Maple Sugaring Day on Tap

Something sweet is happening in Oglebay! Naturalists at Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center have been working hard to prepare for the upcoming harvest of maple syrup, which the public can enjoy during OI’s annual Maple Sugaring Day.

Maple Sugaring Day takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 21, in the woods behind Camp Russel in Oglebay Park.

Guests will watch maple syrup being made, learn about the tapping process, the history of maple syrup production and how to identify maple trees. They will taste fresh maple syrup during a hot pancake breakfast at Camp Russel, where they will hear live bluegrass music.

This event attracts hundreds of guests each year and is one of the Schrader Center’s most popular programs, said center director Alice Eastman. “It is a great way to get outside, take a walk in the woods, celebrate early spring and learn some interesting nature facts and local history,” she said.

Naturalists will lead guests on interpretive hikes through the woods, stopping at learning stations along the way. They will hear how Native Americans discovered this “sweet water” and the methods they used to harvest it. They will be introduced to colonial methods of sap tapping and try drilling holes with old-fashioned bits and braces.

They will see how wooden taps, known as spiles, were made to allow sap to flow from tree to bucket. They will learn about current pipeline techniques and watch how maple sap is boiled down into syrup, while socializing around a boiling sap evaporator.

Maple sugaring was once an integral part of American life, and the end product was the foremost sweetener until the end of the Civil War. The most common use of sap is in maple syrup. It takes about 30-50 gallons of sap boiled down to make one gallon of syrup. “Thankfully, over the years, modern-day technology has made the process much easier than in previous time periods,” Eastman said.

The program begins in the woods behind Camp Russel. Trail guides depart from the Camp Russel parking lot every half hour beginning at 9 a.m. The last group leaves at 12:30 p.m. The tour concludes with a breakfast that includes a choice of buckwheat or regular pancakes, sausage, juice or coffee.

Admission is charged. Members of Oglebay Institute receive a discount. Boots and appropriate outdoor clothing are recommended.

Eastman encourages people to register in advance because the event typically sells out. Reservations can be made at or by calling 304-242-6855.