Maple Syrup Time on the Gunflint Trail

   maple syrup in grand marais, mn 

      A sugarbush is what they call an area abundant with maple trees for making syrup.  There aren’t very many places in the world where maple trees grow and we’re about as far north and west as you’ll find them in the United States.  Since our growing season in northern Minnesota is so short we have pretty small maple trees that can only support 1 or 2 taps.  In eastern states like Vermont, Maine or Pennsylvania you’ll find bigger trees where they can get lots of sap to make into syrup.


     Unfortunately you can’t get sap from maple trees year around.  We didn’t learn too much about the science of the sap flow but I do know it takes freezing temperatures at night and above freezing temperatures during the daytime in order for the sap to flow.  During the springtime is the only time there is a high concentration of sugar in the sap and once the trees bud with leaves the sap stops flowing. 

     Lots of sap and lots of work is required to make maple syrup.  Holes must be drilled into trees being careful not to drill into an old injury(hole).  Then a tap and tubing are placed so the sap can make its way to the holding vats.  Once there is enough sap they begin the process of cooking which takes alot of firewood to heat up the sap enough to turn it into syrup. 

     How long the sap must cook depends upon the outside conditions including humidity level.  It takes an entire day to boil 200 gallons of sap and it takes roughly 43 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  So an entire day of boiling may only yield 5 gallons of syrup once it is boiled.  That doesn’t include all of the time it takes to cut the firewood, drill the trees, put out tubing and all of the other tasks associated with making maple syrup.  Then once it turns into syrup they must bottle it for selling or later use. 

     After seeing their syrup operation I can see why maple syrup is usually so expensive.  It isn’t like the corn syrup used in most pancake syrups.  Maple syrup has more nutrients in it and it doesn’t take much to add flavor to a pancake.  Not that any of the kids on the field trip would know because most of them drank all of their 3.4 fluid ounce bottles of maple syrup the Spinlers were gracious enough to give them.  Talk about liquid gold, just that little bottle would be worth at least $1.60 in a store!

     I thoroughly enjoyed the field trip and have yet to use my little bottle of maple syrup.  I’m saving it for a special occasion; let’s just hope my kids don’t get their hands on it first.


 stoking the fire for the syrup   maple syrup production