Maple sugaring season in Cleveland Metroparks is a sure sign that we are in the final throes of winter, and after the winter we've had, we need all the signs we can get. The annual tapping of the maple trees in the Rocky River Reservation is a Cleveland Metroparks tradition that dates back to the early 1980s. Weather conditions that include below freezing temperatures at night and above freezing temperatures during the day are necessary to make the sap flow; meaning early March, when the Northeastern U.S. is teetering on the edge of winter and spring, is primetime when it comes to tapping trees.
Under the still bare branches of the sugar maples in the Maple Grove Picnic Area
, Cleveland Metroparks naturalists will lead hikes on the Sugarbush Trail on the first two weekends in March
to demonstrate how the sap is collected and boiled down to make maple syrup. Hikes leave the sugarhouse, where the sap is boiled, every 20 minutes between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on March 1, 2, 8 and 9. Ice carver Dave Zajac will carve a maple leaf out of ice during the kick-off celebration at 11 a.m. on March 1.
For centuries, Native Americans, and later on, pioneers and sugar farmers, have braved the cold, the snow and the mud to capture the sweet sap of the maple tree. Here are a few fun facts to mull over as you wait for the start of March Maple Madness:
- Forty gallons of sap are needed to make one gallon of syrup.
- Immature maple trees need not apply! Trees need to be 40-50 years old before they can be tapped.
- Not all the maple trees in the Maple Grove Picnic Area are tapped. While all maple trees technically produce sap, the naturalists only tap appropriately sized sugar maples which have a higher percentage of sugar.
- The spigot driven into the tree is called a spile. On a particularly good day, a spile can drip up to 300 times per minute.
- Eastern Canada and the Northeastern U.S. are the only places in the world that produce maple syrup.