The village of Belgrade Lakes on shores of Long Pond is framed by colorful fall foliage in this photo taken in 2018 from the top of Blueberry Hill in Belgrade. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal, file

The summer’s strange weather will affect the foliage display this fall, experts agree, but they differ on exactly how.

While Maine’s foliage spokeswoman predicts the abundant rain will result in bright colors, a former Mount Washington meteorologist believes the lack of sunny days and excess moisture will mean more diluted hues.

Either way, it should make for an attractive display.

Leaves have not started to turn yet, according to the first foliage report of the season, released by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry last week. But the season will be on track if northern Maine starts to see some color this week. That part of the state typically peaks the last week of September into the first week of October. The rest of the state usually follows suit by mid-to-late October.

Gale Ross, who worked for the department for years and returns each season as the state’s fall foliage spokesperson, predicted the well-watered trees will bear bright reds, oranges and yellows this year.


“We’ve had an abundant amount of rainfall, unlike past years,” Ross said. “In some seasons when we’ve been drought stricken, the leaves have tended to be a little less vibrant. We’re not expecting that this year.”

Ross produces the weekly reports that will continue through October (“or until the last leaf drops,” the department posted on Facebook). She gathers reports from forest rangers across the state about the health of the trees and the colors in their areas. She said she expects the season to follow the usual timeline, although this week’s report from northern Maine will be the bellwether.

“I would expect to see some color change by the next report, and if not, then I think the season could be extended a little bit longer than usual,” she said.

Another expert has a slightly different take. Jim Salge worked as a meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire and is now a high school science teacher and nature photographer. He is also the fall foliage reporter for Yankee Magazine and published a detailed forecast earlier this month.

Salge wrote that cool nights and sunny days accelerate the breakdown of green chlorophyll, which causes leaves to change color in the fall. But New England hasn’t been getting that kind of weather, and excess water dilutes the sugars that produce those flaming reds. So Salge predicted “a softer, more pastel palette.”

The result will still be beautiful, if less bold.


“Unfortunately, the conditions that we expected into early fall have persisted,” he said in an interview. “It has stayed warm and wet, and the best fall foliage conditions in New England are always brought out by the cool, crisp, dry weather in September that we love and have not seen yet.”

Ross agreed that the conditions here on out will dictate how bright the colors become.

“I like to remind folks that the color change depends on the weather as we advance into fall,” Ross wrote in her report. “We rely on the cooler temperatures and shorter days to enhance the progression of color.”

As Hurricane Lee advanced north last week, with its impact on Maine still unclear, Ross said she didn’t think the high winds and rain would have much impact on the still-green leaves, though she said trees as a whole, in already saturated soil, would be more vulnerable.

After the storm, her prediction held. By and large, the wind did not bring many leaves down, she said.

“The storm didn’t impact the trees,” Ross said Sunday. “We had some downed trees. But because we are not nearing peak, the leaves were not vulnerable. It would be a different story if we were nearing peak and the leaves were ready to drop. Then our season would have been done.”


Because peak is weeks away, “the leaves have not made their progression of changes yet,” Ross said.


As soon as the colors arrive, so will the leaf peepers.

The Maine Office of Tourism said travel to Maine during autumn has increased during the past decade. In fall 2022, visitors spent more than $1.8 billion on tourism expenditures such as lodging, food and activities. That accounts for more than 20% of direct tourism expenditures in the state last year and is an increase from $1.5 billion in 2021.

Lori Reynolds is the event director at the Railway Village Museum in Boothbay, which has hosted the Fall Foliage Festival in October for more than 50 years. This year’s festival will be Oct. 7 and 8.

She said the festival typically attracts between 3,500 and 4,500 guests, and the last couple of years have been at the higher end of that range. The region seems to be getting more visitors at this time of year, she said. The museum has expanded the festival to include local artists, vintage vendors, live music and food.


“The Midcoast historically wasn’t as busy after August, but we’re seeing a lot of that changing and going right into the holiday season,” Reynolds said. “We’re really increasing the fall events.”

The festival, planned in partnership with the Boothbay Region Information Center, is the second biggest fundraiser at the museum behind the North Pole Express in December. Reynolds keeps an eye on the foliage forecast and said she has heard conflicting reports about the impact of this year’s rain. Past photos of the festival remind her that the season is always beautiful, whether the colors are soft or more vibrant.

“It’s just this feeling of what New England is all about in the fall,” she said.

At the Inn by the River in West Forks, manager Scarlett DeShong said February is the busiest season as snowmobilers enjoy the local trails, but October is also a big draw. Guests usually spend their time hunting, fly fishing, looking for moose and hiking. The 10-room inn will also host multiple weddings during foliage season this year.

Fall seems to be a big draw for international visitors, she said, but everyone wants to be there when the leaves are in full color.

“We do have a lot of people who call and ask, ‘When is the peak season?’ ” DeShong said.

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