Huron-Manistee National Forests to launch fall color interactive map

Ahead of the Labor Day holiday travel, the Huron-Manistee National Forests is expected to release its Fall Color Interactive Map for a second year.

The map should be available Friday, Sept. 1, and is intended for planning fall foliage trips, aka fall color tours. Drivers taking road trips this Labor Day weekend will likely see gas prices similar to last year, a spokesperson for AAA Michigan said Monday. The Michigan state average for a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.83 on Labor Day 2022.

Fall colors are starting to show in the hardwood foliage in Northern Michigan as “hues of red and lime green, giving the impression that full color is not far off,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

The map should be available Friday, Sept. 1. It allows viewers to select different colored icons within the Huron-Manistee National Forests to reveal employees’ latest images of the emerging fall colors, according to the USDA Forest Service in a Wednesday press release.

Each week, the employees vote in-house for their favorite images. Weekly winners are set to compete for the prize of being showcased as a poster to promote the next Fall Color Campaign. Last year, Joshua Kilbourne won with his submission titled Wanigan Morning Solitude, taken at the beginning of the peak color at Lumberman’s Monument.

Waningan Morning Solitude by Forestry Aid Joshua Kilbourn, Huron Shores Ranger District, was selected as the 2022 winner of the Fall Color Campaign for the Huron-Manistee National Forests.

Waningan Morning Solitude by Forestry Aid Joshua Kilbourn, Huron Shores Ranger District, was selected as the 2022 winner of the Fall Color Campaign for the Huron-Manistee National Forests.

Photo provided/USDA Forest Service/Joshua Kilbourn

“We introduced the map last year to create an opportunity for those unable to travel to the Huron-Manistee to see the colors changing,” Acting Public Affairs Officer Travis Owens said in the Wednesday release.

The map’s icons change shape and color depending on the age of the image from when it was taken, according to Owens. He added the map can also be a “great tool for residents planning a leaf-peeping trip north.”

Hosted on the Forests’ webpage, the interactive map will allow people to see the changing colors of the forest from any mobile device, laptop or desktop. By clicking on the map’s icons, images captured by forest employees in the field will pop up and display the color conditions of that location. The Fall Color Campaign extends through Oct. 31.

“The changing of seasons is science in action,” Huron Shores Ranger District Forester Eric Brandon said in the release. “The timing of color changes is primarily regulated by the days getting shorter. As days grow shorter, and nights grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with Mother Nature’s autumn palette.”

He added that influences like temperature, rainfall and food supply can vary, but “it’s the steadily decreasing length of day during autumn that triggers color changes in foliage.”

The bright pigments of autumn are created by carotenoids, which produce yellow, orange and brown colors, and anthocyanin, which gives color to cranberries, red apples, concord grapes and blueberries, according to Brandon. Chlorophyll, giving leaves the green color, is necessary for photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for food.

“In the spring and summer, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down, leaving foliage appearing green,” Brandon said. “As nights get longer, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops. Eventually, all the chlorophyll is reabsorbed and stored by the tree or is destroyed. The carotenoids and anthocyanin that are in the leaf are revealed to show their true colors.”

Annually, the Lumberman’s Monument Visitor Center in Iosco County offers fall color walks on the accessible Highbanks Trail along the Au Sable River on Saturdays in October until it closes on Oct. 22. Another option is the 504 miles of forest roads available for a scenic drive for those who are unable to access foot travel.

More information on the Huron-Manistee National Forests is available at

As the fall colors progress, tourism brand Pure Michigan also offers a fall color map on its website.

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