DNR Fall Foliage Report – October 19, 2023
“Two sounds of autumn are unmistakable … the hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown along the street … by a gusty wind, and the gabble of a flock of migrating geese.” —Hal Borland
A Department of Natural Resources drone captured this patchwork of autumnal beauty over the Burkholder off-road vehicle trail area of Potomac-Garrett State Forest. Photo courtesy of Melissa Nash, forester.
Peak leaf change is right around the corner in the western half of the state, evident in the russet leaves of the oaks, bronze and yellow hickory canopies, and the dazzling ruby red maples. The weather conditions remain ideal during the weekdays when Marylander’s are experiencing crystal blue, sunlit skies during the day, winding down with star-filled skies and chilly temperatures at night. Weekend weather systems have been a regular feature, bringing us wind and rain across much of the region, resulting in premature leaf loss in some areas of our state. However, there is plenty of fall color to be found if you know where to look. And this week, Western Maryland steals the show.
Cold, wet and windy conditions persisted through much of the week in northern Garrett County, bringing more leaves down to the forest floor. But leaf peepers need not despair, according to Forest Manager Sean Nolan. “Plenty of colorful leaves remain in the treetops at Savage River State Forest,” Nolan said. “The maple leaves have all turned while the oak trees are at various stages of color change with many still holding green leaves. The color change is definitely coming in waves, with individual trees showing vibrant colors and surrounding trees showing subtle changes. I would say we have certainly reached the midpoint and are moving toward peak as the oak trees continue to change.”
More changes are happening in Big Pool where reds are beginning to appear in the tree canopies and fallen leaves in shades of amber and gold line the forest floor. However, peak leaf change is still some days away. “There are still many green trees, especially near our water sources,” reports Ranger Kendra Bree, of Fort Frederick State Park.
This picturesque view of Lake Habeeb is framed by the iconic Evitts Mountain, named after one of the area’s earliest European settlers, Jacob Evart. Jacob moved to the mountain to live a hermit life after being rejected by a woman in the Frederick County area in the 1730s.
Aaron Cook, project manager and forester, reports from Clear Spring this week: “The sugar maples are showing some wonderful color despite the dry growing season. Hickory is starting to be in full color, and the ridges are turning an orange hue with individual dots of red and purple. I would guess peak color will happen just before Halloween. For anyone taking advantage of the early muzzleloader or black bear hunting seasons, they should revel in being in the woods during the peak of fall foliage.”
Melissa Carson, Park Ranger Lead reports from Patapsco Valley State Park this week where “the hickories are fading to a buttery yellow and the tulip trees are looking pretty bare from last weekend’s wind and rain.” However, a fall favorite among leaf peepers – maples – are finally beginning to make their presence known in the forest canopies. “The maples are certainly the star of the show right now.”
Fall colors were beginning to show on the Patapsco River in Ellicott City above and below Daniels Dam on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 17. Photo by A.J. Metcalf, DNR communications.
Fall leaf change is moving a little more slowly in Harford County where Dave Gigliotti, Administrative Specialist at Rocks and Susquehanna State Parks reports clusters of light orange and yellow entering the landscape. “The colors are more muted than years past and some leaves are quickly drying up and falling to the ground, evidence of summer drought’s effect on fall foliage in the area,” said Gigliotti.
Fall foliage enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the tree buffer area of Bohemia River State Park for a unique opportunity to see the leaves change on over 2,000 native hardwood trees planted between agricultural fields and Great Bohemia Creek. Unlike older forested areas, newer plantings allow visitors to easily walk among the trees, surrounding themselves with a cloak of amber, scarlet and gold during the fall months. “It’s pretty amazing to see in its entirety,” explains Shin Ae, seasonal Park Ranger at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area and Bohemia River State Park. “Once mature, the buffer will serve as a habitat and food source for local wildlife who call the park home.”
Project Forester Chase Kolstrom is seeing more color in the tree canopies in Cedarville State Forest, where over 50 species of trees thrive in an actively managed 3,707-acre forest: “Those beautiful fall colors are starting to peek through the treetops this week. Visitors to the area will notice changes among the dogwoods, sweetgum and red maples, with the oaks following close behind.” Cedarville State Forest lies on the line between Charles and Prince George’s counties and offers over 19 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians – and leaf peepers too!
Your Fall Foliage Photo Could be Featured Here!
We welcome all of Maryland’s outdoor enthusiasts to send in photos capturing the beauty of the fall season. Please use the submission form to submit your entries directly to us. Your photo might be selected to appear in a future edition of the Fall Foliage Report.
Fall Recreation Spotlight
Fall foliage viewing is best enjoyed on a hike through one of Maryland’s beautiful state parks or meandering down a tree lined trail in one of our 214,000 acres of designated state forests. However, if you are looking to take in the fall scenery by car, there’s no better drive in central Maryland than along Falls Road. Voted the state’s best route to take in autumn’s beauty by the Baltimore-Post Examiner, Falls Road offers a picturesque journey through Baltimore County’s countryside. In autumn, the route transforms with trees donning vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. Paralleling the Jones Falls stream, the road weaves through historic stone structures and farmlands, blending Maryland’s rich history with its seasonal beauty. This drive is a serene escape, showcasing the state’s mix of urban and rural landscapes.
Watch the Sky
The Orinoid meteor shower is currently active now through November 7, but the best time to see these shooting stars will be Saturday and Sunday between midnight and sunrise. The point in the sky from which the Orionids appear to come, also known as the radiant, is the constellation Orion. However, the best view is 45 to 90 degrees away from the radiant; the showers will appear longer and more magnificent from this viewpoint.