Time for autumn colors
If you're planning a fall outing to view the red, yellow and gold colors, you better plan it sooner rather than later.
Because of drier conditions, the leaves are falling off trees earlier this year than usual, even before the leaves can change colors.
"Temperature, sunlight and soil moisture influence fall color change, the intensity of color and when it happens," said Kelsey Olson, scientific and natural area and park naturalist with Buffalo River State Park near Glyndon.
Since color change is mainly caused by sunlight, and that's the same as any other year, it's the dry conditions that are making the leaves drop before they can change colors.
"Everything this year has been a few weeks ahead as far as blooming, however," she added. "The prairie grasses and flowers are definitely blooming and colorful right now."
Many of the area state and national parks are hosting fall activities this month and next.
The Department of Natural Resources has a webpage that tracks fall colors and gives regular updates. It can be found at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html The DNR's website also has listing for every state park and activities throughout the state.
Maplewood State Park
Possibly one of the most colorful parks around, Maplewood State Park hosts Leaf Days Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 6-7.
Leaf Days is a fall event celebrating the beautiful fall colors of Maplewood State Park and the surrounding area. The event includes special programs and demonstrations, food and clothing items for sale, tractor wagon rides and more.
Digital Picture Scavenger Hunt on Oct. 6 from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Grab your digital camera and a team of up to five people to explore and take pictures of the beautiful fall colors in the park. There will be a beginners division and an advanced division.
The first three teams in each division back to the registration table within the allotted time with the most correct pictures will earn a prize.
Registration is from 1:30-2 p.m. will be held at the Josh Hanson Memorial Picnic Shelter, with the scavenger hunt beginning at 2.
Halloween Party on Oct. 27 from 1 to 3 p.m.
This Halloween event offers fun for the entire family with silly spooky games, story time, everyone can make a yummy snack to eat and a Halloween craft to take home. Party will be held at the Trail Center Building.
For more information on Maplewood State Park activities, call (218) 863-8383.
Itasca State Park
The Fifth Annual Autumn Harvest Festival: Lantern Lit Hike and Activities is Sept. 29 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Meet at the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center.
It's a Bugs Life! is the theme of this year's lantern lit hike. Guides with lanterns will lead you down the kerosene lantern-lit trail to meet characters during this family-friendly evening hike.
Group hikes will last about 30 minutes, departing every 10 minutes from the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center. Registration for hikes begins at 6 p.m. The first hike leaves at 6:30 p.m. and the last hike will begin at 8:10 p.m.
Other activities, including music and a variety of children's activities, will be ongoing.
That same day, participate in the 25th Annual Ozawindib Walk at 1:30 p.m. starting at Douglas Lodge.
The Ozawindib Walk commemorates Ozawindib, the Ojibwe guide who led Henry R. Schoolcraft to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River in 1832.
This fundraiser includes lunch at noon, walk registration at 1 p.m., the walk at 1:30, a book signing at 2 and music by Minnesota artist Lori Goulet Reich at 7.
The hike will follow a three-mile route and participants can either walk on their own or join the lead tour to learn more about Ozawindib. Hikers can take an optional spur to the Aiton Heights Fire Tower to take in a panoramic view of the stunning fall colors.
For more information, contact Itasca State Park at (218) 699-7251 or email at itasca.statepark@state
Buffalo State Park
Buffalo State Park will be hosting multiple fall programs.
Fall Colors Hike at Blanket Flower Scientific and Natural Area on Oct. 13 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Join the SNA naturalist for a guided hike through the Blanket Flower Prairie Scientific and Natural Area. Leaves are not the only things that change color in the fall, but grasses and wild flowers as well. Enjoy the fall beauty of Minnesota's native prairie.
Be prepared to walk in tall grass and on sometimes uneven ground. Hat, sunscreen, bug spray and a full water bottler are suggested. Cameras and binoculars encouraged.
Accessible Photography Hike on Oct. 6 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Join the park naturalist to discover some tips to taking amazing pictures, then take a short quarter of a mile stroll to capture the fall beauty of Buffalo River. Print your best picture to take home with you.
Full Moon(wort) Hike on Oct. 29 from 7 to 8 p.m.
Discover the secrets of the mythical moonwort plant as you join the Scientific and Natural Area Naturalist for a full moon hike at Frenchman's Bluff SNA located just east of Syre, Minn.
Follow the naturalist for a 1/2 mile mystically lit hike as we stop to reveal the enchanted past of this unique plant.
There will also be several Campfire Cooking, History Hike, Insect Sweeping and Prairie Preschool programs going on throughout the fall.
For more information on Buffalo State Park activities call 218-498-2124 or visit http://www.dnr.state.
Tamarac Wildlife Refuge
Tamarac's major fall activity is the Fall Festival on Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This year's theme is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of the trumpeter swan into the refuge.
Much of the fall festival will be focused on sharing the story of how the trumpeter swan was reintroduced to the refuge after disappearing from Minnesota about 100 years ago.
The fall festival will include refuge tours, where visitors can see the swans congregating before they migrate south for the winter. There will be children's activities focused on the swans as well, such as swan origami.
The event will feature special guest Michael Gallo, a professional puppeteer who will tell the story of the trumpeter swans with puppets.
Because the visitor's center is under construction, the event will be about half a mile east at the historical cabins.
For more information, call (218) 847-2641.
North Country National Trail
The North Country Trail Association hosts a guided fall color hike at 1 p.m. at the Elbow Lake Road trail head.
There will also be an Autumn Hike on Oct. 6 at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.