Falling into the Season: Lake County offers several places to explore fall's colors

2013-10-15T00:00:00Z 2013-10-22T17:25:16Z Falling into the Season: Lake County offers several places to explore fall's colorsChristine Bryant Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lovers of fall are just days away from seeing bursts of color brightening landscapes.

Over the next couple of weeks, Lake County offers several places to catch fall colors in their peak.

Oak Ridge Prairie

Oak Ridge Prairie has more than 900 acres of original and restored prairies - offering more than five miles of mostly flat trails surrounding a lake and connecting interior sections of the park.

The prairie, located in Griffith, features a large playground area surrounded by trees.

"When visiting Oak Ridge Prairie to view the changing fall colors, bring the children along and enjoy a day of outdoor play," said Sandra Basala, superintendent of visitor services at Lake County Parks.

FYI: lakecountyparks.com

Oak Savannah Trail

This 8.25-mile trail takes visitors from Oak Ridge Prairie County Park in Griffith to the Prairie Duneland Trail at Lake/Porter County Line Road in Portage with a break in Hobart, and is a great trek for seeing a variety of fall colors.

"Trail users at the Oak Savannah Trail may access the western segment of the non-motorized trail from the trail head near the parking lot at Oak Ridge Prairie County Park," Basala said.

The journey will take visitors through savannahs, remnant prairies, wetlands, lakes, parks and residential neighborhoods.

FYI: lakecountyparks.com

Miller Woods

This 75-acre natural oasis is one of the best birding sites in the region, but it's also filled with Black oaks that dominate the savanna woodlands.

"It's a beautiful location in all seasons, and is particularly nice in the fall when the leaves turn color," said Bruce Rowe, supervisory park ranger and public information officer with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The park, located in Gary off North Lake Street, is home to 287 recorded species of plants and animals, and features a 1.1-mile loop trail.

FYI: nps.gov, (As of press, the parks owned by the National Parks Service are closed, but if they reopen during this fall season, are great places to see fall colors.)

Deep River County Park

The gazebo at Deep River County Park is a popular place for weddings, but it's also a great place to see fall's palette.

"In early November, it serves as a centerpiece to the dramatic changing colors of the varied trees in the park," Basala said.

To experience the dynamics of fall changes, Basala recommends walking the trail system that consists of eight miles of wooded, hilly natural pathways along the river, north of the Grist Mill.

"Deep River is a linear park with a varied landscape connecting the historic areas of the park with the picnic area on County Line Road and further north, the sulky track area, and finally across Ainsworth Road to an overlook of Deep River and Big Maple Lake," she said. "Many of these areas provide a picturesque view of woods and natural habitat."

FYI: lakecountyparks.com

West Beach

While the beach is picture worthy in itself, hike the Dune Succession Trail that includes a boardwalk and 250 stairs, Rowe advises.

"There is a great overlook on the Dune Succession Trail at West Beach that gives panoramic views of the changing colors," Rowe said.

FYI: nps.gov (As of press, the parks owned by the National Parks Service are closed, but if they reopen during this fall season, are great places to see fall colors.)

Gibson Woods

Gibson Woods is tucked away in the industrial region of Northwest Indiana, but has plenty of beauty to offer.

This 131-acre parcel of undisturbed land is one of the last remnants of dune and swale topography in the Midwest, and features several Black oak savanna that dominates the dune ridges and offers beautiful fall colors.

Though it is owned and operated by Lake County Parks, Gibson Woods is a state-dedicated preserve due to its rare plants and animals.

FYI: lakecountyparks.com

Grand Kankakee Marsh

Located along the historic Kankakee River, this park features a variety of natural communities, including densely wooded areas. The park also features 30 miles of flat trails.

To check out fall's leaves in a unique way, take one of the levee trails by horseback, or use the public boat ramp, which provides access to the Kankakee River during most of the year.

FYI: lakecountyparks.com

For more places to explore to see fall leaves, go to lakecountyparks.com or nps.gov.

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