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After Summer Drought, When And Where Will The Best Fall Colors Be This Year?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The drought we've had throughout much of the state could leave us with muted fall colors and shorter peak times, but not everywhere will be a bust. So when and where are the best fall colors this year? Good Question. WCCO's John Lauritsen found out the best strategies for finding colorful fall foliage.

"I like fall. It's nice. It's not too cold, not too hot and the pretty colors," Christian Thompson, of St. Paul, said.

It's that time of year when we go from admiring our lawns to admiring our trees.

"We get all the different colors -- red, orange, yellow, brown. It just looks amazing all the way down," said Tracy Pirozzolo, of St. Paul.

As trees get ready for winter, the chlorophyll fades in leaves, showing off their true colors. The reds, yellows and purples typically go with maples. They have a sugar compound which makes for sweeter colors. Carotenoid compounds are found in birch, aspen and elm trees, which make their leaves a lighter yellow or orange. But this fall will be different.

"We've had a drought. The Vikings lost. And now our leaves are muted. This is why we can't have nice things in Minnesota," Lauritsen joked.

"Muted colors is a great way to describe what the fall colors may be doing, especially in Northern Minnesota," Matt Russell, an extension specialist with the University of Minnesota, said.

Russell says trees up north have been hit hard by drought and because many species there have a shallow root structure, they are stressed. So their leaves are peaking and falling much earlier.

"I looked this morning and it looked like some areas were already at 25% peak in Northern Minnesota, which we don't typically see until the third of fourth week of September," said Russell.

That means your trip north may have to be pushed up a couple weeks. The further south you go, the more time you have.

"We like to go to Taylors Falls in the fall and check out the fall colors along the St. Croix," said Heidi Law, of Coon Rapids.

Bluff country in the southeast wasn't really impacted by the drought. Rainfall was normal there. So when their trees start to change in a couple weeks in counties like Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Olmsted, the leaves should offer peak value.

"There's a lot more variability and a lot more diversity in trees that you will see. You'll see trees in southern Minnesota that we just don't have in the northern part of the state," said Russell.

The DNR has a fall color map that offers day to day updates on when leaves are peaking and where, and you can always see current conditions on's weather page.

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