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Recent Rains Prove Setback For New England Foliage

Posted Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
Recent Rains Prove Setback For New England Foliage
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While autumn in New England is, in the most basic sense, a celebration of both the harvest and the autumn colors, every town in every region carries on with their own special flair, and finds their own niche in the celebration. The northern states gear many of their festivals and celebrations around Columbus Day Weekend, while southern New England, where the foliage peaks later, feature many celebrations that have a distinctively Halloween preparatory feel. Past now are the agricultural fairs, coming soon are the pumpkin festivals and the haunting hayrides. The big weekend may have come and gone, but at this point we are only about halfway through the foliage season.

Foliage HAD been just about perfect this year…some were calling it epic in the far north. Colors had emerged early as predicted, and were bright.

Vermont Foliage - Greg Petrics
Fantastic Foliage, Like In This Vermont Scene, Was Present Early This Season

Unfortunately, the weather has taken a dramatic turn in the past few weeks, and the change has not been kind to much of the foliage. In the far north, the season is nearly over, and the first snowfall has already occurred in the mountains this past weekend. At the other end of the spectrum, Rhode Island and Connecticut are just getting into the game. The area in the middle had some great color, has now lost a good deal of that good color, and is awaiting another cold snap to continue turning. There is a lack of continuity in the season this year, and the foliage conditions are changing fast.

New Hampshire Snowliage - Jim Salge An Early Season Snowfall Occurred this Weekend in the Northern Mountains

The situation is definitely complex, and significantly less rosy than it was merely a week ago. The blog this week will be as straightforward of an honest reflection as I’ve been able to piece together in this evolving situation.

The root of the foliage issues that we are currently seeing arose around the official start of autumn. Using data from the legendary Mount Washington Observatory in the heart of foliage country, it has rained (or snowed) 12 of the last 16 days now. Temperatures have been generally cool, but with little day/night variation, and sunshine has been very minimal. This was a distinct change from the lead up to autumn in the beginning of September, where in the previous period of 16 days, it only rained during 4, with abundant sun, and cool, crisp mornings.

Fog Trees - Jim Salge Clouds and Rainy Weather Have Been Persistent in New England For The Past Two Weeks

The stretch of dry, sunny weather was perfect to bring out the fantastic early foliage that we saw throughout much of central and northern New England. Peak foliage was amazing in the far north, and by the beginning of October, much of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine all were experiencing high color, with strong reds and oranges abounding.

The poor weather of recent unfortunately caught up with us over the past week though, leading to a significant muting of the colors. Three frontal systems also brought periods of heavier rains and gusty winds, and a subsequently significant leaf drop.

While both the far north and central regions are now muted, the differences between them are quite stark. In the far north, much of the early color lays on the ground, and there are plenty of bare trees in the landscape. With few oak trees in this region, and the only remaining color is on beech trees and straggling maples. It’s mostly a palate of gold and rust. Pretty, but definitely past peak.

Franconia Notch Waterfall - Jim Salge Much of the Color in the Far North Now Lays on the Ground

South and east of the mountains and far north, and over towards the coastal plains, the region has seemingly regressed from beautiful high early color to muted moderate color, with mainly yellows and oranges again. There are some bare trees now, but there are also plenty of oaks and late maples that haven’t turned yet in a strange lack of continuity to the season’s colors. This is true from Acadia, down to the New Hampshire coast and through central Massachusetts. There is definitely foliage around, but more color is coming to these regions, as soon as some clear cool mornings come back.

Table Mountain Pano - Luke Barton Foliage Color is Muted, But Definitely Present on the Eastern Kank This Week

Further south, the foliage is more dominated by the later turners anyway, and the color should be continuing soon and on schedule, as soon as this wet pattern breaks down and we get more dominant sunshine.

It’s not all bad news though, as there are some select areas are riding this weather pattern out better than the rest. Route 302 from the base of Crawford Notch through Conway over to the Lakes Region of Maine always turns a bit later than the rest of the mountains, and looked good even through this pattern. The Monadnock region of New Hampshire as well as Southeast Vermont also held onto color a bit better than other areas, and should look nice this weekend.  And in some hollows of the Berkshires, there actually could be some nice peak color this weekend!

Elsewhere, I’ve also heard that Acadia has plenty of trees ready to pop, and if we get some cool weather, they should also look good there! Central Massachusetts is patchy in ready to emerge high color as well, and a drive in the western and central parts of the state could be a fun treasure hunt this weekend.

Acadia Foliage - Kari Post Some Early Bright Color Has Fallen, But Plenty of Green Leaves are Poised to Turn in Acadia

As you are driving around, we certainly would appreciate your reports on your foliage findings to our website foliage map, or though our foliage app. You can also check in and leave a picture or report on our Facebook page, which has shared many amazing pictures from fans this year.

To sum up the week, there is plenty of color around outside of the far northern zones, but it is not as bright as we had perhaps hoped for, at least not now. It may be a great weekend to go to an autumn destination…a festival, a farm, an orchard, a corn maize, a haunting. There’s so much that New England has to offer in autumn, and we can relish in those with the leaves in a lull.  And hopefully by next week, favorable weather will return!

Jim Salge


Jim Salge


As a former meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, foliage reporter Jim Salge is a keen observer of the progression of the seasons in New England. He uses his knowledge of weather, geography and climate to pinpoint the best time to visit various New England locations to find the best light, atmosphere, and most importantly, color.
Updated Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

32 Responses to Recent Rains Prove Setback For New England Foliage

  1. Sue Kelly October 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Jim, from what I’ve seen in my travels, your analysis is spot-on. Thanks for bringing it all together like this!

  2. Josh October 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Jim, what would be the best areas to still see lots of red and orange? I was considering Sturbridge,MA or possibly somewhere in CT

    • Jim Salge October 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      Reds are going to be tough right now…but I’ve heard Sturbridge has some oranges for now. It’ll be a treasure hunt this weekend…very variable!

      Good luck!

      • Bill Mangum October 12, 2012 at 1:35 am #

        any suggestions as – Have covered from Rocklidge ME down coast to ME state lline and east to Conway and colors are past peak. In Conway today on 10/11 and past peak also. From CAlif and still hoping to find some colors in Moderate range and hopefully some reds and yellow leaves as heading for Maryland over next 3 days – central, east or west thru Mass, Rhode Island, CN, NY and Pa. . Any suggestions anyone.

        • Jim Salge October 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

          It seems that Conway will not have a traditional peak at all this year. Early color has fallen, and plenty of green still to turn.

          I’ve not gotten new data since this cold front, but I haven’t heard bad things about SW NH and Central NH. Haven’t heard good things either, but not bad news for sure!

          Good luck!

  3. Dan Houde October 11, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Pretty much on the money Jim. Just returned from a 40-mile morning trip and comparing my photo dates from last year we are about 7-10 days past that point. Not sure of the reason but certainly plenty of rain, wind and inconsistant temps must play a role somewhere. Ironically, the river beds and waterfalls in the region are low/dry perhaps a clear signal that we must have been in more of a drought situation than we realized.

    Still lots to shoot though … great ground cover/vines/grasses showing color this season!

  4. Arun October 11, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Jim, I will be in NH and MA from Oct 12 to Oct 15. Where do you suggest I drive to see some oranges and reds?

    • Jim Salge October 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      Oranges shouldn’t be hard, reds will be tough. Conway/Bartlett in NH, or the Monadnock Region are better bets. I’ve also been hearing good things about Waterville Valley.

      Good luck and report back!

  5. ayesha October 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Hi Jim.

    I have a friend coming over this weekend to Boston. was hoping to show him the amazing autumn colors in MA. Would really appreciate your suggestions.

    Thank you.

    • Jim Salge October 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

      Amazing colors will be tough to find, but driving west to Sturbridge, or the hills around the Quabbin, you’ll find better color than in the city. It’s turned into a tough year!

  6. Gillian October 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    I was in the white mountain and lakes area of NH today and yesterday – it is past peak and leaves fallen (probably from rain and wind). I relied on the NH foliage reports online and found they were not accurate for the lakes region.

    • Jim Salge October 12, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Gillian, I was up there recently as well, and mainly agree with your assessment, except that in the lakes region, the early leaves have fallen, but there are also a lot of green leaves, mainly oaks that haven’t turned yet either, and I’m hopeful that more color returns soon. Many parts of the Whites are certainly past peak, with the best color behind us…

  7. John mcauliffe October 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    thank you so much for your invaluable information… I am focusing on central and western Massachusetts on Saturday… If you were foliage treasure hunting, where would you investigate?

    • John mcauliffe October 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

      Incidentally, we walked walden pond today… Very green with only a few trees showing red and light yellow hues

  8. John mcauliffe October 12, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Now re-thinking my plan… Should I go south towards CT? Should I chance a drive up to NH or Vermont? Any tips from anyone would be appreciated!

    • Jim Salge October 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

      Central and Southern NH have plenty of leaves, but we’re hung up between the early color that fell, and the oaks that are yet to turn. Before this front, Waterville Valley, and the SW/Monadnock regions of NH were worth visiting. But color is tough everywhere right now, and south may be as good as north.

      Good luck and report back!

      • John mcauliffe October 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

        I just realized that I replied to this thread below as a new post… Just scroll down to see my weekend report…

  9. David A October 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    I was planning on heading up to Woodstock Vermont this weekend. any info if there is still color their? I looked at Killington’s Webcam’s and it looks pretty barren, however the elevation is surely to blame…wondering how the valley’s around central Vermont are doing..



  10. Josh October 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Last weekend there were lots of small pockets of red and orange along Rt 2 from Concord to Princeton. They are mostly gone now. Today I drove Rt 2A to the Hartwell Tavern in Lincoln. Most of the leaves are gone and there is little color left. Foliage is turning faster this year.

    Boston looks more green and still has some maple trees with color left. Many (or most) of the maple trees have turned but there are still orange colors, plus yellow from the oaks.

    A freeze is expected tonight. My thoughts are that Rhode Island or Connecticut may be better for the weekend.

  11. Mark Ackerman October 13, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Glad I went from September 30th thru October 7th. Colors were great in much of the north including, Jackman, ME, The Great North Woods of NH and Vermont. I did get a couple of days of rain but compared to what’s being posted on the board this past week, I consider myself lucky.

  12. Kendall October 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    How far do you think you’d have to go from the White Mountains to get nice reds or dark oranges still on the trees?

    • Josh October 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      You would have to go a lot further south. I was in Rhode Island today and what is left of the colors is muted. In Boston there is a tiny bit of orange but virtually no red. Most of New England experienced a freeze last night. That pretty much stops the leaves from forming new colors.

    • Jim Salge October 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      The NH Lakes Region has re-emerged the last few days, as has the Merrimack Valley. I would give those a try!

  13. John mcauliffe October 14, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    Thanks again Jim… Turns out I drove all the way to northern vermont.. Took the highway up through smuggler’s cove near Stowe, VT. There was some nice yellow and orange foliage. But then as I drove all the way south to the Berkshires, everything was muted… Literally nothing that photo worthy at all in western mass. There are a few spots near me in Southborough with peak color, but it’s like one tree here or there. Don’t know what you have heard about Pennsylvania, but I am tempted to drive there next weekend…

    • John mcauliffe October 15, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      Make that smuggler’s notch!

  14. Justin Smith October 15, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Yes, I have definitely noticed a disappointing turnout in central MA. Many of the trees that I know well and which usually turn brilliant scarlet colors have this year gone straight to brown (in fact, there are many leaves on the trees that are half green, half brown blotches). A lot of it is on the ground already. About a week ago I took a road trip from central MA to Ithaca, NY via Rt 2 across the Berkshires, and then through Schoharie County southwest of Schenectady-Albany-Troy area… it was fairly similar with a lot of browns, although by the time I arrived in Ithaca, true orange tones were a bit more abundant (which I was glad to see because photography was why I went there).

  15. Josh October 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Boston still has color, plenty to be seen. A frost had been predicted over the weekend, but temperatures in the city did not fall below freezing. I took a drive today through Boston, Brookline, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, Newton and Wellesley. A lot of the maples are still turning so there is still much to see.

  16. John mcauliffe October 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    By the way, my good friend and fellow collegiate alumnus Gregory Schell is posting all of the photos on his Facebook page: His pics are public, so feel free to have a look!

  17. Andre October 17, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Do you think that I can see foliage if I come to Usa the first week of November? Or it’s too late?

    • Jim Salge October 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      Hi Andre,

      There will be foliage along the coast, but mostly oaks, rust colors and golden browns. There will be little of the traditionally colorful foliage that you see in pictures left.

      Boston holds foliage longest, and may have some lingering brighter colors, but those too fade fast.

      Good luck with your trip planning!


  1. Past Peak Doesn't Mean The Color is Gone From New England - October 24, 2012

    […] and the entire region was quite colorful, though definitely not peak given this season’s strange foliage gap. In fact, a good portion of the showy early maple leaves had already fallen, leaving the forests […]

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