Adirondack Maple Sugaring

Each spring, a sweet tradition is celebrated in maple groves, or "sugar bushes," across the Adirondacks. Join us for maple sugaring season!
A Labor of Love - Maple Sugaring in the Adirondacks of New York

Maple syrup is mixed and prepared for bottling.

Sara Jacobi
Maple Sugaring in the Adirondacks of NY

Time to make the syrup!

Sara Jacobi
Adirondack Maple Sugaring

As winter's frozen landscape begins to thaw, the Adirondack Region of New York prepares for a sweet maple sugaring season. Throughout the region, groves of maples trees, or sugar bushes, are already sporting taps to collect maple sap. New York State is the second largest producer of maple syrup in the United States, with the Adirondack Region accounting for nearly one third of the state's production. After all, the Sugar Maple is New York State's official tree.

Maple trees and sugar bushes dot much of the forest across the Adirondack Park. Cross country skiers and snowshoers taking advantage of the warmer temperatures and the lingering snow are sure to hear the crisp snap of a sugar maples' sap along any Adirondack ski trail.

An Adirondack Tradition

Maple sugaring is a tradition older than the Adirondack Park itself, said to have originated with the Iroquois when an errant tomahawk struck a maple tree, releasing the sap. Contemporary sugar makers begin harvesting sap as winter wanes, usually around the beginning of March. Warmer days give way to freezing nights, creating ideal conditions and increasing sap flow.

To harvest maple sap, a tap is driven into each tree. The method of collection varies - from old-fashioned buckets to state-of-the-art piping that snakes along trees, straight into the sugar house. Once collected, the sap is boiled down to remove excess moisture. What remains is pure maple syrup. The syrup is processed, tested and graded using the industry standards of: Fancy, Medium Amber, Dark Amber or B. After that, it is packaged and ready for breakfast. 

New York's finest agricultural tradition culminates during Maple Weekend, one of the top Adirondack Festivals in spring. This state-wide "Liquid Gold" celebration opens sugar shack doors for tours, educational treks and enjoyment of all things maple. Held the last two weekends in March, this event spans the Adirondack's six-million acres, from mountains to valleys.

Adirondack Maple Syrup

To make one gallon of pure maple syrup, it takes more than 40 gallons of sap, which must be collected from maple sugar trees, called a sugar bush. Sugar Maple and Black Maple trees are the preferred species for producing maple syrup due to the sap's high sugar content. The sap from Red and Silver Maple trees can also be used to make maple syrup and maple products, though the higher water-to-sugar ratio means that producers need more sap to get the right sugar concentrate.

Maple trees flourish in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, which hold the monopoly on maple production. New York State produces some of the purest syrup on the market because each batch is held to rigorous standards. Pure Maple Syrup has a sugar concentrate of at least 66%. Natural minerals and antioxidants, including calcium and zinc, can be found in pure maple sugar. Like a vintner's "terroir," maple syrup, once distilled, can exhibit distinctive flavors from the surrounding forests and fields.

How to Make Maple Syrup

By the end of February in the Adirondacks, the daytime temperatures rise above freezing, while the nights dip below 32°. The temperature fluctuations create ideal conditions for sap flow in sugar maple trees.

Among most Adirondack maple producers, the general accepted practice is to place one tap four-and-a-half feet up from the ground in a tree that is 12 inches or greater in diameter. Trees greater than 18 inches in diameter can accommodate two taps if placed correctly. This ensures that trees will continue to produce maple sugar sustainably for decades. 

To collect sap, maple producers rig plastic tubing from tap to tap, allowing sap to flow directly into a storage tank at a nearby sugar shack for processing. It's not uncommon for visitors to the Adirondacks to come across this distinctive blue piping running along cross-country ski trails and roadways. Smaller maple sugar producers may even use buckets to collect the sap.

Once the sap is collected, it is transported to a storage tank, fed into an evaporator and heated up to remove excess moisture. This concentrates the sugars, and once the maple syrup reaches a 66% to 67% sugar concentration, it is moved to a finishing pan. As it cools, the syrup is filtered, graded and bottled.

American Maple Museum

Since 1977, the American Maple Museum has preserved New York State's maple legacy in the western Adirondack town of Croghan. The museum proudly displays the history of Adirondack maple syrup production, a heritage that dates back to the Native Americans who first discovered the delicious natural treat - by accident, if the legend is true.

Exhibits are designed to inform and educate visitors through interactive events and seasonal demonstrations. Staffed by volunteers dedicated to ensuring that the history and art of maple syrup is not lost from one generation to the next, visitors are invited to travel along an old-fashioned sap pipeline and learn about the importance of maple syrup to the agricultural industry of New York State. See the different equipment used throughout the centuries to harvest sap and make maple syrup, and shop for maple products at the museum gift shop.

Maple sugaring is an integral part of rural communities in the Adirondacks, providing a sweet reminder that spring is just around the corner. Continuing the legacy, a Maple Queen contest has been held at the museum each year since 1980. Generations of Queens have their photo on display in a special room of the museum, which is also home to the American Maple Hall of Fame. To celebrate the bountiful syrup season, two maple producers are selected each May by the North American Maple Syrup Council to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, ensuring their legacy and upholding a tradition centuries in the making.

Enjoy Adirondack Maple Products

Along the Adirondack Seaway, more than 200 maple producers tap an average of 1,000 trees each. Visitors can tour a traditional wood-burning sugar house and a state-of-the-art reverse osmosis operation in the St. Lawrence Region. The Lake George Region celebrates maple with sugar shack tours, demonstrations and pancake breakfasts. In the northern Adirondacks, stretching to the Lake Placid Region and the High Peaks Region, Maple Weekend marks the true beginning of spring in the mountains.

Don't miss the American Maple Museum in Croghan in the Adirondack Tug Hill Region. Founded in 1977, this museum preserves the history and evolution of the maple syrup industry in North America. Exhibits chronicle techniques used by the Native Americans and the evolution of production.

From seedling to sapling, sap to syrup, maple sugaring is an Adirondack tradition too sweet to miss. Check out The Wild Center's Maple Tree Sap Cam

Maple Producers in the Adirondacks

Adirondack Lakes Region:

  • Brushton-Moira Central School FFA in Brushton
  • The Wild Center in Tupper Lake
  • Woods Maple Products in Chateaugay

Lake George Region:

  • Hidden Hollow Maple Farm Inc. in Warrensburg
  • Toad Hill Maple Farm in Thurman
  • Valley Road Maple Farm in Thurman

Lake Placid Region:

  • Black Rooster Maple in Keene
  • Cornell University-Uihlein Forest in Lake Placid
  • Maple Knoll Farm in Minerva

Adirondack Coast:

  • 1812 Homestead Farm & Museum in Willsboro
  • Bechard's Sugar House in West Chazy
  • Brow's Sugarhouse in West Chazy
  • Homestead Maple in Chazy
  • Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy

Adirondack Wild:

  • McComb's Oak Hill Farm in Speculator

Adirondacks-Tughill Region:

  • Moser's Mapleridge Farm in Copenhagen
  • Oswegatchie Educational Center in Croghan
  • Pierce's Sugar Spigot in Croghan
  • Swiss'er Sweet Maple in Castorland
  • Yancey's Sugarbush in Croghan

Adirondacks Seaway:

  • Fine-n-Dandy in Norwood
  • Finen Maple Products in Norwood
  • Sweeter Creations Sugar House in Madrid
  • The Orebed Sugar Shack in De Kalb Junction
  • Tupper's Hilltop Maple Treats in Canton
  •  Woody's Maple in Hermon
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