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Illinois State Park Ranks Among Best Places in U.S. to Spot Fall Colors

Pere Marquette State Park will offer sights of the turning leaves against a backdrop of wooded ravines and roadways alongside the Illinois River

[UGCDC-CJ]Fall Foliage
Kit Murphy Kneidel

Brace yourselves, autumn lovers: You won't have to travel all too far and wide to catch prime views of fall foliage. Instead, you can head to an Illinois state park.

Farmer's Almanac named Pere Marquette State Park in west central Illinois as the eighth best place in the U.S. to see crispy, warmed-toned leaves throughout the season.

As a self-described "nature-lover's paradise," the park will offer sights of the turning leaves against a backdrop of wooded ravines and roadways alongside the Illinois River. Explorers also can take advantage of the land's towering bluffs, which will provide a panoramic view of the lush scenery that engulfs the park's 12-mile trail.

The park also runs year-round recreational activities, including horseback riding, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and boating.

Roughly 300 miles away from Chicago, the park is located at 13112 Visitor Center Ln. in Grafton.

While Pere Marquette State Park was the only site in Illinois to top the 15-spot list, several other places in the Midwest garnered mentions. Traverse City in Michigan ranked in fourth, while Black Hills in South Dakota followed in fifth place. Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio landed in 13th.

So, with the official start of fall a day away, when will fall foliage peak in the area?

Smokey Mountains National Park released earlier its annual foliage pattern map, offering autumn fans a prediction as to when the leaves will begin beaming with shades of orange, amber and crimson.

Chicagoans and those in the surrounding area should be able to spot minimal changes to the leaves Sept. 26, according to the map.

Patches of color are forecasted to make their way onto the foliage near Oct. 3, progressing to partial changes in color Oct. 10. By Oct. 17, the leaves in the area are expected to be inching closer to their peak, the maps shows.

The Chicago area should be able catch sights of dramatic autumn colors on full display when the leaves hit their height in changes the week of Oct. 24.

From Oct. 31 into November, most of the foliage will be past its peak in the area, according to the map.

Illinois' Office of Tourism and Department of Natural Resources also joined forces to produce their annual Fall Colors Trip Planner, informing residents and tourists of the peak times to see fall colors in each part of Illinois.

This year's trip planner forecasts these peak times for the following regions in Illinois:

  • Northern Illinois: Second week of October
  • Central Illinois: Middle of October
  • Southern Illinois: Last week of October

However, weather patterns that are currently unfolding could end up making an impact on just how colorful the leaves in the trees will be later this year.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, three factors help to influence the color and vibrancy of leaves: the pigments within those leaves, the length of night and the weather.

There is still time for the forecast and the projections to change between now and the autumn, however. According to Illinois officials, fall colors tend to peak during the month of October, with northern portions of the state seeing their leaves change colors before southern regions.

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