A sign of fall: DNR issues season’s first color report

September 11, 2018

Temperatures in the 80s this week have it feeling like summer, but fall color won’t wait for a cold front.

Trees are already showing orange, yellow and red hues in northwestern Minnesota, and starting this week the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will post weekly reports on its website as the color wave treks south across the state.

This should be a banner year to explore the multicolored landscape, said Val Cervenka, who works in the DNR’s forestry division and provides the annual color forecast.

“For most of Minnesota, this fall’s color display should be rich and beautiful,” she said.

Warm, sunny days followed by cool but not frosty nights will trigger the color change, she said. The show typically begins across the northern counties in early September and peaks across the northern half of Minnesota between mid-September and early October. In the southern part of the state, the foliage usually hits its peak between late-September and mid-October. Peak colors normally last for about two weeks.

“Scenic road trips, harvest season, festivals and outdoor recreation make fall the second biggest travel season,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism bureau. “With weekly statewide fall color reports, we’re able to help travelers make the most of this special season.”

Updates every Wednesday

Staff from 75 state parks across the state will file updates on the status of trees, wildflowers and grasses each Wednesday through the end of October, and will report their findings through a color-coded map showing the percentage of trees that have changed color. Slide shows of photographs taken by park staff and uploaded by visitors will accompany the map, which was viewed more than 500,000 times in 2017.

“It’s a helpful resource for people,” said DNR spokeswoman Amy Barrett. “It helps people get real time information as to what there is to see at that time in the parks.”

With colors ephemeral, the DNR has teamed with the tourism department to highlight festivals that coincide when leaves are expected to be at their most brilliant. That includes the Harvest Festival and Lanter-Lit hikes Sept. 22 at Itasca State Park and Leaf Day celebration at Maplewood State Park Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 6-7. The park near Fergus Falls is one of the most beautiful places to view the bright shades of reds, Barrett said.

From events to hikes to suggested drives, the DNR and the tourism bureau’s joint effort will allow travelers to get newsletters, e-mails, text messages and social media messages to help them plan their trips. Travelers also are encouraged to upload photos and share them on social media using the hashtags #OnlyinMN and #JustAddNature.

“It’s a reminder that all these resources to find fall color are available,” Barrett said. “It’s a short but a favorite season.”

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768

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