We are almost at the peak of fall colors in the 815! It can be easy to take the beauty of our local outdoor spaces for granted, but we are actually surrounded by some of the best fall shows in the state. The Forest Preserves of Winnebago County even got recognition for this in both 2019 and 2021, when they were listed as the #4 Fall Color Destination in Illinois by WTTW, Chicago’s PBS station, and a top recommendation by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Fall Color Report, respectively.

According to the IDNR, peak fall colors usually emerge in our region in the 2nd week of October (when this blog post is being published). Some of the highlights of this week include: 

  • Red maples are starting to turn purple and red. Honey locusts and cottonwoods are turning yellow.
  • Some cottonwoods are losing their leaves. There are also some walnut leaves that are yellowing, but most trees are still green.
  • In areas of northeast Illinois, sassafras is beginning to blush orangish red in some locations, primarily in the understory where light is more limited.
  • Mulberry is just beginning to show a yellowing, while catalpa is still transitioning to yellow, as are cottonwood and aspen.
  • Many of the black walnuts at the forest edge have complete defoliation, although within the canopy there are many still hanging on in yellow.
  • Oaks and hickories are sporadic and just starting to make a bit of color. 

See here for more details about this and other fall color shows in Illinois.


Best Viewing Spots for Autumn Colors in the 815: 

Not sure where to look for fall colors? See below for a list of some of our favorite spots!

Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve

Severson Dells Forest Preserve

Khlem Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Seward Bluffs Forest Preserve

Rock Cut State Park

Anderson Japanese Gardens

Hononegah Forest Preserve

Kishwaukee Gorge (north) Forest Preserve

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