A recently hot streak held the last remnants of summer a little longer than usual, but the best time to see the fall foliage is fast approaching.
The fall colors of the Rockford area will peak in the next few weeks.
The Illinois Office of Tourism’s Fall Color Report 2021 shows that the Chicago area, which spans northern Illinois to the state’s western border, will produce the best real-time views of fall colors in the second week of October.
SmokyMountains.com’s Fall Foliage Map indicates that the highlights of the fall color for northern Illinois will come in the week of October 18.
According to AccuWeather, the unusual weather pattern that kept temperatures warm through September will create a brilliant, polychromatic landscape with lush reds and oranges that creates stunning photo opportunities.
The following locations are some well-known spots where the fall colors of the region really come into their own. They can be bike, hiked, paddled, and driven.
1. Rock Cut State Park, Loves Park
Located on over 3,000 acres in Loves Park, Rock Cut offers an array of activities including fishing, boating on two lakes, camping, biking, and hiking through wooded trails and prairies that create rich fall colors.
2. Klehm Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, Rockford
Klehm Arboretum is a 155-acre public garden, the largest in Winnebago County. It’s full of forests that produce some of the richest fall foliage in the area, highlighted each year at “Autumn in the Arboretum,” a week-long series of events that allow visitors to admire all of the colors of the trees and plants. This year’s events are from October 9th to 15th.
More information: klehm.org/herbst-am-arboretum-2021/
3. Oakdale Nature Reserve, Freeport
Just three miles south of Freeport, the Oakdale Nature Preserve features 150 acres of forests, streams and prairies that create a colorful, idyllic landscape every fall.
4. Sugar River Forest Preserve, Durand
Part of Winnebago County’s Forest Preserves, the 529-acre Sugar River Forest Preserve is filled with wetlands, prairies, and woodland that create a kaleidoscope of colors that can be seen from all directions.
More information: winnebagoforest.org/preserves/sugar-river/
5. Kishwaukee River Forest Preserve, Cherry Valley
Another Winnebago County’s forest reserve, the Kishwaukee River Forest Preserve is a perfect place to spot an array of forest birds and the scenic colors that surround them each fall.
More information: winnebagoforest.org/preserves/kishwaukee-river/
6. Lowden State Park, Oregon
Best known for the 15-meter-high statue of the Chief Black Hawk, Lowden State Park is located on the Rock River in the city of Oregon, south of Rockford. It’s also one of the best places in the state to see spectacular fall colors and their reflection in the gently flowing stretch of river.
More information: www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/Pages/Lowden.aspx
Did we miss one of your favorite spots to see fall colors? Let us know.
Jim Hagerty is a freelance correspondent. @jimhagerty