A fun, free and educational family event returns to Hendricks County, Indiana, the first two Saturdays in March. McCloud Maple Syrup Days celebrates McCloud Nature Park's sugar maple trees and the delectable sweetness that they produce.
Located just outside North Salem in the northwest section of the county, McCloud Nature Park provides a glorious outdoor experience year-round with 232 acres of hills, prairies, trees, trails, Big Walnut Creek, wetlands, a historic truss bridge, open green space, wildlife and much more. Inside McCloud, hundreds of sugar maple trees are tapped every year as Hendricks County Parks & Recreation celebrates Maple Syrup Days.
Since I work for Hendricks County Parks & Recreation, I'm a pretty good source for insider information about this popular event.
No Pancake Breakfast in 2021
The first bit of news, unfortunately, is something of a bummer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County will not hold its annual Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser during Maple Syrup Days in 2021.
There's nothing quite like fresh, hot pancakes smothered in McCloud Maple Syrup. But with the number of people who usually attend and the size of the McCloud Nature Center the social distancing needed just isn't possible and food preparation at the event in these modern times presents quite a few obstacles as well.
Hopefully the Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser will return in 2022.
We've also changed up the usual McCloud Maple Syrup Days activities this year, with the pandemic in mind.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Saturday during Maple Syrup Days, our staff and volunteers will teach visitors the history behind maple syrup dating back to the Native Americans and colonial Americans, as well as how maple syrup is made today.
A few days ago, we started tapping the sugar maple trees at McCloud that are bunched together in a group called the "Sugar Bush" area. You'll see our maple sugaring rigs still on the trees during Maple Syrup Days.
Our naturalists also will lead guided tours beginning at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on both days.
They will lead visitors around the park and teach you all about maple syrup. You’ll see sap buckets on the trees, learn tree identification to spot maple trees, enjoy a campfire and Native American legends and experience the steam from the evaporator in the Sugar Shack!
Tours will take 60-90 minutes and will traverse a half mile on gravel and natural surfaces. Be sure to dress for the weather and for mud because tours are held entirely outdoors. Masks are required whenever safe distancing cannot be maintained. Group sizes may be limited.
We also have some self-guided activities taking place throughout each day that you and your family can enjoy anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
On-going self-guided activities include:
- Scavenger hunt – Pick your list up at the Nature Center, and then see if you can find everything on the list within the park!
- Storywalk – Start at the Nature Center and read a maple syrup story while walking a trail.
- Self-guided hike – Start at the Nature Center and follow the information signs along the trail, half mile on gravel and natural surfaces.
- Check out the Sugar Shack – Watch steam from the evaporator and read information signs to learn about the evaporator.
- Check out the wigwam – Kids enjoy exploring this style of Native American home.