Explore the sweet side of Wisconsin during maple syrup season
Wisconsin is home to 50 state parks and more than 40 historic landmarks. With so many unexpected adventures and places to discover, there's certainly a thrilling destination or event to experience on your next vacation. Wandering Wisconsin in partnership with Travel Wisconsin highlights some of the most fascinating and unique places across our state. This month, we travel to Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville, WI to explore maple syrup season.
Wisconsin ranks fourth in the country for maple syrup production. February and March are the peak months to tap the state's sugar maple trees. Sugar maple tapping and maple syrup production are big draws for people who want to be part of the production and learn about maple sugaring. It is also an opportunity for maple syrup makers to host events dedicated to and celebrating their craft. The Riveredge Nature Center is one such provider and according to their director of education, Jeff Kierzek, this is a very important time of year for them.
"Maple sugaring season is one of the most electric months that we have here at the Nature Center," Kierzek says. "We like to joke that there are five seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter and maple sugaring season."
Travel Wisconsin communications director, Amanda Weibel says maple syrup might not be top of mind when you think about tourism and traveling in Wisconsin. But, it's just one of many activities Wisconsin has to offer year-round. "I think a lot of people think about [peak tourism season] in summer and fall...but what makes maple syrup season particularly unique and extra sweet is the timing. It's a spring time activity and a lot of farmers are just getting ready to start their growing season. But maple syrup production is in full swing, so it's a great way to get hands on to learn about our agricultural heritage."
Kierzek explains that the process for creating maple syrup requires sap from a sugar maple tree. Sap typically is most easily harvested from a tree when the temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night which is usually late February and early March.
Around 40 gallons of sap is required to create one gallon of syrup. In order to collect the large amounts of sap to produce syrup, over 400 sugar maple trees in the area are tapped. Buckets and bags are attached to drilled holes in the tree trunk and the sap slowly and steadily flows out for collection.
Kierzek says, "Riveredge is a wonderful place for people to come and connect with nature. Our maple sugaring programs give people the opportunity to come out and explore some spaces in a way that we don't typically use them in the rest of the year."
From Sap to Syrup Event: Feb 25 9:30 -11:30 AM
Family Tapping Event: Feb 25; 1:00 - 2:30 PM
Maple Syrup Supper Event: March 4 5:30 - 8:30 PM
Maple Sugarin' Festival: March 18 12:00 - 4:00 PM
Other Similar Events
There are sugar maple trees across the state and lots of other organizations hosting maple syrup events. Here are a few other similar events:
Places to Stay
If you'd like to make a full trip out of maple syrup season and want to explore some places to stay while attending some of the many events, Weibel recommends a few places not far from Riveredge Nature Center.
Weibel says, "It would be great for couples. It's right down the road from Riveredge on the edge of the village...[and] offers two spacious guest rooms. They're full of charm. The house was also constructed specifically to be wheelchair friendly."
"A gorgeous property. It's surrounded by towering pine trees. Located just outside of Saukeville. And it's a really large modern house for rent. The house has 6 bedrooms and sleeps up to 16 people...no matter what season you want to head to Riveredge to explore, it's a great place to check out," says Weibel.
Places to Eat
Weibel says, "The Norbert is a tapas bar and restaurant right in downtown West Bend...if you like mixing and matching small plates and large plates and appetizers to share with your party, it's a really, really fun place to stop."
"They take classic American pub food to the next level...they have a great sandwich for pickle lovers that features sliced dill pickles, crispy jalapeños, and crumbled croutons all on top of their signature pulled rotisserie chicken," says Weibel.