2017-10-12 / Front Page

MOTHER NATURE’S CALL, part iii

Fall foliage fanatics flock to Goddard State Park and its diverse ecosystem
STORIES and PHOTOS by CALEB STRIGHT


NEWVERNON TOWNSHIP — A flock of geese takes off from the south shore of Lake Wilhelm Tuesday, with some trees on the opposite shore starting to change colors. NEWVERNON TOWNSHIP — A flock of geese takes off from the south shore of Lake Wilhelm Tuesday, with some trees on the opposite shore starting to change colors. NEW VERNON TOWNSHIP —

For foliage fanatics, the eastern U.S. is a gold mine, for reasons very apparent at Mercer County’s Goddard State Park. “We have a really diverse ecosystem here,” said Marisa Sprowles, a ranger at the park.

In addition to the lake and its marshes, she explained that Goddard has everything from prairie-like areas with tall grass and wild flowers, to deciduous forests capable of offering a kaleidoscope of fall colors.

As of the second week of October, the park was at only 25 percent of peak, and Sprowles said peak color should hit about Oct. 19.

Here’s where to find some of fall’s favorites at Goddard State Park:

Generally speaking, the lake’s south shore is predominantly forests, while the north side offers more fields.

Many will be looking for the fire red of sugar maples — “they’re really the stars of fall,” Sprowles said — and those hunting for them can find a few behind the pavilion of Launch 3 off Wilhelm Road, among the yellows of walnuts and aspens.

Just down Park Road from Launch 3, Falling Run Trail offers the yellows of aspens, birches and walnuts, as well as some yellow and orange maples.

Those looking for the browns, yellows and oranges of oaks will find more on the north shore. As of the second week of October, Sprowles said, Goddard’s oaks had just begun to turn

Creek Road, which runs behind the south shore, offers a wealth of sumac, which turns bright red.

Bikers, runners and dog walkers will find sumac, walnuts and laurels along the bike path.

While red maples tend to be the local stars of fall, the 12-mile bike trail also offers some other colors, namely the purple of asters and the yellow of golden rods. As the path winds around the lake, it also snakes behind farmland and full fields of corn.

The wildflowers were in full bloom in the first week of October, but have been fading since, Sprowles said.

While green is less in demand in October, in winter, when all the leaves have left, locals may be looking for color. They’ll find evergreen hemlocks near Launch 3. There are also some tamarack trees, the park’s only deciduous needle trees.

Most coniferous trees will lose some of their needles, Sprowles explained, but few will lose all like the tamarack.


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