Having fun navigating a corn maze.

A maze leads us in all sorts of unexpected directions. Twisting and turning, sending us around corners and in circles, it requires us to think logically to find our way out.

When put that way, a maze might not seem like much fun. But anyone who has ever made it through a corn maze in the autumn, knows it’s all fun and games.

What precisely is a corn maze? Exactly as it sounds — twists, turns, corners and dead ends made up of corn plants tall enough to get lost in. As the autumn leaves begin to turn lovely reds, yellows and oranges, visitors flock to farms and pumpkin patches to get a little turned around.

Planting and Design

Growing corn that will be cut into a maze is a little different from growing corn for food production. Maze corn is usually planted two to three weeks later than corn grown for other uses. This helps ensure the stalks stay strong later into the growing season, which is important because many of the farms that feature corn mazes aim to stay open and attract as many visitors as possible until late in the harvest season and usually until Halloween. Also, corn planted later generally keeps its green foliage longer. The greener leaves have more moisture content, which helps decrease fire potential.

Aerial view of a corn maze.

Well before planting begins, the maze design is carefully plotted. Its artistry is perhaps best appreciated from the air, but on the ground is where the real fun happens. Every farm has its own way of putting the maze together. For example, some farms in the United States use GPS technology to cut the maze. In general though, most work on a grid. Once the stalks are tall enough to begin cutting the maze (8’ to 10’), a grid of strings is stretched across the cornfield. The design is not cut using a plough because that would cause furrows in the pathways; as the stalks grow, the path would become too bumpy and dangerous to walk on. Instead, specific cornstalks are pulled by hand or by using a hoe to create a 3’ wide path.

Corn maze entrance.

There are fantastic corn mazes across the continent. The one at Cool Patch Pumpkins in Dixon, California, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest corn maze at 60 acres.

Some corn mazes are more challenging than others. Some offer benches to rest on if you’re tired, some farms will offer directions you can listen to on cassette tape, while others give cell phone directives. One thing they all share is that when it comes to having autumn fun, corn mazes are nothing short of amazing!

Jenn Hardy

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