Slowly, but steadily the ash, cottonwood and honey locusts are showing their yellow leaves a bit more every day, while the shock of red is in full display on many sumac.
While the full color show isn’t yet on display in the Mankato region, it should arrive in the next week or two.
“Fall is that slap in the face wake-up that things are changing,” said Alex Watson, regional naturalist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in New Ulm.
“I think after this weekend things will really start to progress. The red oaks should start to turn real soon.”
He said every falls it’s a little different in how colors present themselves. “It’s a mix of how much moisture we’ve had, which indicates how much sugar we get in the leaves and it depends on the species of trees.”
This week’s map shows Blue Earth, Nicollet and Brown counties in the 25%-50% range of color with counties to the east in the 50%-75% range. Most everything in the north-central and northeastern part of the state is now at peak colors.
The map is comprised of reports from staff at state parks, which in this region are Sakatah, Minneopa, Flandrau and Fort Ridgely parks.
Craig Beckman, manager of Minneopa State Park, said they’re seeing a few trees, including maples beginning to turn.
“It should be better after the weekend — if the wind doesn’t knock too many leaves down.”
Beckman said October tends to be one of the busiest weeks for the park as people come to see the color and get a final visit to see the bison or camp. The campground remains open through the Oct. 20, after which the water will be shut off.
He said the best leaf viewing for those wanting to walk is on the bison side of the park.
“When the oaks turn, we direct people to the bluff trail that leaves by the campground and runs between the bison fence and the bluff. And they’ll see some nice late flowers like the asters and sunflowers,” Beckman said.
Watson said people often ask him for his favorite area or drive to take in fall colors, but he said he likes to focus more on how one area compares with another.
“There are so many different experiences. It’s fun for me to see how the different species display different colors. And that makes you more curious about your local color and what’s producing them,” he said.
“Driving along the Minnesota River Valley now is going to be a treat for anyone.”
Watson said colors in the southeast part of the state will be a bit different because of the thicker cover in their forest lands. Up north the tamarack trees are turning gold. In central Minnesota the mix of aspen and oak give a gold and red display, what Watson calls “the University of Minnesota colors.”
And while a trip west of the Mankato area, outside of the river valley, brings fewer and fewer trees, there’s plenty to take in.
“The grasses peak earlier than the trees. You get purples in the maturing seeds, shades you don’t see in leaves,” Watson said.
Besides a drive or hike through any of the area state parks, there are plenty of other trips for leaf peeping.
Seven Mile County Park between Mankato and St. Peter has eight miles of trails on 600 acres of woodlands among steep bluffs.
The Judson Bottom Road from North Mankato to Judson offers a variety of vistas along the Minnesota River.
Highway 68, between Mankato and New Ulm, likewise offers plenty of leaf color along with the changing colors of corn and soybean fields.
For bicyclists, trips on the Red Jacket Trail south of Mankato or the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail west of Mankato provide canopy-covered treks.
Watson said that rather than worrying about only taking in views during peak color season, the fall should be a time to enjoy each day.
“Every day there’s a change in nature, and I think fall is a great time to enjoy the seasons we have,” he said. “You can be in the moment seeing a good foliage display.”