ST. LOUIS — It’s still technically summer in the bi-state, but it won’t be long before the leaves in Missouri and Illinois start turning brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow and so many colors in-between.
The people behind SmokyMountains.com are back with an updated map detailing when the fall colors will be their best in every county of the country.
"The predictive fall leaf map helps potential travelers, photographers and leaf peepers determine the precise future date that the leaves will peak in each area of the continental United States,” said data scientist and map creator Wes Melton. “We believe this interactive tool will enable travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn.”
The map changes every year. In 2019, everything essentially north of Interstate 70 will peak sooner. This means the popular drive up the Great River Road will feature those beautiful fall colors a little sooner than the immediate St. Louis area.
So, when can the bi-state area expect to see the best colors? Here’s a timeline of the fall foliage predictions:
Local areas north of I-70:
- No change through the week of Oct. 5
- Minimal fall colors the week of Oct. 12
- Patchy fall colors the week of Oct. 19
- Partial fall colors the week of Oct. 26
- Near peak fall colors the week of Nov. 2
- Peak fall colors the week of Nov. 9
- Past peak beginning the week of Nov. 16
St. Louis and Missouri and Illinois south of I-70:
- No change through the week of Oct. 12
- Minimal fall colors the week of Oct. 19
- Patchy fall colors the week of Oct. 26
- Partial fall colors the week of Nov. 2
- Near fall peak colors the week of Nov. 9
- Peak fall colors the week of Nov. 16
- Past peak beginning the week of Nov. 23
You can explore an interactive version of the map by sliding the bar below or by going to SmokyMountains.com.
Missouri and Illinois could see a slight delay in the fall foliage timeline. Because it was so hot so late in the season, the peak forecast has been pushed back a little bit.
As far as how accurate the map is, Melton said it’s compiled using millions of data points and about 50,000 predictive data pieces.
"Although the scientific concept of how leaves change colors is fairly simple, predicting the precise moment the event will occur is extremely challenging. The major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature,” he said. “Although we cannot control Mother Nature and ensure 100% accuracy, our data sources are top-tier and each year we refine our algorithmic model achieving higher accuracy over time."
The first day of fall this year is Monday, Sept. 23.
So, can residents in the bi-state expect to see beautiful fall colors this year? That partly depends on how much moisture we've had.
"The necessities for good fall colors is ample moisture during the growing season, which we've had abundant moisture and in some cases we've had too much moisture. So, I think fall color will be very variable," said Chip Tynan, a horticulturalist with the Missouri Botanical Garden.
If you're already seeing leaves piling up in your yard, that's likely a sign of all the moisture we've gotten—not a sign of cooler weather.
"The plants in this area put on a huge flush of leaves earlier this spring with abundant moisture. What can happen is now that we're getting hotter, that's a lot of stress on the plant, so they're going to start shedding leaves to compensate for that extra moisture," explained Missouri Botanical Garden horticulturalist Daria McKelvey.