Anyone hoping to see the traditional reds and yellows of autumn, take note: It appears North Dakota's leaves are turning ahead of schedule and might not be as brilliant this year.
According to the North Dakota Forest Service, this year’s fall colors are expected to be less vibrant and shorter in duration than usual due to the summer’s drought and high temperatures. The Farmers’ Almanac predicted peak leaf season would fall between Oct. 5 and 21 in North Dakota and Oct. 1 and 17 in northern Minnesota. The North Dakota Forest Service says trees are more than a week ahead of schedule.
“The lack of moisture and extensive heat has put a lot of stress on the trees, which generally causes our colors to be a bit more drab. A lot of the leaf structure actually gets damaged,” said Peter Gag, forest health manager for the North Dakota Forest Service.
“Healthy leaves produce the best fall color,” said Jennifer Teegarden, cooperative forest management outreach specialist in the division of forestry for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. She said tree maintenance through the summer, especially during droughts, is the best way to ensure vibrant colors in the fall.
“They need water once a week, a nice deep soaking of water to saturate the first couple inches of the soil,” said Teegarden. “That will help your yard trees to produce nice fall color.”
Around the home, tree maintenance does not stop after the leaves fall. Gag also talked about the importance of watering trees, but he focused on what tree owners can do to keep their trees healthy moving into winter. He said that after the colors change and the leaves fall, watering trees once a week will make them less susceptible to damage from the sun and cold during winter months.
Despite a shorter and less vibrant fall color season, there are still ways to enjoy the foliage before it falls.
Rachel Hopper, visitor services and outreach manager for Minnesota State Parks and Trails, suggests enjoying the fall colors on any of the hiking trails at Old Mill State Park near Argyle, Minnesota, and Lake Bronson State Park in Lake Bronson, Minnesota. The parks are about 30 miles from each other, and between 25% and 50% of the trees at both have reached peak fall color, according to the most recent update by the Minnesota Department of Resources.
Gag recommends looking for fall colors in cities and towns around the region, which he says might have the greatest variety of colors. For a more natural setting, he suggested forests along rivers, like the Pembina or Red.
Visitors to the Roseau River Wildlife Management Area in northwest Minnesota this week saw various shades of yellow and orange. A walk down the Greenway in Grand Forks was highlighted by yellows and a few reds.
To stay up to date on fall color conditions in Minnesota, Teegarden recommends visiting the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website to check out the Fall Color Finder. The page is updated weekly with information about when to expect peak leaf across Minnesota.
The North Dakota Tourism Division also posts fall color updates and viewing recommendations on their Fall Foliage Map.