Let the color flow: Fall Color Report returns with new look

Fall leaves at Parfrey's Glen.
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- In mid-September, foliage begins to change and people travel all 72 Wisconsin counties to check out the leaves before Autumn leaves.

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism maintains the state's Fall Color report through more than 100 fall color reporters throughout the state.
The 2019 report includes new features such as:


  • Current temperature conditions and a 3-day weather forecast specific to locations

  • Activity icons linking to directories with nearby events, things to do, places to stay, and dining options specific to location

  • Easier navigation and cleaner appearance

CLICK HERE to access Wisconsin’s Fall Color Report.

According to the Tourism Department, color changes begin in Northern Wisconsin from middle to late September, Central Wisconsin sees leaf changes from late September to middle October, and Southern Wisconsin has color changes happen early to late October.

The Fall color reporters are from chambers of commerce, visitor bureaus, tourism organizations, and members of the Department of Natural Resources.

On Sept. 13, the tourism department reported the northern region of the state was reporting up to 15 percent color.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, leaf color comes from pigments produced by leaf cells. Chlorophyll is what gives leaves their green color. Carotenoid gives leaves their yellow, orange, and brown colors, and are always present but chlorophyll covers the carotenoid pigment.

Trees respond to the decreasing amount of sunlight by producing less and less chlorophyll. According to the DNR, when that happens, the carotenoid already in the leaves can finally show through.

Red colors come from the anthocyanin pigment. Temperature and cloud cover make a difference in how bright the red colors appear from year to year. According to the DNR, if the number of warm days and cool nights happen frequently, it will be a good year for reds.

NBC15 meteorologist Brian Doogs said the amount of rain can also affect leaf color. Drought can delay the arrival of fall colors, while a warm-wet period during the Fall can lower the intensity of autumn colors. A severe frost will kill the leaves causing them to turn brown and cause them to drop early.

Doogs said a warm, wet spring followed by a summer that is not too hot, and Autumn days filled with sun will have the best colors.

Best Fall Drives in Southern Wisconsin

  • Highway 35, Wisconsin’s Great River Road National Scenic Byway: From Prescott to Jamestown is roughly a four hour drive. The tourism department recommends hitting the trails at Perrot State Park, eat a slice of pie at Stockholm Pie and General Store, sip wine at the Elmaro Vineyard, take in the views from the Trempealeau Hotel, and check out the colors in Prairie Du Chien.

  • Kettle Morraine Scenic Drive From Rice Lake to Elkhart Lake is another four hour drive. Visit the Old World Wisconsin Historic Site, head to the Kettle-Morraine State Forest, climb Holy Hill’s spire, and look out from Parnell Tower.

  • Highway 33 Scenic Drive: From Baraboo to La Crosse on STH 33 will take about two hours. According to the tourism department, they recommend stopping at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, especially on Autumn Color Weekend from Oct. 11 to 13. People can get on board and check out the hues on a train in the rural Sauk County countryside. They also recommend stopping at Devil’s Lake State Park and Wildcat Mountain State Park.



  • Great River Road Fall Corn Field. Photo: WI Dept. of Tourism
    Fall Train Ride at Mid-Continent Railway Museum. Photo: WI Dept. of Tourism
    Fall Leaves on Pavement at State Capitol. Photo: WI Dept. of Tourism
    Beaver Lake in Fall. Photo: WI Dept. of Tourism