Hear some insight from our resident fall foliage expert Gabrielle Lent, and KEZI 9 Chief Meteorologist Marisa Woloszyn, on what we can expect to see this year. For trip planning ideas this fall, visit Eugene, Cascades & Coast’s Fall page.
The last days of August are here and autumn is just around the corner. Our hot, dry summer has rendered some leaves crispy and brown, falling from trees to coat the ground with their crunchy, unique beauty.
But leaf hunters, do not fret! Glorious color is sure to pop up throughout all regions of Oregon, and according to this lesson in natural science from KEZI 9’s Chief Meteorologist Marisa Woloszyn, here’s why:
“As we transition from summer to fall, days get shorter and the nights get longer. This causes plant cells between the leaf and stem to rapidly divide without expanding, which causes a blockage to develop. This blockage is called the abscission layer. The abscission layer blocks the transport of nutrients and minerals to the leaf. During this time the leaves will slow their production of chlorophyll, the natural chemical within them that lends their green color, and eventually, production stops.
We are seeing some of the leaves changing in Oregon now because of stress due to the drought. Drought conditions are in the moderate to extreme range in Oregon, and drought has caused an earlier formation of the abscission layer, which causes leaves to change colors early or even fall earlier.”
Because of this, fall foliage is expected to peak earlier this year. If you are planning a trip to Oregon based around fall color, think of arriving in late September or the first week of October.
Wherever you are in Oregon, keep your eyes peeled for the changing leaves on maple trees. In wetter climates try to spy ash, aspen, cottonwood, poplar and Pacific dogwood trees, and where it’s drier look for birches or possibly the elusive Western larch.
The Western larch lives farther north and has needles that flame from green to yellow.
Though larch trees are a less common find they do exist and they are phenomenal. As the season progresses, we suggest hunting for them. Start in the Badger Creek Wilderness of the Mt. Hood National Forest. Begin at the Fret Creek Trailhead with motivation to continue on to Lookout Mountain. Driving to this trailhead along Dufur Mill Road, you can spot some excellent patches of larch. Once outside and on the path, you’ll see more of this tree, and can experience incredible views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, and depending on the day’s clarity, perhaps the Sisters. This 11 mile hike offers a delicious first taste of what’s ahead for the fall season.
Here in the Eugene, Cascades and Coast area, keep a solid eye on forested destinations along rivers, such as Clear Lake, the headwaters of the McKenzie. Nearly 3,000 years ago when lava from Sand Mountain reached the river and backed up water to form the lake, the original forest that lined the river banks was submerged creating an Atlantis of old growth just below the water’s sparklingly clear surface.
Over time the forests regenerated themselves to surround the lake, creating a truly stunning natural environment. Take in the view with family or friends from the seat of a rented canoe available at the lake’s resort, or if you’ve got one, bring your own. If you plan to stay the night, seek accommodations from Horse Creek Lodge and take advantage of their shuttle services to access the lake.
Closer to home, experience the outdoors and get a taste of Eugene’s culinary scene.
Take the scenic drive or bike out to Agrarian Ales for their 7th Annual Hop Harvest Festival. Spend a day on the farm, pitch in with the harvest and get your hands on the bountiful hops that go into every loving batch of Agrarian Ales. Listen to live music, drink the fresh new beers and make merry with friends and family.
Squeeze every last drop out of summer and relish this waning heat. Fall is coming, and the natural world’s got a lot in store for leaf hunters over the next coming weeks. If you’re like us, you can’t wait to dive into this colorful outdoor bounty spanning all regions of Oregon. Stay tuned for weekly updates on the best places to see, explore and experience this fall season.