The Indiana Insider Blog

Fall is a Time for ALL the Senses

Indiana Tourism welcomes today’s guest blogger, Ginger Murphy:

Ginger MurphyGinger Murphy is Assistant Director for Stewardship for Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs. During her 25 years with DNR she has also worked as an interpretive naturalist at the Upper Wabash Reservoirs (Salamonie, Mississinewa and Roush Lakes) and as Chief of Interpretation. Birding and hiking top her outdoor interests list.

Black walnut leaves and walnut chewed by a squirrel

Nothing beats the golds and reds of Hoosier trees against an azure sky in October, but changing leaves are not the only signs of fall. For me some of the other signs require using other senses besides vision. First there’s the sharp and slightly bitter scent of walnut. In September, these great, edible nuts drop from mature black walnut trees around the state. People love them and even my chocolate lab likes to chomp on them after the squirrels chew off the outer skin, hull and into the meat.

A black walnut stands tall with its golden leaves in Johnson County

Nothing beats the smell of woodsmoke. That aroma, whether it comes from a wood-burning stove or a campfire on a night when there’s a chill in the air, transports me back to family camping trips, backyard bonfires with friends and hundreds of great evening programs when I worked as an environmental educator at a camp in Ohio and as an interpretive naturalist at the Upper Wabash Reservoirs here in Indiana.

Finally the sound of blackbirds gathering in flocks at the end of the day is a reminder that the nesting season is over, and migration is underway. Mixed groups of starlings, red-winged blackbirds and common grackles gather to roost together overnight. The sound can be deafening if a large roosting flock forms.

So what do you hear, smell or taste that reminds you of fall? Fresh apples? Hot cider? Pumpkin seeds? Watching the leaves change is a great way to enjoy autumn, but it’s not the only way. Stop, get out of the car and use your eyes, nose and ears to make some great memories of the changing seasons in Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs.

The middle weeks of October are often the peak of leaf color across central Indiana, and this year promises to follow that pattern. I was at Fort Harrison State Park this past Friday for the dedication of the park’s first four miles of multi-use trail that is designed for mountain bikers and hikers alike, and the maples and oaks were heading into peak color.

The golden colors of prairie grasses paired with changing leaves and blue sky at Fort Harrison State Park.

Get out this week and enjoy autumn with ALL your senses!

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Written by : The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) manages a wide variety of state-owned lands that are available for all sorts outdoor recreation activities. Staff are charged with managing and interpreting the natural and cultural resources of these sites, and with regulating lake and stream usage, fish, wildlife, oil, gas and coal and Indiana's archeological and historic resources. For more information about the DNR or careers in natural resources, visit