Autumn in the Midwest is a time for open windows, cooler temperatures, warm clothing and fall colors. It’s also the perfect time to walk among the trees.
Fishers Parks is making it easy to find the best fall foliage in the community with a list of area parks to visit.
“Fall is my favorite time of year and as the temperatures drop, I look forward to the celebration of color our foliage explodes with,” Parks Director Marissa Deckert said. “We are so lucky to have a diverse parks system. Each of our parks offers a unique experience to unplug, explore and connect with nature.”
The recommended parks for fall leaf viewing are:
- Ritchey Woods, which Deckert said is a state-designated Nature Preserve. It is 127 acres with nine nature trails that total more than 2.25 miles. Deckert said the trails are perfect for running, walking or enjoying time in nature, although some trails are rugged and the surface varies between crushed stone, dirt and boardwalk. Deckert said the park has views of Cheeney Creek at the north end of the property, a shelter for picnics, several picnic tables and public restrooms.
- Flat Fork Creek, with more than 60 acres, has three treehouses, a paved multi-use loop trail, other more rugged dirt trails — including a mountain-bike trail, a fishing pond, a shelter for picnics and restrooms that are open through first frost.
- Cheeney Creek, which is 25 acres with about two miles of multi-use trails and a fishing pond with a dock. Deckert said the area is popular with birders and the woodland part of the park is known for wildlife sightings.
- Heritage Park, a 33-acre park with a half-mile paved loop trail, views of the White River and a shelter for picnics. It also features the Ambassador House, a special-event venue that was built in 1826 at the corner of 96th Street and Allisonville Road. Deckert said the restored Greek Revival-style home was once the summer house of Indianapolis attorney Addison Harris, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria-Hungary from 1899-1901.
Deckert said visitors could easily spend half a day at Ritchey Woods and Flat Fork Creek — two of the city’s most popular parks. If they have less time or want a quieter experience, she said they could get some quality leaf viewing at Cheeney Creek or Heritage parks.
“Our tree canopy at each park is largely created by sugar maple, red and white oak, eastern redbud, green ash, Ohio buckeye and American elm,” Deckert said. “All show off their warmest tones of red, orange and yellow in the fall.”
Deckert said her favorite time to visit is at dawn or dusk, and if visitors arrive early enough, they might see some wildlife. She added that weekend afternoons and evenings are the busiest times.
Leaves change color in the fall for a couple of reasons, according to Lindsey Purcell, executive director of the Indiana Arborist Association.
“Much of it has to do with day length and temperature,” she said. “The important thing is not that the amount of sunlight has decreased but the amount of dark has increased.”
She said trees “sense” in late September that the days are getting shorter. Photosynthesis slows down and the foliage produces less chlorophyll, which is what makes leaves green. As the green disappears, underlying yellow colors in the leaves, called carotenoids, are revealed.
“Things like pigment, light, weather conditions, plant species, soil type and location all play important roles in the fall party and colorful confetti trees create for us to enjoy,” Purcell said.
Other colors are the result of a chemical reaction.
“Unlike chlorophyll and carotenoids, which are present in leaf cells throughout the growing season, anthocyanins are produced mainly in the fall,” Purcell said. “These complex compounds in leaf cells react with excess stored plant sugars and exposure to sunlight creating vivid pink, red and purple leaves.”
Purcell said a fall with sunny days and cool nights following a summer with adequate rain is the ideal combination for autumn leaf colors, although there are numerous factors that can affect the season’s vibrancy.
“Some tree species displaying yellow foliage are ash, birch, beech, elm, hickory, poplar and aspen,” she said. “Red leaves are seen most often in dogwood, sweet gum, sumac and tupelo trees. Some oaks and maples present orange leaves while others range in color from red to yellow, depending on the species.”
If You Go
The Fishers city parks listed below are open to the public from dawn until dusk throughout the year.
- Ritchey Woods, 10410 Hague Rd.
- Flat Fork Creek, 16141 E 101 St.
- Cheeney Creek, 11030 Fishers Pointe Blvd.
- Heritage Park, 10595 Eller Rd.