Explore Minnesota Fall Color Report

 Explore Minnesota Fall Color Report

September 23, 2011

This report is brought to you by Explore Minnesota Tourism in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Recent frosts have accelerated the fall color change, and beautiful shades of crimson red, bright orange and vivid yellow can now be found throughout the state. Park officials report a 10-25 percent change in the leaves in much of Minnesota. In the northeast corner, however, fall color is averaging 25-50 percent, with Bear Head Lake and Temperance River state parks fast approaching peak fall color!

Typically, peak fall color arrives in the northern one-third of the state in mid-September to early October. The central third of the state is most colorful between late September and early October. Southern Minnesota trees reach the height of their fall color late September to mid-October. One exception is the North Shore of Lake Superior, where peak fall color arrives about a week later than inland areas due to the warming effect of the lake.

This report will be updated each Thursday afternoon during the fall color season, with additional updates as conditions warrant – please note that fall color can change rapidly due to wind, rain, frost and drought. Information in this report has been provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as well as Voyageurs National Park, the Three Rivers Park District, and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. This report is brought to you by Explore Minnesota Tourism.

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Northeast Minnesota

Scenic State Park -Bigfork, north of Grand Rapids
Fall is in the air and the colors are becoming more prominent. Park officials report a 25-50 percent change in the maples, oaks, ash and basswood which are turning shades of yellow, gold, orange, rust and red! The tamarack needles are just beginning to turn gold, and the sumac is becoming a vibrant red. The underbrush is starting to lighten. Asters, goldenrod, Joe Pye weed and some of the wild sunflowers remain in full bloom. Canada Geese have been migrating through the park. Ruffed grouse and a red fox named “Fiona” can be spotted on the trails and along the road ways. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of Fiona’s babies! Visitors should check out the historic CCC Lodge for a spectacular view of Coon Lake.

Bear Head Lake State Park -Ely
Park officials report a 50-75 percent change in the trees, and the three-mile drive from the park entrance to the office is breathtaking! Blends of yellow, gold and brown encompass the white paper birch and aspen, and beautiful orange, rust and red fill the maples. Fallen leaves are blanketing the campground loops. The park is alive with wildlife movement, with recent sightings of grouse, deer, porcupine, otters and loons. The Norberg hiking trail and Cub Lake are ideal for viewing the rich fall color. Day visitors are enjoying picnics at the beach, and hikers are enjoying the Norberg, Becky and Blueberry Lake hiking trails.

Temperance River State Park -Schroeder, north of Silver Bay
Approximately 50-75 percent of the park foliage is displaying fall color! The birch and aspen are most prominent and full of vivid yellow leaves. Scattered maple trees are turning red and orange. The understory and groundcover are filled with gold and rust-colored leaves. The most colorful areas are inland. Visitors will want to either hike or dive out to Carlton Peak for an eagle-eye view of the rugged landscape below. Stop in at the park office for a map. And pink salmon, also known as Autumn Salmon, are running in the Temperance River. These fish were accidentally released into Lake Superior in the 1950s, and are now thriving in the lake. They spawn in the lake’s tributaries in the fall, and die after spawning. Often, otters and birds of prey can be seen taking advantage of the salmon’s life cycle. The best views of the salmon are at the mouth of the Temperance River and the pools below the foot bridge. And be sure to watch for all of the raptors migrating along Lake Superior.

Gooseberry Falls State Park -Two Harbors
Overall, park officials report a 25-50 percent change in the trees and shrubs. More than half of the birch and aspen have turned yellow and gold, and a few of the maples are taking on shades of bright orange and red. The Mountain Ash berries are adding bright orange to the mix. The Picnic Flow area is always a great place to enjoy the cool, fresh lake breeze. Hiking along the river from the falls to the lake provides great views of the hills and bluffs which are dappled in a wide range of color. Please note that the walkways around the Visitor Center are currently under construction – all facilities remain open but please follow the designated temporary walkways to and from the center and the waterfall viewing areas.

Jay Cooke State Park -Carlton, south of Duluth
While most trees remain green, some of the maples are starting to turn bright red and orange. The sumac is displaying vibrant red leaves. Stop at the Swinging Bridge for some close-up views of the rapids and emerging fall color. And the short walk out to Oldenburg Point is recommended for a panoramic view of the river valley.

Northwest Minnesota

Lake Bronson State Park -Lake Bronson, far northwest corner of Minnesota
While less than one-quarter of the park foliage has changed color, the park should be ablaze in color by next week. The many hiking trails and the paved bike path will offer visitors a chance to view the changes up-close. And don’t miss the Elk Tour at Lake Bronson beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 24th at the Visitor Center – enjoy a brief presentation, followed by a driving tour to view live elk.

Big Bog Recreation Area -Waskish
At present, roughly 10-25 percent of the leaves have changed color. The ash and birch trees in the campground are quickly developing yellow and gold leaves following recent hard frosts and rain. Climb the Fire Tower for a spectacular view of the emerging fall colors. It won’t be long until the tamarack trees along the boardwalk and roadsides are vibrant shades of gold and orange!

Itasca State Park – north of Park Rapids
The red maples are rapidly changing color. This year’s conditions at Itasca are ideal for the sugar maples, with more trees displaying orange and peachy-pink fall color in addition to their customary red and maroon! The paper birch are beginning to turn golden. The ash leaves appear shriveled and dry, losing their soft yellow colors after the recent freeze. The shrubs continue to dominate the color range with their yellows, pinks, reds and purples. Blue-beech leaves are turning violet-purple. In the understory, the sumac is turning a brilliant red, the dogwoods are showing more of their pinkish-red colors, and the arrowwood and Virginia creeper are adding shades of deep purple, wine and pinkish-red to the mix. The forest floor ranges from tan and gold in the ferns to lovely pinkish-yellow in the poison ivy. Touring by car along Main Park Drive and Wilderness Drive will offer views of the pockets of red and orange maples. Bicyclists will also enjoy the transformation viewed along the bike trail, especially as you descend into Bear Paw Campground. Hikers can enjoy some stunning maple color along various hiking trails. Peak fall color is projected to occur in the maples and basswood the last week of September. The oak, birch and aspen will be most colorful the first week of October. The tamarack peak generally occurs the second to third week of October. There has been an increase in the number of immature bald eagles and broad-winged hawks seen in park, with lots of ruffed grouse, woodcocks, deer, raccoons, porcupines, and snapping turtle sightings recently reported. And don’t miss the annual Autumn Harvest Lantern Lit Hike offered Saturday evening, September 24.

Buffalo River State Park -Glyndon, east of Moorhead
The prairie flowers are either at full bloom or just past their peak. The big bluestem grasses have turned entirely bronze and gold. Park staff report a 10-25 percent change in the trees and shrubs, with nice fall color advancing throughout the park.

Central Minnesota

Maplewood State Park -Pelican Rapids
The forests are quickly transforming into a fabulous array of reds, oranges and yellows. This weekend will provide nice early fall color, with the tops of many maples full of vibrant leaves. The maples should reach their peak next week through early October. The yellow and gold ash, birch and elm are nearing their peak, and the sumacs are beautiful shades of crimson red and orange. Late summer bluestem grasses and fall prairie flowers are at their peak, and adding lots of purple, blue, gold and yellow to the landscape. Visitors should travel the popular 5-mile park drive which meanders through maple forests, along sparkling lakes, through colorful prairies, and leading to grand vistas overlooking vast landscapes. And don’t miss Leaf Days on September 24 & 25, when children’s programs, geocaching classes, wagon rides, and food and clothing sales will be offered within the park.

Sibley State Park -north of Willmar
Fall leaf color is progressing more rapidly as nighttime temperatures turn cooler and the days get shorter. A greater amount of yellow is showing up in the ash, elm, boxelder and willow species. The gold and bronze prairie grasses combined with the red sumac are adding rich color to the grasslands and roadsides. While at the park, be sure to hike or drive to Mount Tom for an incredible view! For an enjoyable auto tour, drive the Glacial Ridge Trail, a Minnesota Scenic Byway, which takes you through Sibley and Monson Lake state parks, as well as the surrounding countryside. Numerous programs and activities will be offered this weekend, September 23-25, at Sibley including Hairy Critters, Animal Track Making For Kids, Digital Nature Photography For Kids, and Geocaching 101 – High Tech Treasure Hunting.

Savanna Portage State Park -McGregor
Color change is starting to accelerate. A few of the maples are adding pockets of red, coral, orange and yellow to the canopy. The ash, basswood, aspen and birch are developing yellow leaves, and the underbrush is starting to lighten. Asters continue to bloom. The Beaver Pond Trail, Loon Lake Trail, and the road to Loon Lake are currently best for fall color viewing. Park officials expect a 25-50 percent change in the park foliage by the end of this weekend.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area -Crosby/Ironton
Fall colors are rapidly developing throughout the park, with 10-25 percent of the foliage having changed color. The landscape is speckled with bright red from the sumacs and dogwoods, and deep red and maroon from the Virginia creeper vines. Some aspens are starting to turn yellow, and a few maples are taking on pale orange and red tones. For spectacular views, visit the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Overlook. The new 25-mile single-track mountain bike trail system meanders through canopies of orange and gold maples, aspen and birch, with scenic vistas and exhilarating descents along the way. Another great way to enjoy Cuyuna’s fall colors is along the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail, a paved 6.1-mile trail for walking, biking and roller blading. And water recreation enthusiasts can enjoy fall colors by canoe or kayak; the clarity and undeveloped shorelines of the mine lakes make this a very unique fall color experience and destination.

Twin Cities Metropolitan Vicinity

Lake Maria State Park -Monticello, northwest of Buffalo
Roughly 25-50 percent of the trees and shrubs are exhibiting fall color. While the forest interior is still mostly green, the ash, birch and elm trees are showing some yellow and gold. The sumac is at peak shades of bright red and maroon. A few scattered maples are taking on more red and orange. The prairie grasses are at peak shades of maroon and rusty red. The asters are in full bloom and are attracting large numbers of monarch butterflies. Forest edges and adjacent grasslands are showing shades of yellow and gold. The Bjorkland Lake Trail is a nice, easy 2-mile walk through areas with emerging fall color. Trumpeter swans are a common site within the park, and there are active eagle and osprey nests near Maria Lake with opportunities to see the adults and their young. Boat, canoe and kayak rentals continue on weekends through mid-October. A variety of fall programs are also offered at the park, including Frogs, Toads and Salamanders this Saturday, September 24. Dial 763-878-2325 for more information.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum -Chaska/West Metro
Although there is not much fall color yet, a few trees are starting to show some early color. Shades of red and orange are visible in the sugar maples, red maples, sumac, viburnums, and burning bush. Yellow and gold leaves are appearing in the green ash, honeylocust, hackberry, and boxelder. Shades of purple can be found in the white ash. The prairie areas are filled with maroon big and little bluestem grasses, and yellow goldenrod, sunflowers, golden aster, prairie dropseed and Indian grasses. Blue-purple asters and liatris, and white asters and false aster add to the variety of color throughout the park. Peak fall color is projected to occur the second and third week in October, slightly earlier than usual due to dry conditions earlier this summer. The Arboretum has the most diverse collection of fall color trees, prairie grasses and flowers in the metro area – a perfect place to enjoy all that fall has to offer!

Wild River State Park -Almelund, east of North Branch
The maples are the highlight this week, and are in the process of turning bright red, blazing orange and golden yellow. For a more intimate look at the changing maples, follow the multi-purpose trail from the Visitor Center to the Picnic Shelter, or the paved trail which runs through the park. For a longer and more intense stroll under the maples travel the Aspen Knob loop behind the park office. The asters remain in full bloom, brightening up the forest floor. The prairies are very colorful with their tall flowing grasses and goldenrods, and can be viewed from the Amador Prairie and Pioneer loops trails. Stop by the Visitor Center for a panoramic view of the river valley – a little more color is evident each day! Wildlife is plentiful this time of year; watch for bullsnakes and hog-nosed snakes in the prairies, as well as a variety of migrating birds, caterpillars, cicadas, butterflies and monarch butterflies. And don’t miss the many fun and educational programs and activities offered at Wild River this weekend, September 23-25, including Under the Microscope, All About Black Bears, Amik’s Pond Hike, Make a Bird Feeder, Tricky Tracks and Tricks to Tracking, Snakes Alive, and Fall Leaf Art! And volunteers are needed to help collect native prairie seed to supplement our prairie restorations. Dial 651-583-2925 for more information on programs and volunteer opportunities.

Afton State Park – Afton, north of Hastings
Most trees are showing signs of change, and many of the cottonwoods, aspen, box elder, ash and walnut trees adding yellow hues to the landscape. A few of the maples are turning red and orange, and there are some oak branches that have begun to turn rust and orange. The sumac is displaying more red each day, with some now dropping their leaves. Some bright blooms can still be found in the sunflowers, white snakeroot, orange and yellow jewelweed, and various species of goldenrod. The prairie areas are full of amber and blue hues from the big bluestem and Indian grasses. The overlook from the middle picnic area offers easy access to a panoramic view of the St. Croix River. The half mile walk from the parking area to the North and South River trails is great for close-up views of the river. And visitors may check out GPS units and fishing kits at the visitors’ center at no charge.

Southern Minnesota

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park -Nerstrand, south of Northfield
While changes in leaf color remain subtle, the sumac, dogwood, and Virginia creeper vines are displaying beautiful burgundy and bright red leaves. The goldenrod, asters, and daisy fleabane are abundant, and creamy gentian is blooming in the campgrounds. The Maple Trail is best for viewing early leaf color, with nice color developing in the picnic area and in the campground. The prairie along County Road 27 is filled with flowing Indian grass which is at its peak shade of bronze. Wild hen turkeys are often seen with their young poults on the roadsides. And St. John’s Church, adjacent to Nerstrand on the south side of the park, will hold their annual Germanfest celebration this Sunday, September 25, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a German buffet, old-time music by local acts, a bake shop, Christmas store, Bingo, quilt show, St. John’s Apple Jelly, a petting zoo, and variety of activities.

Frontenac State Park -Frontenac, south of Red Wing
The most notable fall display is in the large areas of prairie grasses. The bronze-colored big bluestem grasses measure up to 7-feet tall. Gold and copper colors fill the Indian grasses and the 2- to 3-foot little bluestem and switch grasses. Patches of yellow goldenrod and purple aster flowers are scattered throughout. Frontenac’s main prairies are south of the park office building and along the main park road. Watch for park officials as they harvest wildflower seeds, as well as bluestem and Indian grasses, for future prairie restorations.

Beaver Creek Valley State Park -Caledonia
Last week’s hard freeze has caused the maples to rapidly change to peak shades of bright yellow and orange. Even the oaks have started to turn shades of orange and rust. The most scenic views are from the overlook on the Switchback Trail, the West Rim Trail, and along the stream on the Beaver Creek Trail. And don’t miss the Barn Quilt Tour Route running throughout Houston County, with 50 8 X 8 painted wooden quilts on area barns and sheds. Visit www.visitcaledonia.com

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park -Preston
The tall grasses have turned shades of red and gold, with additional splashes of yellow, purple, blue and white from the wildflowers in the prairies. The restored North and South Townsite prairies offer the nicest views. Changes in the tree canopy are also occurring. The sumac and Virginia creeper have turned bright red, and other shrubs and vines are turning shades of purple and red. The maples and other hardwoods are displaying patches of bright red, orange and yellow. The drive from the main park to Mystery Cave is showing some very nice early color, and the most colorful trails are the meadow trails near Historic Forestville. And don’t miss the Mystery Cave tours offered from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday. There is also a Walnut Activity Walk scheduled for Saturday, September 24, at 10:00 a.m.

Sakatah Lake State Park -Waterville, west of Faribault
The park foliage is changing color. Some wildflowers are now past peak, but the grasses are at peak shades of gold, copper and rust. Walking or biking the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail offers views of each type of plant life. A stop at the fishing pier will give you a panoramic view of the lakeshore. A drive around the lake is also a good option to see the array of colors, especially when the park is at its peak. Visitors can also enjoy free fishing from shore, with fishing poles and tackle available at the park office free of charge. Birding kits, GPS units and Kids’ Discovery Kits can also be checked out for free.

Fort Ridgely State Park – northwest of New Ulm
The prairie grasses are at or nearing peak shades of gold, copper and rust. The sumac varies from green to entirely crimson red. The ash, cottonwood and birch are rapidly turning yellow. Late season sunflowers, blue New England asters, and goldenrod are at full bloom. To view colorful flowers and grasses check out the native and restored prairie areas along County Road 30 as it enters the park. The chalet parking lot provides both prairie and woodland views. The Historic Fort Site is open for tours on Saturdays and Sundays. And don’t miss the documentary “River Revival: Working Together to Save the Minnesota River,” offered at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday, September 24 at the Fort Site (MHS fee applies).

Kilen Woods State Park -Lakefield, northwest of Jackson
The fall prairie wildflowers are at their peak and displaying bright yellow, blue and white blooms. The Prairie Trail offers the best opportunity to view the abundance of wildflowers. Some of the cottonwood trees are shedding their leaves due to dry conditions. The sugar maples are showing the slightest hint of yellow and red. The leaves of the woodbine are very red on the forest floor.

This report is brought to you by Explore Minnesota Tourism in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  To subscribe, go to http://exploreminnesota.com/eNewsletterSignup.asx