Finding fall colors
Change reflects healthy forest diversity
Wisconsin’s fall color show is just beginning in northern Wisconsin and the changing colors help highlight the state’s healthy forest diversity.
Weather during the growing season is critical for the abundant quantity of leaves needed to provide the potential for an excellent fall color display, according to Carmen Hardin of the state Department of Natural Resources’ forestry sciences section.
“The 2015 growing season has been excellent across much of Wisconsin and the fall color season is anticipated to be spectacular,” she said.
So far this year, color change is starting to occur in certain species, especially birch, basswood and red maple tree in spots across northern Wisconsin.
With state forests, parks and natural areas conveniently accessible throughout the state, it’s possible to follow the progression of fall colors from hundreds of locations.
Contact the state Department of Tourism’s Fall Color Hotline at 800-432-TRIP or visit www.travelwisconsin.com/fall-color-report for current information on the current best fall color viewing areas in Wisconsin.
Hardin said peak fall color varies slightly from year to year depending on the weather conditions, but the shortened day length is the primary trigger for trees to begin changing color.
DNR forestry outreach specialist Kirsten Held said peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October.
However, significant color typically appears earlier in isolated, lower-lying areas by mid-September.
“Peak color generally occurs in central Wisconsin during mid-October and in southern Wisconsin during the latter half of October,” Held said. “While we are beginning to see the showy maple trees turning red and the birch trees taking on a golden hue, it will take the oak trees a bit longer to yield their yellow, red and russet hues. Fall provides a great opportunity to pick out a variety of tree species on a hillside and understand just how diverse our forests are.”
Wisconsin’s state parks and forests and state natural areas, offer prime locations for enjoying nature’s annual fall color show, starting with forests in northern and central Wisconsin.
The Flambeau River State Forest in Sawyer, Price and Rusk counties can be one of the state’s top destinations to check out the fall colors, forest superintendent Jim Halvorson said.
Peak colors typically arrive in the first part of October. The best viewing sites include Campground Road north of State Highway 54 or North Settlement Road south of Highway 54. Peak colors typically arrive in the first part of October.
“The intensity of the fall color season is really dependent on the weather that Wisconsin receives during September and October,” Hardin said. “To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool but frost-free evenings are required.
“These weather conditions cause anthocyanins to be produced by certain species of trees, which protect the leaves of the trees from the light as they are storing nutrients and sugars for the winter,” she said. “This ultimately leads to the intense red, orange and purple coloration in the leaves.”
The duration of the fall color season is related to the intensity of wind and rain during late September and October. High winds and driving rains cause significant numbers of the leaves to fall from the trees, which can prematurely shorten the color season.