Indiana Tourism welcomes today’s guest blogger, Tim Cordell:
Tim Cordell is an interpretive naturalist at Potato Creek State Park. He has worked for DNR since 1978 at Potato Creek, McCormick’s Creek and Spring Mill State Parks. Tim plays an active role in the park’s resource management as well as running the nature center and park programming.
Now that the leaves are beginning to turn in earnest, if you’re like me you are starting to take notice of the fall color. Have you ever paid attention to where you have had those “WOW!” feelings about a burst of oranges, reds or yellows? They have probably been where you have a good view.
The actual mechanics of trees changing colors involves the sun hitting the leaves and depleting the green chlorophyll and allowing the other pigments to show through. Some pigments may also convert to other colors as a result of the sun in the right conditions. The most dramatic evidence of this is seen where the sun is hitting the leaves directly: in woods it is on the tops of the trees and the ends of the branches that are not blocked by other trees.
A single tree out in the open getting even sunlight over its entirety may turn almost all at once and can put on a fabulous show. So how does the view play into this? If you are on a hill and look down on the tops of the trees in surrounding lower areas, you see that taking place. Likewise if you are travelling through an open area and see the edge of a woods exposed to the sun you see it there as well. If you are out in the middle of those same trees, you won’t see the color. It’s like the old saying goes, “you can’t see the forest for the trees”
So in the next couple weeks as the fall color builds to its peak in mid October, if you plan your viewing you may be treated to a better display. Try to select areas with hills for a casual fall color drive. While we may not have as many hills in northern Indiana as they do in the southern part of the state, we do have some. Also if you can find a curving road, you will encounter more angles that the sun has hit the trees from and have a better display.
One feature that we have in plenty of in the northern part of the state for fall color viewing is water. Looking at a fall color display across a pond, lake or even a river or stream can double your enjoyment. You will see not only the color of trees but on a calm day, the reflection in the water.
In addition to choosing your location, also think about the time of day. The colors will be at their most brilliant when the sun is shining on them from behind you. If you can plan your drive in the morning if you are looking towards the west or evening if looking east you can take advantage of this. Another benefit of doing your viewing early or later in the day is that the quality of the light tends to be warmer then. This will highlight the reds and oranges even more. Midday light tends to be flat and cool or more bluish and the colors will not be quite as vibrant.
At Potato Creek and other DNR properties visitors can enjoy a drive along
curving roads through the woods exposing a new angle of sunlight around every bend. The views across Worster Lake and several of the wetlands offer the reflective doubling of the fall color as well. So when you are planning a trip in the next few weeks to enjoy the fall color, don’t forget to think about the view.