With above freezing temperatures during the day and frigid temperatures at night, March is typically the ideal month for maple sugaring season.
However, with the mild winter weather, maple sugaring season began as early as mid-February in some parts of Michigan, according to Dave Schoneman, an interpretive naturalist at Indian Springs Metropark in White Lake Township.
“To get the sap flowing, the temperatures at night need to be below freezing — ideally in the upper 20s,” he said. “And then in the day, they need to be above freezing. And with weather we’ve had, we began tapping the trees in mid-February.”
While the mild weather has hastened the maple sugaring season, it should not change the quality or quantity of the syrup — unless the weather causes the trees to bud early.
“Once they bud, the content of the sap changes. But that normally occurs after the sap has been flowing for a while,” Schoneman said.
Michigan is one of the few places in the world where maple syrup can be produced, and both Kensington, located in Milford Township, and Indian Springs metroparks will be offering tours every weekend in March, showing the steps of the maple sugaring process.
Tours at both parks will include a hike out to a sugar brush to see how to properly tap a tree and identify the different species of maple, as well as a stop at the sugar shack to witness how the maple sap is boiled down into syrup by the evaporator pan.
At Indian Springs, tours are held every hour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every weekend in March. The fee to participate is $3 per person and pre-registration is required. To pre-register, contact either 248-625-6640 or 800-477-3192.
The 11 a.m. session will also give advanced tips and techniques on tapping trees for people interested in tapping their own trees. Sap collection starter kits are available for $12.
Indian Springs will also be hosting its first pancake breakfast on Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18 at the golf course from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Costs are $5 for adults and $3 for children.
At Kensington, tours start at noon every weekend with the final group leaving at 2:30 p.m. After 4 p.m., the sugar bush will remain open for self-guided visits. Unlike Indian Springs, no reservation is needed. Admission for the tour is $3 per adult and $1 per child/senior. Children under 3 are free.
A pancake breakfast is also available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Farmhouse Grille.
The tour at Kensington will also include reenactors representing Michigan natives from the 18th century as they recreate life in an Algonquin winter camp, which will include demonstrations of the deer hide tanning process, as well as the centuries-old process of producing maple sugar from maple sap.