Bursts of red and yellow among the trees and classic autumn weather in the forecast can mean only one thing: It's time to hit the road for a fall color show.
Eric Berg, urban and community forestry leader with the Nebraska Forest Service, said recent cool nights, sunny, warm days and abundant rains have been working in favor of good color this year. That's an improvement over last year, when severe drought caused some trees to drop leaves prematurely.
“Compared to what we've had in the last couple of years, it's shaping up to be good fall color,” he said.
So far, sumac and ivy have been providing the displays of red. Ash and, to a lesser extent, cottonwoods are delivering much of the yellow.
Fall colors this year are a week or two behind schedule — likely a result of spring's late start, the relatively cool summer and lack of an early freeze, Berg said. Recent rains will help the leaves hang on a bit longer.
“If we can just keep the wind away, we'll be set,” he said.
With the seasonal, north-south progression of colors, parks officials in northern areas of Nebraska and Iowa report good color, while those in areas south of Omaha say the best fall show still is a week or so away.
Within the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, good viewing will be found in the older parts of the cities, notably parks and cemeteries.
Northeast of the metro is one of the region's premiere viewing areas – Iowa's Preparation Canyon State Park, with its Loess Hills overlook. This park sits within the 200-mile-long spine of the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, which stretches from north of Sioux City to near St. Joseph, Mo.
“We've got some really good colors now and we're kind of in our peak now, probably all the way into next week,” said Brent Olson, area forester with the Loess Hills State Forest.
Reports on a few popular leaf-peeping sites:
• Northeast Nebraska: Ponca State Park: Reds in full force, yellows beginning to show, plenty of green for contrast.
• estern Iowa: Loess Hills State Forest, including Preparation Canyon State Park, Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County: Yellows and oranges, some reds in canopy; prairie ridges are golden brown.
• Omaha metro: Elmwood and Fontenelle Parks, Omaha Public Power District Arboretum, Metropolitan Community College, Fort Omaha campus, Forest Lawn Cemetery.
• South of the metro, Nebraska and Iowa: Leaf change is about a week or so away at Waubonsie State Park, the Nebraska City area and Indian Cave State Park.
• Regionally: Any older park or arboretum, especially any Nebraska Statewide Arboretum site, such as the Bessey District of the Nebraska National Forest, near Halsey.