116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Fall colors already have started appearing on the trees in Iowa, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the time to go leaf watching is now.
The fall color page on the Iowa DNR’s website, which is updated each week, gives detailed descriptions of how the color is progressing and when it’s likely to peak in different parts of the state. Generally speaking, the color in northern Iowa is on now and should be strong for the next couple weeks. As color in the north starts to die down, color will pick up in Central Iowa, during mid-October, and as that slows down, it will start to pick up in southern Iowa, close to the end of the month.
It’s difficult to make very specific predictions about fall colors, according to Iowa DNR district forester Mark Vitosh, because the color can be affected by a number of factors, like the weather.
This year has been a pretty dry one so far, Vitosh said, which could mean that colors are less vibrant. Vitosh said the yellows he’s seeing in parts of East Central Iowa aren’t as bright as they usually are by this time of the year, but some other colors have been coming in strong.
“One thing that promotes the red and purple colors is clear days and cool nights, and we’ve had that quite a bit in the last five to seven days,” Vitosh said. “This temperature change has actually worked well. It you look at our highways and roads, the sumac are really turning a nice purplish red, and then the dogwoods are turning a purple. In some of the trees, the vines, Virginia creeper and poison ivy, are showing their reddish purple color.”
Weather later in the season also will have an effect on how long the bright colors stick around. The sooner it starts getting cold enough for frost to form at night, the sooner the color will fade.
“If we get heavy freezes, that will actually kill the tissue and a lot of that color will be lost,” Vitosh said.
In the meantime, there are a lot of places to go leaf-watching. Vitosh recommends visiting state parks and forests. Some of his favorite places are Palisades-Kepler State Park, Lake Macbride State Park and Yellow River State Forest.
A lot of communities have their own small parks worth visiting as well. Vitosh said he enjoys driving through small towns along the Mississippi River that provide a beautiful view of the colorful leaves alongside the water.
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