Fall Foliage Takes Over Spearfish Canyon

A stroll through Spearfish Canyon will show that leaves are starting to change colors. This is essentially due to the breaking down of chlorophyll.

The thought of why leaves change colors and why each tree has different colored leaves is rarely a common thought, but not to Black Hills State University’s Dr. Tara Ramsey. Many people believe it is the colder temperatures imposing the leaves to change and fall but according to Ramsey there are several factors involved in this process.

“Plants use pigments to capture sunlight and this energy is used to make food,” Ramsey stated. “The main type of pigment is green chlorophyll.”

The reds, yellows, and oranges are revealed in the fall months.

According to Appalachian State University studies, the fall foliage may act as a sign of a healthy ecosystem. The trees protect themselves from the frigid winters of South Dakota by dropping their leaves and closing their capillaries to hold in the moisture.

Every year, summer loses its grip and the signs of fall shine through places like Spearfish Canyon. The leaves generally start changing colors in mid-September and peak around the beginning of October but this all depends on weather with wind, rain and snow according to Ramsey.

The leaves in Spearfish Canyon generally change quicker than lower elevations due to the canyon’s high elevation and lower temperatures.