Maple syrup season is here. Tap trees and taste syrup at these events in Wisconsin in 2022

Chelsey Lewis
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As the snow starts melting, the sap starts running, signaling the beginning of maple syrup season in Wisconsin.

While the season typically begins at the end of February, it all depends on temperatures. The Goldilocks range for a good sap run is temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. Too cold and the sap stops flowing. Too warm and the trees start budding, turning the sap bitter. The 2021 season began Feb. 20 (five days later than the 2020 season), and ended about March 31,  according to the USDA.

The tradition of tapping trees to make maple syrup in Wisconsin dates back centuries, with the state's native tribes building special wigwams in sugar bushes (stands of trees that are tapped for sap to make maple syrup) to make the sweet stuff every spring. Europeans continued the tradition, and today Wisconsin produces the fourth most maple syrup of any state in the country — 300,000 gallons in 2021 — with the sugar maple serving as the official state tree. 

And that's just official production. More syrup is produced in small amounts by hobbyists in their backyards, and at nature centers where visitors can learn about how it's made.

Those events are a great chance to get outside in this in-between season, when there's not enough snow for winter pursuits like skiing and trails are too wet for some warm-weather sports like cycling. Plus many of the events include the sweet perk of maple syrup tastings, sometimes in the form of a pancake breakfast. 

Here's a selection of those events around Wisconsin this syrup season. 

More:Maple syrup tapping season, started by Indigenous people, arrives in Wisconsin

Southern Wisconsin

March 11-12, Maple Days, Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, Manitowoc: Tap a sugar maple log, learn about making syrup and the science of sap, make maple taffy and sample syrup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Saturday, tour three local sugar bushes — Inthewoods Sugar Bush, Maple Sweet Dairy and East Ridge Villa — from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All events are included in admission to the center, which costs $16 for adults, $12 for seniors (age 60 and older) and $8 for youth (ages 3 and under are free). (920) 726-6000, farmwisconsin.org.

March 12, From Maple Trees to Maple Syrup, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Milwaukee: Learn how to identify maple trees, how trees work, and the process of getting sap from a tree and turning it into maple syrup at this outdoor event from 1 to 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 for non-members and $20 for members. (414) 352-2880, schlitzaudubon.org.

March 17, SPARK! Maple Sugar Time, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Milwaukee: This free, accessible, mostly indoor program for people experiencing cognitive changes and their caregivers will focus on maple syrup in March. Registration is requested. 10-11:30 a.m., (414) 352-2880, schlitzaudubon.org.

March 19, Maple Sugarin' Shindig, Riveredge Nature Center, Saukville: This event includes a scavenger hunt, storytelling, and tours of the sugar bush and the Sugarbush House to see how sap is made. Advance tickets are $35 per family for non-members, $25 for trail pass members and $10 for all-access members. 10-11:45 a.m. or 12:15-2 p.m. (262) 375-2715, riveredgenaturecenter.org.

March 19, Maple Sugar Time, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Milwaukee: Visit various stations inside and out to learn about maple syrup, plus enjoy a sweet treat. Pre-registration is required: $15 for non-members, $10 for members (ages 2 and under are free). 10-11:30 a.m., 12:30-2 p.m. or 3-4:30 p.m. (414) 352-2880, schlitzaudubon.org.

March 19, Maple Sugaring, Hawthorne Glen Outdoor Education Center, Milwaukee: Walk through Hawthorne Glen to find sugar maples and learn about the syrup-making process. $5 for Milwaukee residents, $8 for non-residents. 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (414) 647-6050, milwaukeerecreation.net.

March 19-20, Maple Sugar Days, Wehr Nature Center, Franklin: Walk to the sugar bush to visit a sugaring camp, and enjoy hands-on demonstrations and pancakes. Other maple treats, along with DIY tapping equipment, will be on sale in the Friends of Wehr Nature Store. Guided hikes depart every 15 minutes from noon to 4 p.m. $10 per person; children ages 2 and under are free. There is a $4 per car parking fee for non-members. Pre-purchased tickets are required. friendsofwehr.org/events.

A naturalist at Wehr Nature Center explains how sap is boiled down to make syrup to third-grade students from Good Shepherd's Lutheran School in West Allis on March 21, 2018.

March 19 and 26, Maple Syrup Hikes, Petrifying Springs County Park, Kenosha: Join Pringle Nature Center for a hike at 10 or 11:30 a.m. to learn about how syrup is made, and sample some made by the nature center. $6 per person, $4.50 for Friends of Pringle members. Pre-registration required at pringlenc.org.

March 20, Maple Fest, Covenant Harbor, Lake Geneva: Enjoy a pancake breakfast, an outdoor market and other family-friendly activities. Breakfast is $10 for adults and $7 for kids ages 4-12 (free for ages 3 and under). Breakfast is served 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (262) 248-3600, covenantharbor.org.

March 20 and 27, Sugarin’ Off Pancake Breakfast, River Bend Nature Center, Racine: Enjoy a pancake breakfast, then hike through the sugar bush to learn about the syrup-making process. Advance ticket purchase is required and costs $10 for adults and $7 for kids 3-10 (kids under 3 are free). 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (262) 639-1515, riverbendracine.org.

March 26, Maple Syrup Family Day, Richfield Nature/Historical Park, Richfield: Watch the entire syrup-making process from tree tapping to boiling from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., plus enjoy other hands-on activities and historical demonstrations. Maple syrup and maple syrup cotton candy will be available for purchase. New this year is a pancake breakfast of unlimited pancakes and real maple syrup, served with three sausages and a beverage from 9 to 11 a.m. for $6 per person. richfieldhistoricalsociety.org

April 2, Outdoor Pancake Breakfast, Riveredge Nature Center, Saukville: Fill up on an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in the middle of the sugar bush. Seatings are at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon. Advance tickets are recommended and cost $15 for non-member adults and $13 for kids ages 12 and under, and $12 for member adults and $9 for kids (all kids 3 and under are free). Mimosas and beer will be available for cash purchase. (262) 375-2715, riveredgenaturecenter.org.

Girl scouts enjoy a pancake with fresh maple syrup at Riveredge Nature Center in 2018.

Central Wisconsin

March 12, Bubolz Family Explorers: Maple Syrup, Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve, Appleton: Join a hike to see the syrup-making process, then enjoy the final product over ice cream. 9-11 a.m., $20 per family for non-members, $15 for members. (920) 731-6041, bubolzpreserve.org.

March 19, Maple Syrup Camp, Brillion Nature Center, Brillion: See every part of the syrup-making process and enjoy syrup over ice cream. Free; donations appreciated. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (920) 756-3591, brillionnaturecenter.net.

March 19, Maple Syrup Saturday — Adopt a Bucket, Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve, Appleton: Families can "adopt a bucket" for the season, tap a maple tree in the preserve and hang the bucket to collect sap, then come back throughout the season to see their bucket. There will also be ice cream topped with maple syrup. The experience costs $45 per family. (920) 731-6041, bubolzpreserve.org.

March 19, Sap Run Scramble, B&E's Farm, Cashton: Be prepared to get muddy on this scramble through the sugar bush, following sap from tree to sugar house. There will also be tables throughout the woods to enjoy local food and drink samples. The event begins at noon, with a suggested donation of $20; proceeds will be donated to Community Hunger Solutions of Viroqua and the local Outdoor Afro chapter. Register at embarkmaple.com

March 20, Maple Syrup Sunday, Ledge View Nature Center, Chilton: Tour the sugar bush and watch a tapping demonstration, then enjoy a pancake breakfast from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. $9 for ages 12 and up, $5 for kids under 12. (920) 849-7094, ledgeviewnaturecenter.org.

March 26, Maple Syrupin' Public Day, Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve, Suamico: Join a 0.75-mile guided hike to learn about how syrup is made and finish with a tasty treat from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pre-registration is required and costs $5 per person (ages 2 and under are free). Register at browncountywi.gov.

A park employee demonstrates how to tap a tree for its sap during L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve's Maple Syrupin' event on March 26, 2016.

March 26, Sugar Bush Day, Historic Point Basse, Nekoosa: Help gather sap, then watch it being boiled in a log, the way Native Americans made syrup. Finish your visit with a syrup-topped pancake. Donations welcomed. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (715) 459-1722, historicpointbasse.com.

April 2, Maple Festival, Plymouth City Park, Plymouth: See how syrup is made, visit local producers, enjoy a pancake breakfast and purchase maple products. Donations accepted for breakfast. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. drewryfarmsmaple.com.

April 2, Maple Syrup Festival, MacKenzie Education Center, Poynette: Enjoy a variety of activities at this free event including live music, horse-drawn wagon rides, interpretive displays, a scavenger hunt and food available for purchase. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (608) 635-8105, friendsofmackenzie.org.

Northern Wisconsin

March 19, First Tree Tapping, Leafy Grove Maple, N602 Leafy Grove Road, Merrill: State dignitaries will be on hand to officially kick off the season with the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association beginning at 10 a.m. There will also be tours of the sugar bush, snacks and refreshments. wismaple.org

April 2, Maple Syrup Fest, Phelps School, Phelps: Watch tree-tapping demonstrations, tour local sugar bushes, browse arts and crafts, and enjoy maple treats at this free festival from 9 a.m. to  3 p.m. phelpswi.us

April 2, Open House, Morley Maple Syrup, Luck: Tour the farm and see how maple syrup is made at this free open house from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. morleymaplesyrup.com

April 30, Maple Festival, Taylor County Fairgrounds, Medford: Learn about Wisconsin's state tree, plus enjoy maple foods, a craft fair and cooking demonstrations. taylorcountylionsmaplefest.org

Elaine Rewolinski contributed to this article. Contact Chelsey Lewis at clewis@journalsentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew and @TravelMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel.