Tap into a springtime tradition; learn how to make maple syrup

Ever wonder how pure maple syrup gets from trees to the table? Visitors who come to one of the free programs at Minnesota state parks will find out everything they need to know to make a batch of syrup in their own backyard, using basic tools from around their house.

Kao Thao drilling treePrograms start this weekend at Whitewater State Park (near Winona). Options include a morning program from 10 a.m. to noon or an afternoon program from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25. Sign up by calling 507-932-3007, ext. 226, or emailing sara.holger@state.mn.us.

Additional maple syrup programs will take place at several Minnesota state parks throughout March and early April. For the complete schedule, and more information about how to tap trees and make maple syrup, visit the maple syrup page.

Some programs encourage dropping by any time for a demonstration of syrup-making in progress; others offer hands-on instruction with a taste of the finished product. Participants will learn how to identify and tap the right kind of tree as well as how to boil the sap until it is sweet enough to serve on pancakes, waffles or ice cream.

Historically, the best time to collect sap has been between mid-March and mid-April, when temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s during the day and below freezing at night. It usually takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple tree to get a gallon of pure maple syrup.

The maple syrup programs at Minnesota state parks are free, but vehicle permits are required to enter the parks ($5 for a one-day permit or $25 for a year-round permit). Due to space limitations, some programs also require advance registration.

For more information, call the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 or 651-296-6157 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).