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North Iowa Outdoors: Tips for Finding Fall Colors

Iowa offers some stunning views during the fall months along with various ways to experience them – whether you’re on a bike or hiking trail, on the water or in a car.

The northern third of Iowa peaks, depending on weather, the weekend closest to Oct. 10. The center third peaks the first to third weeks of October, and the southern third peaks the second through fourth weeks of October.

Leaf color characteristics of some common plants: 

  • Walnut: Turns yellow in fall. One of the first to turn and drop leaves. One of the last to leaf out in spring.
  • Red Oak: Brilliant red leaves in fall. Color probably not as intense as some hard maples.
  • White Oak: Subdued red color of leaves in fall. Then turning brown and often staying on the tree until new leaves begin to grow in the spring.
  • Bur Oak: Buff to yellow. Turning brown before falling.
  • Hickory: Leaves turn yellow, then brown before falling.
  • Ash: Leaves turn yellow, but some have a purplish cast. Leaves fall after walnut, but earlier than oaks and maples.
  • Elms: Leaves turn yellow, some turn brown before falling, others while still yellow.
  • Soft Maple: Leaves turn yellow. They don’t turn brown before falling.
  • Hard Maple: Brilliant red hues. Red pigmentation of some leaves breaks down before falling.
  • Virginia Creeper: Bright red. Very spectacular when it grows on dead snags.
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