Nature paints a pretty picture in October
A view of Starved Rock State Park. | Photo by Michael Seroni
Updated: October 10, 2012 9:34AM
It happens every October, but the leaves turning vibrant shades of red, gold and orange is still a sight to behold.
Fall is in full swing, and one of the most logical places to start viewing fall color is the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.
“Probably every weekend in October is going to be different because we have such a diversity of trees here,” said Sharon Yielsa from the Arboretum’s plant clinic. “They’re not all going to color at the same time, so it’s like wave after wave of color.”
A lot of the most brilliant colors come from native trees, Yielsa said, like oaks and maples. The color in trees comes from the pigments in the leaves, which is influenced by moisture, light, temperature and other factors, she said.
Expect sugar maples to turn a vibrant yellow and orange; while beach trees will turn yellow and brown. Oak trees will produce the brilliant reds and golds.
A lot of times, the same trees won’t produce the same colors that they did the year before.
“One year you may have russet, as opposed to next year you may have a scarlet or burgundy color,” she said.
At the Arboretum, it’s a constant show of color rather than a peaking.
“Each week is a little different,” Yielsa said. “We have on our website a bloom and color report, if people want to look at that before they come.”
Plethora of colors
Jan Kemmerling from the Illinois Office of Tourism in Springfield said that Illinois has a plethora of fall colors making for picturesque drives.
“We’ve got (spots along) the Illinois River, Starved Rock, some of our state parks; and along the Great River Road there’s some beautiful parks with a lot of foliage. And I think a gem of ours is the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois that turns (colors) a little later than in Northern Illinois. We have a lot of great places.”
For a true masterpiece of reds, yellows, oranges, gold and browns, head out to Starved Rock State Park in Utica.
“They have their Fall Color Weekend Oct. 20 to 21,” Kemmerling said. “Complete with flowing waterfalls, towering bluffs and profound canyons, Starved Rock is really a beauty for visitors to explore, especially in the fall season. During the Fall Colors Weekend you can set out on guided hikes and view the spectacular fall colors in the park.”
Another opportunity for some natural beauty in Northern Illinois is in St. Charles along the Fox River.
“Take one of the Paddlewheel Riverboats along the river,” Kemmerling said. “I think that’s a great opportunity to see some of the fall colors and shop in some of the quaint shops along the way.”
Galena is another spot along the Great River Road that will boast some spectacular colors and beautiful vistas, Kemmerling said.
Spanning 550 miles along Illinois’ Western border, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway offers colorful views along the banks and bluffs surrounding the mighty Mississippi River.
“If you go south of Galena on the Great River Road, there’s Mississippi Palisades State Park (in Savannah, Ill.). It’s another really great park you can go climb on the bluffs and look out over the river and see all the fall foliage,” she said.
The Spirit of Peoria riverboat travels the Illinois River and offers fall foliage cruises going from Starved Rock down to Alton.
Another drive recommended by the Illinois Office of Tourism is along the Ohio River Scenic Byway, Kemmerling said. The byway is a 188-mile journey along the Ohio River, from the Indiana border to the Mississippi River at Cairo.
The byway is a gateway to unique limestone features such as Cave-in-Rock State Park and Garden of the Gods. Located in the Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods is a stunning collection of rock formations in Southern Illinois. Visitors can witness the colors of fall on top of the giant sandstone rock formations.
If you want to stay a little closer to home, Kemmerling recommended checking out the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe as well as any of the nearby county forest preserves. Enjoyillinois.com has fall deals and color watches.
“Each week we give an update on where fall colors are turning and where the best places are to see fall colors,” Kemmerling said. “We also have an Enjoy Illinois travel app which you can download to your phone. It will tell you about great places to eat, great places to stay and great things to do nearby.”