Today’s post comes from Ian Shanahan, discovery leader at Algonquin Provincial Park.
“Algonquin’s Resplendent Landscape” is a term used to describe the park during the height of fall colors, when the mid-slope of most of Algonquin’s slopes along the Highway 60 corridor truly appears on fire with the bright oranges and reds of Sugar and Red Maples.
This peak (on average September 27 based on observations since 1973) is universally considered the most visually spectacular time to visit the park.
To help visitors plan their fall color visit, fall color progress reports are provided in the Ontario Parks Fall Color Report. In most years, the state indicates “past peak” for the second week of October, and while this designation applies to the most impressive peak, that of maples, it does not recognize a second peak of colors that takes hold once that most of the maple leaves have fallen.
The golden encore
In entertainment circles, an encore is a performance that follows the main act. Few will doubt that the resplendent maple peak is the main act when it comes to fall colors in Algonquin, but the golden encore is an absolutely stunning next act that deserves much mention.
Although every year is different, the golden encore usually appears about a week after maple peak and can last through much of October and sometimes even into early November.
What tree species are involved?
The change to “past peak” on our website indicates that the tops of most of the park’s maples have lost their leaves. While this makes the maple slopes less impressive, a walk through a maple forest still offers impressive views, as the bottom third or half of the maples still retain their colorful orange leaves. At this time, American beech trees, which often grow alongside maples in mature forests, reach their peak sporting golden yellow to yellowish brown leaves.
Birches (yellow and white birch) and aspens (aspen, bigtooth poplar, and balsam poplar) are “sun-loving” tree species that repopulate areas that have experienced a natural disturbance such as a wildfire. Consequently, they often exist in large swaths. When compared to the dark greens of conifers and spruce in the moist, low-lying areas, birch and aspen really seem to shine.
The reds and oranges so enjoyed during peak maple haven’t completely disappeared either: Bigtooth aspen leaves, as well as some trembling aspen crown leaves, often turn a stunning orange-yellow color; many bright red leaves persist from male red maples; and in dry areas at the top of the slopes, red oak leaves turn from brownish red to deep scarlet with the occasional burst of purple-red added to the mix.
The curious case of the rotating tamarack
The beautiful golden hue of the Tamaracks during the golden encore. Photo: Peter Ferguson
Coniferous (cone-bearing) trees, such as spruce, pine, spruce, cedar, and spruce, are often described as “evergreen,” meaning their needle-like or scale-like leaves do not change color or fall like leaves do. of deciduous trees such as maples, beeches, oaks, poplars and birches.
An exception to this rule is the Tamarack: a tall, triangular coniferous tree covered in dense clusters of short green needles during the summer. Tamaracks, a species commonly seen in wet, swampy areas, generally grow among evergreen white and black spruce trees. The dark background created by the spruces highlights the deep golden yellow that the larch needles turn during the golden encore.
In the beak, the fallen branches of the larch trees seem to drip hot golden-yellow wax. The unique color of Tamaracks has been described by many as the most beautiful natural shade seen any time of year in Algonquin.
Where to see the second peak along the Highway 60 corridor
Golden yellows can be found along the Highway 60 corridor, especially at these hotspots:
For birch and poplar stands:
- Centennial Ridges Trail
- Observation trail
- Hills between Centennial Ridges Road and East Gate
- Visitor Center Viewpoint
- Mizzy Lake Trail
- Hemlock Bluff Trail Parking Lot
- Lake Mew
- Big Pines Trail Parking Lot
- Opeongo Highway
- Algonquin Lumber Museum (across the road from the museum entrance)
When planning your next trip, consider the second, lesser-known peak of fall color, when Algonquin’s Resplendent Landscape gives way to Algonquin’s Resplendent Landscape.
The Tamarack can be found throughout Ontario, but is most common in the north. Keep an eye out for its striking golden color during your travels this fall.
Remember to reserve your daily vehicle permit in advance.
100% of daily vehicle permits are available in advance. This means we will know in advance if we have reached capacity for next weekend and will provide these updates in Twitter.