Tap into a sweet Minnesota tradition by learning how to make maple syrup at Minnesota state parks this spring. Naturalists will demonstrate the process at free programs in March and early April, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“We’ll teach you how to identify the right kind of tree, drill a hole for a spile, collect sap in a bucket and then boil it until it’s tasty enough to pour on your pancakes,” said Kao Thao, naturalist at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul, where maple-syrup-making demonstrations will take place on four of the five weekends in March. “Once you see how it’s done, it’s easy to do it yourself in your own backyard.”

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Generally, sap runs best from about March 15 to April 20, when temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s during the day and below freezing at night. It usually takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple tree to get a gallon of pure maple syrup.

The maple syrup programs at Minnesota state parks are free, but vehicle permits are required to enter the parks ($5 for a one-day permit or $25 for a year-round permit). Some parks encourage dropping by any time to watch ongoing demonstrations, others offer more structured, step-by-step instruction. Due to space limitations, some programs also require advance registration.

For more information, including the complete 2014 maple syrup program schedule, online or visit or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.