September 13, 2006
Jim Rink (313) 336-1513
What is the best time to view Michigan’s fall color?
Generally, the annual seasonal show peaks in stages, beginning at the top of the state in the Upper Peninsula, where it gets cooler first. It then moves southward. Peak color usually is found in the U.P. between mid-September and early October; in the northern Lower Peninsula between late September and mid-October; in mid-Michigan from early to mid-October, and in southern Lower Michigan from mid- to late October. Color patterns, however, depend greatly on the weather as well as other factors including lake-effect warming that delays color changes near Great Lakes and inland water shorelines. In addition, cooler valleys or exposed hills may see color changing faster, so call ahead before you go.
What makes the leaves change color?
Weather conditions in early September largely determine how brilliant each season’s color will be. If there are bright, sunny days and cool nights, a great show can be anticipated. Daylight length also is a determinant. Shorter days cause leaves to stop producing chlorophyll and lose their green color and begin the process that causes leaves to drop. Rain also helps growing conditions. Trees that do not receive enough rain during the summer become stressed and are less likely to produce vibrant color in the fall, according to Michigan State University Forestry Professor Mel Koelling.
Some autumn rain is desirable, but continuous warm, cloudy weather is not, since that would hinder the sugar production that creates the brilliant reds and golds found in oaks and maples, Michigan’s most prevalent tree species. Bright sunny days and cool nights are ideal.
How many species of trees are there and what colors do they turn?
Michigan is lucky. There are nearly 150 different species of trees in our 18.6 million acres of forest. Our state boasts a colorful mix of yellows, reds, golds and oranges. Some of the most beautiful colors are displayed by such hardwoods as aspen, maple, birch, sumac and oak. When combined with a background of evergreen forest, the result is one of the best shows in the nation.
Are there any estimates on tourism during the fall color season?
AAA Michigan estimates this season that more than 1 million of the state’s estimated 10 million residents will take a trip to view fall color this year. That's about on par with last year. Lower gas prices may help increase fall color tourism.
What is the best way to see and capture Michigan’s fall color show?
There is no single best way to enjoy the fall color display. Michigan travelers have plenty of choices, including many “old roads” that cut through great stands of hardwood and pines, and state-designated scenic routes. Other ways include bike trails, on horseback, or at cider mills. AAA Michigan touring counselors can help Auto Club members prepare a personalized fall color tour. Use 100-speed film, or set your digital camera to 100 ISO and “fine” mode, recommends award-winning AAA Michigan photographer Robert Brodbeck. Shoot in morning and afternoon, but contrasting conditions also make great shots, including bright leaves against dark clouds. Experiment with your flash to eliminate shadows in sun or overcast.
How can I keep track of the most current fall color conditions?
Listen to AAA Michigan’s statewide fall color updates by calling the Travel Michigan hotline at (888) 78-GREAT (784-7328). The recorded line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Conditions are updated each Wednesday starting Sept. 14 on the state’s line and on the AAA Michigan Website, www.aaa.com. For additional related tourism information, visit Travel Michigan’s Website at www.michigan.org.