Find best places to see fall foliage with MDC’s fall color forecast

Fall color along Missouri River near Defiance
October, 1990

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri is blessed with a variety of trees, shrubs, and vines that make the fall season come alive with color. You can find best places to view the changing foliage using the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) fall color report at mdc.mo.gov/fallcolor.

“Our fall color report is updated weekly from MDC foresters all over the state,” explained MDC Community Forester Ann Koenig. “Users can see where trees are beginning to turn and get recommendations on great places to view the changing leaves.”

Leaves change color at different times, so a fall color season in Missouri may last four-to-six weeks. Missouri trees first begin changing color in the northern part of the state, then move southward. Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest to change, beginning in mid-September. By late September, black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood are turning.

Generally, the color change is predictable, but much depends on the weather. Chilly fall nights play a big role in the color display. Sugars produced by photosynthesis become trapped inside leaves. Those sugars are the building blocks for the rich red, yellow, orange, and purple pigments. Cooler nights cause the breakdown of green pigments, allowing fall colors to show through.

Koenig noted bright, cloudless fall days are ideal for a good display of autumn color.

“As a general rule, the third week in October is a good time to pay attention to fall color in Mid-Missouri,” she said. “Colors are usually fading and leaves are falling by the end of the month.”

Missouri’s fall color can be enjoyed from nearly everywhere. MDC conservation areas or Missouri state parks offer scenic views to enjoy the changing leaves. Prairies and roadsides will even display beautiful shades of gold, purple, olive, and auburn with autumn wildflowers, shrubs, and grasses.

View MDC’s weekly fall color update at mdc.mo.gov/fallcolor. The updates run September through November.