Maple Madness Festival

Maple Madness – Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area

March means maple syrup at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area. Take a tractor-drawn wagon back to our sugar bush to see how maple syrup was made in the olden days and how it is made now. Enjoy pancakes with real maple syrup and buy some maple syrup or sugar to take home. We’ve got special activities happening on different days throughout the program. You’ll want to visit us more than once.

Maple Madness runs from March 10 to 18 (March Break), and from March 24 to 25 and March 31 to April 1.

The entry fee is: $4.00 per person for adults and children over 12; $2.00 per person for children 12 and under to a maximum fee of $10.00 per car. Annual passes are available for $60.00 per year and provide unlimited access.

The discovery of syrup

The North American Natives were the first people to discover the sweet sap in the sugar maple.

Legend states that the sap was discovered accidentally when a tomahawk was throw into a maple tree. The Algonquin called the sap “sinzibukwud” meaning “drawn from the trees”. They collected the sap in birch bark containers set under gashes in the trees.

Making maple Sugar
Making the maple sugar

The Natives found that boiling the maple sap caused some of the water to evaporate, leaving a thicker, sweeter liquid.
Further boiling produced an easily stored sugar. Heated stones were set into the sap to bring it to a boil. The result of this long process was a delicious sweetener for food and drink – well worth the effort.

Pioneer methods

Early settlers collected sap using wooden buckets and spiles. The sap was boiled in a large iron kettle which would withstand higher temperatures, reducing the boiling time over Native methods.

Later, a number of kettles of different sizes were hung in a row over a fire. As the sap boiled down, it was ladled from one kettle to the next, further reducing cooking time and improving the colour and flavour over earlier methods.

Identfying the Maple Trees
Identifying the maple

Of the ten species of maple trees native to Canada, the most important for maple syrup production are the sugar and black maples.

Among maples, these two have the highest concentration of sugar in their sap. Maples may be identified by their distinctive leaves or by the arrangment of leaves, buds and branches and the colour and texture of their bark.

The flow of sap
Sap flow in the tree

Through photosynthesis, trees produce food in their leaves. This food, in the form of sugar, is carried in the sap as it moves down to the roots and up and out to the branches.

During the winter, all the sugar is stored in the sapwood, trunk,branches and roots of the tree. When warm days (above 2 oC) are followed by frosty nights (below -3 oC), the sap thaws and begins to move throughout the tree to support spring growth.

Since the sap flows quickly at this time, we say it’s “running”.