September 18, 2015    //    James Feist
Catching fall colors at their peak can sometimes come with very short notice. As explained in my previous fall color blog, many different things contribute to the timing and intensity of autumn hues, with weather being on top of the list. Luckily for us we are at the beginning phases of color change with the DNR predicting a great year for vibrant fall colors in Minnesota. Knowing how fleeting this time of year can be, our fall color updates will help you plan the best time to explore autumn in the Alexandria area. Even if you happen to miss the peak, the good news is you could still see plenty of late turners, not to mention the beautiful mosaic of colorful leaves scattered all over the ground.
Lake Carlos State Park has a large diversity of trees which makes it a great place to catch excellent fall colors. I stopped out at the park to take some pictures of anything starting to turn. I also met with the area parks naturalist, Ben Eckhoff, who gave me lots of information on things to consider when seeking out colors. He said the park is in the 10% range for change, which you can see in the photographs below. “Looking ahead right now, we may be at 30-40% in a week’s time, and possibly reaching peak in early October,” said Eckhoff. “But that can change very quickly, depending on the upcoming weather.”
Eckhoff possesses a wealth of knowledge for the outdoors which could enlighten any curious mind. He also gave me some tips on great places within the park to target for good colors. “One of the best areas for fall colors in the park is the Lakeview Group Camp and Day Use area. The maple trees located there get plenty of sunlight which makes them turn bright red and orange,” he said. “There is another large patch of maples in an area along the Forestry Trail that turn very bright yellow, almost neon. You can also see that patch from the Maple Basswood Trail as well.” I asked if those trees were a different kind of maple which made them turn yellow versus red. He said, “they are all Sugar Maples, but things like sunlight abundance and soil composition can change the color of the leaves from one area to the next.”
Lake Carlos State Park has tons of great programming throughout the year, including a Fall Color Photography Walk and a Fall Festival in the coming weeks. Visit their website for additional information and to see a map of the trails mentioned above. The park also releases their own fall color updates that can be found here, as well as on the DNR’s fall color page.
Much of the foliage within the Alexandria city limits appear to be slightly further along than the ones at the State Park. Having differences in sunlight exposure and soil composition within a different ecosystem can explain the variations from one area to the next (I learned that from Ben Eckhoff). Below you can see some within the city that are showing more progress compared to the park.
Stay tuned for additional fall color updates as we continue to inch closer to peak. Have fun, stay connected and keep Exploring!