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Chicago fall color forecast favorable despite summer drought

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Fall color is set to arrive on schedule this year- or maybe even a little early - despite the pounding our forests took this summer. After a summer of watching leaves turning brown and falling from a number of trees that were stressed beyond tolerance, leaf-peepers were rightfully concerned that this year's season would be a complete bust. Not so! Our hardy hardwoods have toughed it out, with some help from late summer rains and the recent chilly nights followed by sunny days - nature's prescription for a glorious autumn. Actually, a little stress brings out the colors, we've heard, because temperature extremes and lack of water affects chlorophyll production. This could explain why some of the maples around town have already started to put on a show, and peak is expected within a couple weeks.

While any tree-lined side street or thoroughfare can be scenic this time of year, we like to head to the Cook County Forest Preserves, where the North Branch of the Chicago River and its cousin to the west, the Des Plaines River wend their way through endless acres of mature hardwoods that have enjoyed the protection of the natural water supply that provided a barrier against fire, drought and other nasty occurrences that routinely claim the lives of other trees that didn't have the good sense to set up housekeeping in these parts. With more than 68,000 protected acres, our Forest Preserve District is the largest in the U.S.; an incredible natural resource that was a gift from the visionaries that formed the district close to a century ago.

We never met a forest we didn't like but are particularly partial to the following destinations for fall foliage:

Mind you there's no North Side bias going on here, it's just a matter of proximity. If you hail from the land below the Eisenhower, you're fortunate indeed to have these wonderful refuges in your backyard:

These are just a few that we know and love. Whether you're planning to see the sights on foot, on a bike, on horseback, via hayride, canoe or even the family four-door, you're in for a soul-enriching seasonal treat.

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