BEMIDJI — Calling all peepers! Well, leaf peepers, that is.

Chilly mornings have begun to signal fall is in the air, and although the season for ghouls and pumpkin spice doesn’t officially start until Sept. 23, Mother Nature is already showing promise for autumnal foliage chasers planning their getaways.

Leaf-peeping, the aesthetically pleasing and somewhat wacky — we are, after all, talking about leaves basically starving to death — subgenre of tourism dedicated to scouting fall foliage and photographing it, can be a guessing game without proper resources.

To help alleviate confusion and keep leaf peepers up-to-date, the Minnesota DNR has renewed its popular Fall Color Finder map, which includes color-coded approximations of the percentage of leaves that have changed color in an area.

And starting Sept. 12, Explore Minnesota and the Minnesota DNR will also be offering weekly fall color updates through email subscription, which give more detailed information on color changing activity throughout the state.

“Minnesota is a top destination to experience the fall colors at parks and trails across the state,” said Explore Minnesota director/CEO John Edman in a press release. “With weekly statewide fall color reports, we’re able to help travelers make the most of this special season.”

Leaf peepers should be aware of some inconsistent fall foliage patterns with the Fall Color Finder map before planning an excursion, however.

Currently, the only sign of activity on the map is in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, including Fort Snelling State Park, which has been closed to clean up after significant spring flooding.

The map appears to show the Twin Cities already reaching 10% to 25% peak — activity that typically occurs in more northern pockets of the state around this time.

Val Cervenka, a forest health program consultant in the DNR’s Forestry Division, says there is a probable explanation for the early changing of leaves.

“The color report came from Fort Snelling State Park, which has been underwater for most of the season,” Cervenka said. “If they have changing colors, it’s probably due to the standing water there. The rest of the Twin Cities is not, by any stretch, 25% color change.”

Peak fall color typically lasts about two weeks, but can vary widely depending on location, elevation and, in Fort Snelling’s case, weather. Trees at higher elevations are also the earliest to show color change.

As a general rule, colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third of the state, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third, according to the Minnesota DNR.

Along with New England, the Upper Midwest is renowned for its extensive and diverse autumn foliage. In fact, fall travel in Minnesota accounts for 25% of its $15.3 billion tourism industry, making it the second-largest travel season.

After conducting a poll on the upcoming season, Explore Minnesota found that the outlook for fall travel was optimistic with a majority of respondents expecting revenue to be up along with increased occupancy.

“(2019) has been a successful year for Minnesota tourism, and we hope the momentum will continue during Minnesota’s second-busiest travel season,” Edman said.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy. 

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