Reserve a Fire Circle

Preserve Hours

OPEN 4 AM – 10 PM daily
Parking lots are open from 4 AM – 10 PM.
Vehicles parked beyond this time may be ticketed.

Early 20th century family picnicking in what is now the Preserve.
Visitors cook over an open fire ca. 1977 (UW-Madison Archives, S05337)
A family enjoys an evening fire on Picnic Point in 2005 (Jeff Miller/UW-Madison).

Click on images for larger version.

An outing to Picnic Point has long been a tradition for many Madisonians. There are six reservable fire circles on Picnic Point for visitors to enjoy a warm fire or cook a picnic meal.

Before you reserve a fire circle, please review Visitor Etiquette.

  • Fires are only allowed in designated fire circles.
  • Wood is provided for free at racks found between fire circles. Please be conservative with wood use.
  • Do not bring wood into the Preserve; it may harbor destructive insects or diseases.
  • Do not collect wood from the Preserve to burn; woody debris is essential for healthy woodlands.
  • Each fire circle is equipped with a cooking grate.
  • Charcoal and charcoal grills are not allowed.
  • Catered events are not allowed.
  • Vehicles may not be used to transport people or supplies to fire circles. The main Picnic Point path is wheelchair accessible.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. To extinguish your fire: 1) stop adding fuel; 2) let the fire burn down; 3) douse remaining fire with water; bring a container to collect lake water for this purpose; 4) Stir the ash and embers; 5) Remember–if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
  • Fire circles are intended for University and personal use. Businesses or non-University of Wisconsin organizations wishing to hold a public event will require further authorization. Contact the Preserve Interim Director for more information: or 608-265-9275.

To make a fire circle reservation: visit the Campus Event Services/Wisconsin Union website.

Campus Event Services will respond to your submission within 3 business days. You will receive an e-mail confirmation of the date, time, and site number. Since reservations are not required, the site may be in use when you arrive. You may politely ask that party to leave and show them the print out of your confirmed reservation.

Campus Event Services/Wisconsin Union
Hours: 8am-5pm, Mon-Fri
Address: Union South, Room 233, 1308 W. Dayton St.
Phone: 608-262-2511

How do I choose a fire circle?

Fire circles are numbered 1 – 6 from the base of Picnic Point to the tip. The distance from the entrance to Picnic Point to fire circle #6 is approximately 0.75 miles (1.2 km); it’s about a 15 minute walk.

Fire circle #1

Max. capacity 15.
Click on thumbnail for larger image.

Fire circle #2

Max. capacity 30.
Adjacent to small lawn area.
Click thumbnail for larger image.

Fire circle #3

Max. capacity 16.
Adjacent to sand beach.
Click thumbnail for larger image.

Fire circle #4

Max. capacity 15.
Combine with #5 for max. capacity 30.
Click thumbnail for larger image.

Fire circle #5

Max. capacity 15.
Combine with #4 for max. capacity 30.
Click thumbnail for larger image.

Fire circle #6

Max. capacity 80.
Click thumbnail for larger image.


Swimming is only allowed at the Memorial Union Pier.

Ice Safety Information

Is it safe to go out on the frozen lake? Visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website for ice safety tips.