John Burroughs, a well-known American naturalist and writer, once described October as “the time of the illuminated woods.” That is equally true in Minnesota, but we also need to add the month of September. People from New York, New Hampshire and Maine believe that when the Northeast flares with its display of colorful leaves there is no other section of the country that compares. I can understand their enthusiasm when they look out at the red maples, paper birches, tulip trees, eastern redbuds, sugar maples, red oaks and many other woody plants that add to the pageantry. Millions of people drive hundreds of miles to see New England’s concentrated palette of fall foliage. That’s great, but people in Minnesota and Wisconsin, China and Japan, Germany and Sweden, and other locations in the Northern Hemisphere can also enjoy foliage color in their homelands.
During the last week in September each year, photographers, landscape painters and others are drawn to Oberg Mountain, between Tofte and Lutsen in northeastern Minnesota to experience truly spectacular autumn colors, along with views of Lake Superior. Here, sugar maples are ablaze with red and burnt orange, paper birches display golden yellow and the moose maple foliage is red, orange and yellow. Other areas with great fall colors time include the Gunflint Trail, International Falls, the Iron Range and the wooded countryside around Thief River Falls.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.