the Twin Cities. Peak fall colors typically last about two weeks, but that can vary widely, depending on location, elevation and weather. Trees at higher elevations are the earliest to show color change.
As of Wednesday at the DNR Fall Color Finder web page (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html), most of the state parks were listed in green (0-10 percent of peak colors), with a few in light green (10-25 percent) and only Buffalo River in yellow. The next colors level is gold (50-75 percent), followed by red (75-100 percent) and maroon (past peak). For a mobile Fall Color Finder, integrated with Google maps and in a format optimized for smart phones and tablets, go to www.mndnr.gov/fallcolor and select the “mobile page” button.
“The DNR’s forest health specialists say we’ve had enough rain around the state this summer to keep things green and healthy, which is the first building block for great fall color,” Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails, said in a release announcing the fall colors/trip-planning tool. “To increase the chances of having a flashy fall, we need warm, sunny days and cool nights to bring out those vivid colors.”
While the tool helps alert leaf chasers to fall colors across the state, it’s also meant to shine a light on the many events going on at state parks this fall, including many directly tied to the changing of the colors.
That schedule pretty much kicked off, fittingly, at Buffalo River with “Colors of the Prairie at Bluestem SNA” on Sept. 16. Then, in anticipation of fall colors kicking into high gear that next week, the Sept. 24 schedule includes a slew of related events: “Caches, Colors and Changes at Whitewater” (Whitewater State Park); “125th Parks Anniversary Special Program: Million Shades of Autumn Geocaching Weekend” (William O’Brien State Park); “Maplewood Leaf Days” (Maplewood State Park); and “Fall Colors Along the Savanna Portage Trail” (Savanna Portage State Park).
For a complete listing of fall events at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, go to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/events.html. And, of course, experiencing the fall colors isn’t limited to state parks and rec areas.
“Other ways to enjoy the fall colors include biking through them on a state trail, paddling past them on a state water trail or driving through a state forest in a car or all-terrain vehicle,” Rivers said.
Yes, green and yellow and red (and all colors in between) all mean go in the drive that is the fall colors.