Many Wisconsin residents and visitors enjoy the beauty of state forests, especially during the cooler fall days when hills, valleys, farms and towns light up with showy fall colors. Fall is just around the corner and Wisconsin’s 16 million acres of forest are ready for the show.
“Folks can expect to enjoy the fall colors as they always have,” said Trent Marty who directs the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Forest Protection, “in fact colors are already starting to show in some areas which is a little ahead of schedule. The warm late summer days we’re experiencing and the cooler nights really work to bring the color out.”
Multiple factors – including weather during the growing season, just before the fall season as well as during the color show – influence color intensity. Wisconsin forests are noted for being among the best in the nation for fall color, and forest-based recreation – including viewing the fall beauty – is estimated to contribute $5.5 billion to the Wisconsin economy through travel-related and equipment expenditures.
“Even though the state experienced some record-setting weather in the south, forests there have come through it in good shape and northern forests experienced normal precipitation. Forest trees statewide are in excellent shape heading into the fall,” explains Marty.
The intensity of the fall color season is really dependent on the weather that Wisconsin receives during September and October. 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 lots of sugars to be produced by the trees and trapped in the leaves, which ultimately leads to the intense red, orange and purple coloration in the leaves of certain species.
The duration of the fall color season is related to the wind intensity and rain occurring during late-September and October. High winds and driving rains during this time of the year cause significant numbers of the leaves to fall from the trees, which can prematurely shorten the fall color season.
“Now we just need good weather for the fall color viewing – sunshine to illuminate the leaves and no high winds so the leaves remain in place as long as possible,” Marty said.
Some spectacular fall color viewing areas in Wisconsin include: the Lake Superior shoreline along the Bayfield Peninsula in far northern Wisconsin; Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Hayward; St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in northwestern Wisconsin; Rib Mountain State Parkand the Wausau area in Central Wisconsin; Peninsula State Park and Potawatomi State Park in Door County in eastern Wisconsin; Kettle Moraine State Forest in southeastern Wisconsin; the Wisconsin River Valley, Baraboo Hills region (especially Devil’s Lake State Park) and Wildcat Mountain State Park near Ontario in southwestern Wisconsin; and the Mississippi River Valley in western Wisconsin.
Wisconsin forestry officials are eager for citizens to get out and enjoy the fall colors but also ask that folks be careful with campfires and to buy firewood locally to avoid inadvertently moving forest pests or invasive species hiding under bark to new locations.
Also, the North Lakeland Discovery Center has a free trail guide app for iPhone or iPad for Wisconsin’s most-visited state property – the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The App will guide you along forest trails and provide useful and educational information along the way.
Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources