Have you ever wondered how we get maple syrup? Learn how at the Festival of the Sugar Maples in Coral Woods Conservation Area in Marengo! Coral Woods is the McHenry County’s largest sugar maple grove where trees have stood for 80-100 years. As a maple-syrup lovin’ family, I couldn’t wait to bring the family to learn how sap from maple trees is turned into maple syrup. Not only was it a fun educational experience, but it was so much fun!
Tip: Registration is required, so make sure to grab a spot NOW!
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Getting started at Coral Woods
Since we had to preregister before the event, we were given instructions to give our name at the gate. After checking in, we then proceeded to the parking lot and met up with our guide, a volunteer that has been doing this for more than 9 years!
The McHenry County Conservation District really did a fantastic job making everyone feel safe. Masks were required, spacing of 6 feet apart was encouraged, and everyone (visitors and staff) were wearing masks. Groups consist of only 10 people, and only one group is allowed per station.
At our assigned time, we met our guide and another group joined us. We then proceeded to the Sugar Maple Loop trail, a short .4 mile walk off the parking lot. It’s a pretty easy trail with slight hills through the woods.
Learn about sugar maples
For one hour our helpful guide took us to five stations learning about the process of how sap becomes syrup. The first station provides us with a little background history. With a couple reenactment actors they tell us a tale of how pioneers discovered sap and how they used to get the sap.
Then, our guide gave us a few tips on how to identify maple trees. (The bark is a light gray and branches have opposite branching.) As we walked along the trail, we saw a few tapped trees with maple syrup buckets. We even got to try the sap! In order to modernize the process, they now use tubes that go from the tree directly to the evaporator house.
Fun fact: Did you know that sap is 97% water and just 3% sugar?
The final station was stepping into the sugar shack to see how sap is boiled in the evaporator. And, the best was saved for last (in my kids opinion) and we all got to taste the actual syrup made from Coral Woods sap.
Fun fact: 40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of maple syrup. WHOA!
Fun fact: All in all, they only make 8 or so gallons of syrup each season from Coral Woods sap – just enough to let guests sample them.
Get your sweet fix
At the very end of the trail there is a table where you can buy all things maple. You all know how much we love our sweets so we ended up buying maple cookies from local bakery Kay n’ Jo’s in Marengo, melt-in-your-mouth maple candies, and maple sticks. The maple cookies were not only so cute but delicious as well. The kids said it was like eating pancakes with maple syrup in cookie form. High praise indeed!
Tip: Bring cash or check to purchase your goodies!
Final thoughts about Festival of the Sugar Maples at Coral Woods
In conclusion, I highly, highly recommend signing up for this program. Everything was well-organized, safe, everyone learned something (a lot), and most importantly everyone had fun! Run to register! Our family can’t wait to return and hike in the spring when there will be wildflowers aplenty!
Location:7400 Somerset, Marengo
When: March 6, 7, 8 and 13,14,15
Parking: Plenty of parking in the parking lot.
- Watch this virtual field study provided by MCCD. Really, really informative!
- Looking to learn more with the kids? Read Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder to find a scene where Pa explains the sap process and they even have a dance to celebrate the season. Can you believe I’ve never read the books? My daughter and I are going to start reading the series.