Fall colors beginning to show up in lakes area, but peak viewing is still to come

Detroit Mountain, wildlife refuges area prime spots for leaf lookers.

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Though there is still a lot of green to be found amongst the trees at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, some parts of the landscape offer unexpected explosions of fall color. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

The autumn season may not officially begin until Tuesday, but splashes of fall color have already begun to peek out amongst the green of local trees and shrubbery, and lakes area forests are slowly beginning to turn to rich shades of red, yellow and orange as well.

"Tamarac (National Wildlife Refuge) and Dunton Locks (County Park) are probably the best spots," says Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Johnston, noting that local fall color viewing should reach its peak over the next couple of weeks. "But one of my favorites is the drive down County Road 22 and State Highway 59, around the (Lake) Melissa-Sallie and Shoreham area."

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area also offers some beautiful vistas, especially for those who want to enjoy a chair lift ride up to the top of the mountain.

"You can see Detroit Lake from there," Johnston said, adding, "It's just a really cool view."

Greater Sucker Creek, just east of Detroit Lakes off U.S. Highway 10, is another hidden gem when it comes to leaf-peeping opportunities, she said. The chamber also offers a Fall Color Tour map that can be picked up at the office (700 Summit Ave.) anytime between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, or downloaded from the website, .


Over at Tamarac Refuge , meanwhile, Visitor Services Manager Kelly Blackledge says there are plenty of opportunities for viewing splashes of fall color, though only about 10-15% of the refuge's foliage had turned as of Thursday afternoon.

"But that is changing rapidly," she added, noting that some trees which had shown no signs of turning one day, were completely gold or orange by the following morning. "Right now, it's (fall color viewing) kind of spotty. There isn't color everywhere, but you will definitely find places where it seems further along than others."

Blackledge noted that some of the best places to view the fall colors at the refuge are from the scenic overlooks at both Balsam Lake and Tamarac Lake, as well as the ever-popular Blackbird Wildlife Drive.

"But there are also all these little spots that are hard to describe ... the woodland ponds alongside Highways 29 and 26 (which run through the heart of the refuge)," she added. "The other day I was driving down the road and put on the brakes because there was this little pond next to the road, and the trees turning color next to it were so pretty."

Within an hour's drive, both Maplewood and Itasca state parks provide some prime scenery as well, though a state park sticker is required if you want to park your car inside their boundaries while hiking along the many public trails they offer.

For those who would like to make their fall color tour into an overnight or multi-day event, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Explore Minnesota have joined forces to offer a Fall Color Finder that can be accessed online at either or .

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