Volunteer Mike Duss tends the pot during the 2013 Maple Syrup Festival at the Indian Creek Nature Center. This year’s event will be primarily at the new Nature Center site. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Unusually high temperatures in February started the sap flowing early in maple trees in Iowa, and the amount of sap has been high, as well.

That’s a good thing for the Indian Creek Nature Center, which is gearing up for its 34th annual Maple Syrup Festival, this year at its new location at 5900 Otis Rd. SE.

Related: Last Maple Syrup Fest at historic barn

Part of the festival also will be held at its former headquarters, just down Otis Road, so a shuttle will take attendees back and forth between the two locations.

The event, set for 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 18 and 19, 2017,  features syrup-making demonstrations, a look inside the Maple Sugar House and live music, along with its traditional pancake and sausage breakfast and real maple syrup handcrafted at the Nature Center.

See the Indian Creek Nature Center’s new Amazing Space

Maple syrup is the main attraction at the Indian Creek Nature Center’s Maple Syrup Festival. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Read more about syrup making and the festival, from the Indian Creek Nature Center:

As of February 28, Indian Creek Nature Center has already made 31 gallons of maple syrup—significantly more than they made the entire season last year, and higher than the total made in an average season that typically extends through March. The sap started flowing earlier than usual due to the unusually warm mid-February weather.

“We usually start tapping trees around Valentine’s Day and don’t get a good sap run until March, so the fact that we collected an extremely high volume of sap the week of February 12-18 is unusual,” said Jean Wiedenheft, Land Stewardship Director at ICNC. “We hope the weather remains favorable and the sap will continue to flow.” The Nature Center made 24 gallons of syrup with sap collected the week of February 12-18 alone. It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup.

The Nature Center annually installs approximately 150 taps into 75 sugar maple trees at the organization’s campus on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids, near where Indian Creek flows into the Cedar River. Over the weekend, rising river levels that have made many of the taps inaccessible. Even if the sap keeps flowing, lack of access to the taps will impact continued sap collection. (Spiles and bags contaminated with floodwater are disposed of and not reused.)

The public has the opportunity to taste the real maple syrup at ICNC’s 34th annual Maple Syrup Festival, taking place Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day. The festival features educational stations, live music, raptor show featuring live birds of prey, as well as the pancake and sausage breakfast served with the maple syrup. The breakfast takes place at the new Amazing Space location, with activities both there and at the ICNC Barn. A shuttle will run between the two locations. More details and advance tickets are available now at indiancreeknaturecenter.org.

In addition to the festival, families can experience the history and process of maple syruping at public programs offered at the Nature Center throughout the month of March. During the programs participants tour the Maple Sugar House, try their hands at tapping a tree, and finish with a taste of real maple syrup on ice cream. A full list of “It’s Maple Syrupin’ Time!” dates and times is available at indiancreeknaturecenter.org/calendar. Fee is $4 per participant.