Time running out for leaf-peepers across Minnesota, Great Lakes region

In Ohio, near-peak and peak conditions are expected across most of the state this weekend. (Ohio DNR)

In Minnesota and across much of the Great Lakes region, it’s crunch time for leaf-chasers.

And not because of the sound of fallen, past-peak leaves crunching underfoot.

Although it’s that time, too, in many parts of the state.

Yes, fall colors now are at, near or past peak across the state. Of Minnesota’s 76 state parks and recreation areas, only five are at 50-75 percent peak color, with 24 at 75-100 percent, according to the Minnesota DNR Fall Color Finder, which was updated Thursday, Oct. 19. The rest of the state parks and rec areas – and the areas in which they are found – are past peak colors, according to the color finder.

Those areas are in maroon on the color finder map and, as a result, the map is a sea of maroon, roughly from a line across the south-central part of the state on up. The only exception here is in northwestern Minnesota, where Big Bog State Recreation Area in Waskish and Lake Bemidji State Park near Bemidji are at 75-100 percent. All five state parks at 50-75 percent – Beaver Creek Valley, Carley, Frontenac, John A. Latsch and Whitewater – are located in far southeastern Minnesota.

Like Minnesota, other states in the Great Lakes region also have seen warmer-than-usual weather recently, which has impacted fall colors. In Ohio, near-peak and peak conditions are expected across most of the state this weekend, according to the Ohio DNR, with many trees also showing yellow hues because it has remained warm throughout September and now well into October, the Ohio DNR said in its fourth fall colors report Wednesday, Oct. 18.

According to the Ohio DNR, the yellow pigments, or carotenoids, are always present in leaves but are masked by green chlorophyll most of the year. Since the temperature hasn’t really cooled, especially at night, when it should be in the 40s or upper 30s now in Ohio, the sap in the trees hasn’t thickened enough to clog the veins in the leaf stem, the Ohio DNR said in the report. This leads to less sugar being trapped in the leaf tissue, which causes the chemical reaction that produces the deep red and purples typically seen this time of year. Ohio leaf-peepers should also be on the lookout for hickory and yellow poplar trees, which are currently showing off their gold colors, the report said.

In New York, peak colors are expected this weekend in eight of the state’s 11 vacation regions, as defined by the “I Love New York” program, according to volunteer field observers contributing to the state’s sixth fall foliage report, also released Wednesday. Fall colors are just starting to show up in a good part of Illinois, according to the state DNR fall color report, released Thursday. And according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau’s fall foliage report, also released Thursday, much of the state is at 70-90 percent peak colors, although most of the southern and southeastern parts of the state are nowhere near peak, also due to warm temperatures, with only a handful of counties – mostly in the northern zone – past peak colors, according to the report.

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