Wisconsin has many different state symbols from the badger to the robin to the woods violet. Perhaps the grandest of the lot is our state tree, the sugar maple. The sugar maple was selected in 1893 by a vote among school children. This ambassador of the forest with its blazing red autumn cover was a significant contributor to the economy of our early state. Maple syrup and maple sugar were major exports from the state after the lumber boom decades earlier. Our state’s “Sugarbushes” are now managed by many small commercial and family run businesses. Much of the maple syrup produced by these entrepreneurs finds it way to local farmer’s markets, state and county fairgrounds, and boutique gift shops and tourist attractions. Not only is maple syrup production a contributor to the state’s income (Wisconsin is ranked #4 nationwide), it is also a cultural icon. Many schools throughout the northern tier of the state take students out to learn how to collect and process sap. Keep in mind that it takes almost 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of high-quality maple syrup.
Weather plays a critical role in the annual sap run. How the run will play out this year is difficult to determine. I have personally seen the maples budding out in the first week of January.
Maple Sugaring Events in Southeast Wisconsin
Even though the weather may be odd this year, there are still plenty of opportunities to participate and learn about the maple sugaring season in our area. The following list of interactive, hands-on events in nearby woods are perfect for kids and families. See how to tap a sugar maple tree, learn how many gallons of sap get turned into a few gallons of maple syrup, and steal a taste of fresh, Grade A pure Wisconsin maple. The next time you sit down and pour that sweet maple syrup over a stack of pancakes, appreciation of the amount of work involved will make the meal even more delicious. Local Maple Sugaring events typically occur at the end of February through early April in our area. For more information, please visit the Wehr and Schlitz Audubon Nature Center websites.
9701 W. College Ave. Franklin, WI 53132
Nothing beats homemade maple syrup on pancakes! We’ll take you through the process from start to finish at this hands-on workshop. Practice drilling a tree and see how sap is boiled down. You’ll even get to enjoy some sweet treats! Tapping kits can be purchased in the Friends of Wehr store for an additional fee.
Fees: $12 per person; $10 for Milwaukee County residents; $7 for Friends of Wehr members
$5 parking fee applies to non-FOW members
Registration is required at least two days before the program
1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53217
Admission: $10 Members; $15 Non-Members; 2 and under FREE
Take the family for an evening hike under the full moon of March – also known as the Sugar Moon. Learn about the history of maple sugaring and why this moon gets such a sweet name. Make a stop at the maple trees, then hike down to the beach and watch the moon rise above Lake Michigan. Finally, gather around the fire and listen to indigenous legends of maple sugaring while enjoying some maple treats. This program is designed for all ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Note: This program will take place entirely outdoors.
9701 W. College Ave. Franklin, WI 53132
Admission: $10; ages 2 and under FREE (+$4 parking fee for non-members)
Celebrate the spring thaw and our Wisconsin heritage at Wehr’s annual Maple Sugar Days. The program includes a short walk to the sugarbush, a visit to an old-time sugarin’ camp, a boil down demonstration, and stories about the Native American origins of maple sugaring. Every participant will receive a warm pancake with real Wisconsin maple syrup to enjoy. Other maple treats, along with DIY tapping equipment, will be on-sale in the Friends of Wehr Nature Store. Hikes begin at noon and continue every 15 minutes until 4 p.m. Pre-purchased tickets are required.
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