Imagine stopping to view a roadside waterfall, with cascading water surrounded by autumn foliage colors, and then what do you see? A sign of pollution.

Years ago, after the pollution thought hit me several times while viewing what I thought were quite pristine waterfalls along Lake Superior’s North Shore, a knowledgeable outdoor educator pointed out that where the water is flowing through a forest area, the created suds are organic froth. The froth forms when leaves and other plant parts fall into the stream and break down. Organic froth is also seen along lakes in the forested parts of Minnesota where waves break and move on shore.

Looking beyond the beautiful waterfalls, lakes, ponds and wetlands, this is the time of the illuminated woods. Once again we can enjoy the grand finale of the growing season — the color-splashed landscape. Paper birches and quaking aspens have showy golden yellow foliage; wild grape, silver maple and some willows display sunny yellow leaves; and both red and white oaks are showing deep reds and rich browns. We see burnt orange, red and golden yellows on native sugar maples and staghorn sumac shrubs. For weeks before and after the height of autumn splendor, we can observe patches and whole groves of trees with striking fall colors.

There are people who take long road trips to catch the panoramic views. Others simply walk the neighborhood or stand in their own backyard to enjoy the fleeting colors. Some people feel a sense of urgency about getting out into the country before the colors fade and the deciduous trees drop their foliage. We want to experience nature’s extravaganza. It’s part of our culture to admire northern fall colors.

In the Twin Cities area, the drive on Hwy. 95 from Stillwater to Taylors Falls, or Hwy. 7 from Hopkins to St. Bonifacius, or simply a drive through the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, will provide great views of autumn hues.

A drive on Hwy. 61 to Hastings and Winona, or from Northfield to Faribault, can provide nice vistas. Or a drive to Green Lake at Spicer, or in the Lake Mille Lacs or Walker areas and other points north. Ask a dozen people from various parts of the state and they’ll probably give you a dozen more places to view spectacular fall foliage. How about Fort Ridgely State Park, or Maplewood, Banning or Savanna Portage state parks? All these and many other state parks are favorite areas to admire the turning leaves.

Jim Gilbert’s 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.