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Changing colors: Yellows, oranges, reds provide spectacular backdrop in west central Minnesota

Tribune photo by Ron Adams taken at Sibley State Park near New London, Minn.

From soft golden yellows to bright, brilliant reds, fall colors have begun to appear in west central Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, this area of Minnesota currently falls anywhere from 25 to 75 percent of peak fall colors, meaning that these colors will only continue to become more vivid, granted the weather complies.

At Sibley State Park in New London, the colors are currently at 30 to 35 percent of their peak, according to park naturalist Dick Clayton.

“It’s really pretty out here, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” Clayton said. “It’s all weather-related, but over the years, generally the second week of October has been the best opportunity for peak colors.”

In the next week to 10 days, Clayton predicts that colors in the park will hit their peak, as long as weather conditions are right.

Ideally, a combination of cool, crisp nights of 40 to 45 degrees and bright, sunny days will produce the “really excellent” fall colors, Clayton said. The moisture in the spring and early part of summer also helped by allowing trees to produce lush, abundant leaves, he said.

The only hitch now could be strong storms that blow the leaves off the trees completely.

“The leaf stems are weak already, and when it’s stormy, a lot of the leaves will come down,” Clayton said. “If that doesn’t happen, the cooler evenings they’re predicting will continue the process of fall color development.”

This process actually began last month in much of the area. Terri Dinesen, manager of Lac qui Parle State Park in Watson, said that many of the red colors started to pop up about three weeks ago. However, not all of the ashes, oaks and cottonwoods — which produce the warm yellow colors — have turned their leaves yet.

“If people want to see reds in this area, this is the time to come,” Dinesen said. “We are seeing that color on the sumac and Virginia creeper. If they’re looking for the yellow hues from the cottonwoods, we’re not quite to that point.”

The tree leaves will likely hit their peak in the next couple of weeks, Dinesen said. And then, it’s all about taking in those colors before they’re gone.

“We will be leaf-free by the end of the month,” she said. “It also depends on the weather. If you get a storm that rolls through with a lot of rain and wind, you could lose all your leaves in one day. It’s very unpredictable.”

To make the most of the fall season, Dinesen suggests that people visit the overlook area near Lac qui Parle Lake, south of the upper campground, and watch the waterfowl. The park also offers hiking trails and an area near the dam where people can watch pelicans and gulls while enjoying the fall scenery.

At Sibley State Park, those who wish to see the changing colors up close can participate in one of the park’s fall colors walks, which take place at 2 p.m. today and Oct. 12 and 13. The guided walks last 30 to 45 minutes and a park naturalist will identify trees and shrubs and explain how fall colors occur.

“We have excellent fall colors here because we have a nice mixture of red oak and aspen and ash trees, and we have so many shrub layers too,” Clayton said. “We have the potential to have some really beautiful fall colors.”

Visitors to the park can also get a panoramic view of fall colors from the Mount Tom observation deck, which overlooks 20 to 30 miles of nearby scenery.

For more information on Sibley State Park, call 320-354-2055. For more information on Lac qui Parle State Park, call 320-734-4450.

To see the DNR’s state map of fall colors, visit

Readers, submit your fall photos! The Tribune is compiling a gallery of reader-submitted fall photos from the west central Minnesota area. If you’d like your fall photo included, please email it to with your name, contact information, and the location of the photo.

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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