Enjoy fall colors before they are gone: The summer’s drought is narrowing the window to view peak colors

Red, orange and yellow leaves dance in the air as they twirl slowly towards the ground on a warm fall breeze. Colorful trees still edge the roads, lakes and other bodies of water in some areas during nature’s segue between summer and winter. In many areas the trees have already shed their leaves, covering trails and roads in a crunchy carpet.

Those looking to take in the beauty should hurry but be aware: this fall is not as showy as recent years in parts of Minnesota. 

“Carlton and Pine Counties are considered to be abnormally dry to moderate drought in 2021,” said Dave Anderson, CBS 3 meteorologist in Duluth. He said the Minnesota Arrowhead area was hit the hardest by drought.

The leaves are less vibrant due to the lack of rain in some areas over the summer. The recent rain and wind blew the leaves off of many trees, but there are still areas where the leaves still cling desperately to the branches, refusing to let go.

“I have noticed that West Central Minn. is already past peak color in towns like Jacobsen where the drought is severe to extreme,” Anderson said. “Here in Duluth where we have moderate drought, I haven’t seen much difference. It seems to be on a normal timeline”. 

He enjoys drives around his home country of Ely on the Vermillion Range as well as the North Shore area.

Last year at this time the upper half of Minnesota was past peak color, while this year it is between 75-100 percent and southern Minnesota is still at 25-50 percent peak colors, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website. It explains that weather is the main component in determining fall colors. A mild drought may increase the colorful display, but a severe drought has the opposite effect and the colors are more subdued. Instead of the bright colors many people admire, extremely dry summers bring out shades of bronze, auburn and tans. And of course wind and hard rains can change the scenery quickly.

“I’ve become a big fan of Highway 23 from Fond Du Lac near Duluth down to Sandstone for colors in the last couple of years,” Anderson said.

Pack up the family, bring a picnic and enjoy the drive before autumn ends and the snowflakes start flying.

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