Cascading colors: Take advantage of autumn foliage

Farm Forum

This is the time of year when a golden glow begins to overtake Aberdeen. The leaves of the linden, ash and cottonwood turn yellow, catching the rays of the sun.

While some parts of the country brag about their brilliant red and orange foliage, Brown County has mostly yellow hues.

“We don’t get the oranges or red fall colors much, but we do have beautiful trees,” said Aaron Kiesz, city forester. “Our soils and climate are just not suited to the sugar maples or Autumn Blaze maples that turn red in the fall.”

Those who appreciate looking at fall leaves in this area develop an appreciation for the different shades and intensities of yellow and gold.

Kiesz said one of his favorite leaf colors is from the quaking aspen. Two other trees he likes for autumn yellows are the gingko and honey locust.

The vibrancy of the leaves will depend, in part, on the weather. Cloudy, rainy days will suppress the colors while sunny days will highlight them. Tree health also has its affects, with healthier trees producing leaves that stay on the tree longer.

Kiesz said, although much of the area had a very dry August, there has been enough rain throughout the year to produce sustained autumn colors.

A summer of drought can cause leaves to fall early. The best weather for brilliant fall foliage is a growing season with ample moisture followed by a dry, cool and sunny autumn. Warm days with cool but frostless nights are ideal.

One of the biggest dangers in South Dakota is that the leaves may not stay long because of weather extremes.

“Some years, we get a hard freeze and the leaves start falling,” Kiesz said. “Then we get a day or two of strong winds and the leaves are all down.”

Tourists don’t schedule vacations to South Dakota to view the fall colors like they do for New England, Minnesota or Wisconsin. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some beautiful spots. Even within the city limits of Aberdeen, there are places for people to enjoy the fall colors.

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Here are a few places Kiesz recommends for viewing fall colors:

City parks

Melgaard Park, Wylie Park or Manor Park. All of these parks have a variety of trees, such as ash, linden and aspen. They are a great place for a picnic or walk.

Richmond Lake State Park

Located 14 miles northwest of Aberdeen, Richmond Lake State Park has about 200 acres of mature trees, such as oak, ash, elm, cottonwood and pine. The park has a nice view of the lake.


While most people don’t think of farm land as being a place for fall colors, there are many pretty shelter belts throughout the county. Some of them have more diverse colors than parks. Amur maples, a hardy shrub which turns a vibrant red color, can be found in some shelter belts.

There are two state parks, both about two hours away by car, that are known for their fall colors:

Sica Hollow State Park

The most famous spot for fall colors in northeast South Dakota is Sica Hollow State Park west of Sisseton. The park is one of the few areas where sugar maples grow well. The diversity of the trees and many trails make it a common tourist spot. It is about 95 miles from Aberdeen.

Fort Ransom State Park, N.D.

The park is 105 miles from Aberdeen but is worth the drive. The park is nestled in the heavily wooded Sheyenne River Valley. There is a full range of autumn colors, including the red and oranges. It is located 2 miles north of Fort Ransom or about 34 miles south of Valley City.