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Leaf-chasing in Minnesota: Yellow means go

Behold, the yellow leaf.

For some, that is an indication that fall has sprung — according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fall Color Finder, the yellow leaf icon indicates that fall colors are at 25-50 percent of their peak, about when leaves start turning yellow. 

That’s good news for hikers wanting to experience at least some fall colors as they gather for the North Country National Scenic Trail’s annual celebration, being held over the weekend in and around the Fargo, N.D./Moorhead area. And such monitoring is good for all those “leaf-peepers” in Minnesota and across the Northland.

Each Thursday, staff from Minnesota state parks and trails will update the tool to help people find the best color displays as well as fall color programs and special events. The website includes a slideshow and photo uploader so people may share their favorite images.

As a general rule, the DNR said that colors peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third, which includes the Twin Cities. Peak fall colors typically last about two weeks, but that can vary widely, depending on location, elevation and weather. Trees at higher elevations are the earliest to show color change.

As of Wednesday at the DNR Fall Color Finder web page (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html), most of the state parks were listed in green (0-10 percent of peak colors), with a few in light green (10-25 percent) and only Buffalo River in yellow. The next colors level is gold (50-75 percent), followed by red (75-100 percent) and maroon (past peak). For a mobile Fall Color Finder, integrated with Google maps and in a format optimized for smart phones and tablets, go to www.mndnr.gov/fallcolor and select the “mobile page” button.

“The DNR’s forest health specialists say we’ve had enough rain around the state this summer to keep things green and healthy, which is the first building block for great fall color,” Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails, said in a release announcing the fall colors/trip-planning tool. “To increase the chances of having a flashy fall, we need warm, sunny days and cool nights to bring out those vivid colors.”

While the tool helps alert leaf chasers to fall colors across the state, it’s also meant to shine a light on the many events going on at state parks this fall, including many directly tied to the changing of the colors.

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