MDC’s Rockwoods Reservation hosts Winter in the Woods Festival Saturday, Feb. 1

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WILDWOOD, Mo.— The dead of winter is anything but dead. Just because the temperatures drop, doesn’t mean it’s time to stay inside. Anyone willing to put on an extra layer and venture out can experience nature in a whole new way. Leaf-free trees offer breathtaking vistas hidden other times, trails and natural areas are decorated with snow and ice, local fishing spots have just as many fish and fewer anglers, bird feeders explode to life with cardinals, juncos and woodpeckers, and sap flows through sugar maple trees that can tapped into sweet treats.

To celebrate everything wintertime offers, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is holding the Winter in the Woods Festival again this year. This free family event takes place Saturday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Rockwoods Reservation in Wildwood.

Known for years as the annual Maple Sugar Festival, the popular event has expanded to embrace other aspects of the season.

“We really want to showcase the many fun family activities of winter and encourage everyone to discover nature in all seasons of the year,” said Amy Wilkinson, MDC Interpretive Center Manager.

In addition to maple sugaring, MDC and other local partnering organizations will help uncover many different outdoor activities winter offers at this free event. Missouri River Bird Observatory and MDC volunteers will make sure winter birds are well-represented, and participants will get a chance to take the “Great Migration Challenge”, an interactive game of survival. Other activities will include fly tying demos, courtesy of the Fly Fishers at the Crossing, winter camping ideas from REI, GPS challenges by the St. Louis Area Geocachers, and fire-building and fire-starting practice. Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever will also be joining the festival bringing kids crafts and interactive displays.

Everything that made the original Maple Sugar Festival popular is still there. Visitors will see firsthand how Native Americans and early settlers harvested sap—and boiled it down over an open fire to create sugar and syrup. Living history staff from the Historic Daniel Boone Home will show how maple sugaring was important to the Boone family. Guided hikes will teach visitors how to identify and tap sugar maple trees. Tasting sugar on snow, a toffee-like treat created when warm maple sap mixes with the cold snow, is popular with attendees of all ages. There will also be fun crafts for the kids.

MDC educational displays will show how wild animals cope with cold weather and will include an “Ask the Forester” and “Ask an Agent” station. There will also be a nature-based, free play area for kids, food trucks, and more. It’s a day the whole family will enjoy. This is a rain or shine event, so visitors should dress for the weather.

The entire event is free, and no reservations are required. The festival will offer off-site parking exclusively with free shuttle bus service to and from the event. Parking locations will be located at Pond Elementary, 17200 Manchester Road, and the St. Louis Community College Wildwood Campus, 2645 Generations Drive. Onsite parking will be reserved only for those with disabilities.

MDC’s Rockwoods Reservation is located off Highway 109 in Wildwood. For additional information on the festival, call 636-458-2236.