Staff at Minneopa are hoping park guests will be treated to a spectacular feast for the eyes this fall. Its woodland trails near the waterfalls are an autumnal favorite walk for photographers and other visitors enjoying the wide range of leaf colors before branches go bare.
A string of cool nights and warm days is needed to bring out in full crimson reds and rich golds throughout the tree canopy at the state park near Mankato.
Earlier this week the park’s leaf color was between 25-50 percent of its peak enjoyment, according to the Department of Natural Resources website. Brilliant red sumac trees already had started their show. Grasses are at 50-75 percent of the best purples, rust browns and honey white shades. Big blue stem and Indian grasses are going to seed and wildflowers are abundant. Blazing star and golden rod are in bloom along the hiking club trail and the trees are just starting to turn color.
Minneopa is a favorite spot for artist Gerry Tostenson. In the fall, Tostenson and her painting partner, Margie Larson, load up their folding easels around 11 a.m. and search the park for colorful landscapes. They specialize in painting outdoor scenes on the spot.
“I really love the prairie side (of Minneopa),” Tostenson said.
Tostenson loads her palette with the basics — warm and cool pigments of every primary color.
“In the fall, I know I’m going to use a lot of yellow and mixes of orange,” she said.
On Wednesday Tostenson and Larson painted outdoors in Gustavus Adolphus College’s arboretum.
Other favorite fall painting spots include the Kasota Prairie, Judson Bottom Road, Sibley Park and Glenwood Cemetery.
Tostenson is working on landscapes to show in November at the Carnegie Art Center. When she can’t set up an easel at a chosen site, she photographs it for reference while painting at home.
“I like the ride from Minneopa on Highway 68 and there’s nothing like the trip from Le Sueur to Mankato on Highway 169,” she said.
Minnesota Explorer tourism bureau predicts trees will be in good shape this fall color season. The rainy spring should counteract the effects of a mostly dry summer. Throughout the state, trees are turning fiery red, blaze orange, vivid yellow and stunning coral. Adding to the display are vibrant red sumac, abundant fall wildflowers, and the gold, rust and purple native grasses.
Flandrau State Park at New Ulm’s is at 25-50 percent of its peak color and its trail to Indian Point Lookout has the most potential for flashy color.
Golfers using Fort Ridgely State Park’s course should see lots of gold and orange when they look up from teeing off. The park’s prairie grasses are showing color throughout the hilly park on the north border of Nicollet County near Fairfax.
Now until mid-October is usually the best time to travel the Mankato region in search of fall color. The DNR reports about 10-25 percent of the trees are displaying fall color in most of southern Minnesota.