Did you know the Indiana Dunes National Park makes maple syrup? It’s true! Each spring, historic Chellberg Farm hosts Maple Sugar Time to celebrate.  The annual event is an opportunity for visitors of all ages to learn about the region’s history of making maple syrup, beginning with the indigenous Miami and Potawatomi Tribes and winding through modern times.  


A hand holds a "Maple Sugar Time Festival" program in front of a historic building


Self-guided tours take you back in time to see how sap from the native Sugar Maple trees is collected and turned into maple syrup. National Park Rangers and volunteers are stationed at various sites along the maple sugar trail, depicting maple sugar making methods at various points in history. Demonstrations along the trail include techniques used by Native Americans at the pre-metal site, the early settlers at the 1800s kettle site, and even the Chellberg family at a cozy 1930s Sugar Shack.


A girl with a winter headband on holds samples of maple syrup


In the spring, when temperatures are warmer during the day, followed by freezing nights, sugar stored for winter in the Sugar Maple’s roots mixes with water, which then flows up the trunk. A Sugar Maple tree must be at least 12 inches in diameter to be tapped for sap collection. On average, it takes about 40 gallons of tree sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup. While the boiling process hasn’t changed much over the years, the advancement in technology and equipment has certainly made it easier to create this tasty treat. 


a park ranger stands behind a cauldron of boiling maple sugar


During the Maple Sugar Time Festival, the Chellberg farmhouse is open for tours and depicts life around the turn of the 20th century. Inside, you can stop by the kitchen to learn about traditional recipes made using maple syrup, such as Crackle Top Cookies and maple-basted meats. Plus, if you’d like to cook something up at home, there are plenty of Indiana-made maple syrups and products available for purchase. 


An old fashioned black stove sits behind a table with a blue tablecloth


Just outside the farmhouse, a variety of hands-on activities are offered at the Maple Fun Zone, including music-making and learning how to tap a tree. Be sure to head over to the gray barn to say hello to the farm animals.  Throughout the year, Chellberg Farm is home to several kinds of animals, such as chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, and goats. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a spring baby!


Two people walk down a trail towards a sugar shack building


After you’ve enjoyed the Maple Sugar Time Festival, you can take a hike on the property’s trails to visit the nearby Bailly Homestead and cemetery. The Baillys were French-Canadian fur traders and some of the first European settlers to the area in the early 1820s. The trailhead begins near the Bailly/Chellberg Comfort Station, where you’ll find a map, restrooms, and drinking water. Nothing like a spring hike with a hint of boiling maple sugar in the air. 


A goat stands near a barn, basking in the sun


Know Before You Go: Spring weather at the Indiana Dunes National Park can be unpredictable, so it is best to dress in layers. Waterproof shoes/boots are also a good idea, as melting snow and rain can cause the grounds to be muddy. There are public restrooms, drinking water and plenty of parking spots available at Chellberg Farm. While the event is free to attend, regular National Park fees apply.  



A Look at Maple Sugar Time