Fall Foliage Forecast


CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – Fall is right around the corner on the calendar, and that brings us a change in the seasons in Central Illinois, most notably by the color of leaves that come our way. We’ve taken some time to look at how this year’s weather so far could influence changes in color for leaves on trees this year.

Average Peak Time for Central Illinois is generally around mid October, but there are some factors in play that can influence that. Here are a few key factors that we look for to help better forecast Fall Colors in the region.


Typically, warmer temperatures especially into early Fall are helpful for more color. We do want some cool nights though, but not cold enough to damage things. If we can hold off our first Frost as long as possible, that’s good news. Generally, the longer the growing season continues, the better the color would be. A frost will kill leaves early and prevent them from changing over.


Generally, moisture is helpful earlier in the season, but not as much heading into the start of Fall. Rain means clouds which limit sunshine, something that can be important for Fall color. Summer rain ensures that trees are healthy heading into the end of the growing season. Too much rain in the weeks before can cause leaf drop prematurely. In addition, if we head into the end of the season a little dry, that can help color, especially Red color leaves as the “anthocyanins” really can pop with a little bit of stress to the tree. That stress often comes from a lack of water, low nutrition and cool but not freezing temperatures.


Wind doesn’t impact leaf color much, but a strong wind storm or rain and wind together can cause premature drop for leaves. Ideally, little wind would be present during the Fall, but some wind won’t hurt things overall. A light wind in the sunshine wouldn’t hurt things, especially to help dry things out a bit if there is some rain.

How is 2021 Stacking Up So Far:

2021 is overall looking like good conditions for a great transition to Fall Color. So far, we’ve managed to have a wet summer, ensuring plenty of water during the growing season. In addition, we’ve also managed to have a bit of a dry spell towards the end of the season. The drought monitor has started to show some abnormally dry conditions creep in, which helps perhaps provide a touch of stress to leaves which can help with color change. Too dry and things would tend to lean a little more brown than colorful.

In addition, we think the timing of the Fall colors could be a tad later, especially with a Warm September. Still, warmer and drier conditions overall with plenty of sunshine will help things, but perhaps delay the onset of the color change a little. We’ll wait and see how this plays out, but it seems like things are in line for a slightly delayed but colorful Fall in Central Illinois. Things to watch will be a quick cold snap with frost/freeze, or any severe wind storms that push through the area. Days of soggy rain would also not be helpful in the next several weeks.

Top Places to Visit Fall Foliage in Illinois

Here’s a look at a few places to visit and see Fall Foliage in Illinois.

  • Starved Rock State Park – La Salle County
  • Matthiessen State Park – La Salle County
  • Galena – Jo Daviess County
  • Pere Marquette State Park – Calhoun County
  • Great River Road – along the Mississippi River
  • Allerton Park – Piatt County
  • Lake Decatur – Rock Springs Nature Center
  • Various Farms & Orchards in the area
  • Garden of the Gods / Shawnee National Forest (Southern Illinois)

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