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Local fall colors at their peak; sandhill cranes gather in the area

Photo by Tom Hodgson. Black gum on the shores of Mill Lake.

(Chelsea Update would like to thank Tom Hodgson for this story and the photos.)

Fall colors are usually at their best in the Chelsea area between Oct. 16 and Oct. 23.

Photo by Tom Hodgson. Red maple leaves.

However, moisture and weather conditions can influence both the quality and timing of the color season. Although many people feel it is necessary to go north or to New England for the best color, our own Chelsea area has all the natural ingredients for a spectacular fall show that many feel is unsurpassed anywhere in the country.

Since each tree or shrub species exhibits its own unique leaf colors, the greater the variety of trees and shrubs in an area, the more diverse the colors. Each species also has its own habitat requirements; therefore, greater habitat diversity leads to a greater variety of trees and shrubs and more spectacular color. The presence of lakes, scenic roads and varied terrain further enhance the experience. Chelsea has all these.

Chelsea’s beautiful farm country, combined with the Waterloo Recreation Area, the third largest and most ecologically diverse state park in Michigan, is an unbeatable combination. Although peak color may be just arriving, the foliage has been turning since the beginning of the month. The first to catch fire were wetland plants like poison sumac, gray dogwood and red maple.

They were soon followed by the upland sumacs and sassafras. Sugar maple and hickory were next. Now the oaks are beginning to turn, signaling both the arrival of peak color as well as its decline.

Photo by Tom Hodgson. Sugar maple on Mill Lake.

By November, most of the color will be on the ground and will quickly fade to brown. But there is still time to enjoy the leaves before they fall.

The crane viewing map recently published in the Chelsea Update also includes a suggested color tour route. It is also available here. Plus, there’s all sorts of sandhill crane activities found here.

Printed copies can also be picked up at the Discovery Center.

Exceptional fall color is another great reason to visit Chelsea, and don’t forget to look for sandhill cranes roosting in the area. The best viewing is two hours before sunset.

Also check this website for crane information.

Photo by Tom Hodgson. Sassafras leaves.


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