Preserve Audio Tour and Class of 1918 Marsh Audio Field Trip
Explore the Preserve with the help of your cell phone or portable media player. Tune in to our audio trail to hear stories about the cultural and natural history of the Preserve.
Water Walk Video Series: A Virtual Tour of Wisconsin's Yahara Watershed
Take a virtual tour of the Yahara Watershed with the Water Walk video series produced by the the UW-Madison Water Sustainability and Climate project for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Better yet, view the video series on your mobile device while walking the shore of Lake Mendota on the Lakeshore Path.
Plan a visit to the Lakeshore Nature Preserve !
you have just an hour or a whole day, exploring the Lakeshore
Nature Preserve lets you re-connect with yourself—and with
One of the most important purposes of this website is to help
you broaden and deepen your knowledge of the Preserve, so take
some time to wander around this website and you'll discover plenty
of new places in which to wander in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve!
Have a favorite place in the Preserve
that we haven't listed? We'd
like to hear about it !
New visiting ideas
1 hour visits
2-4 hour visits
Get help with visits
Making a 1 hour visit ? Try one of these five ideas
- Take the classic Picnic Point walk. Park your car or bike at the
base of Picnic Point and walk the Lakeshore Path to the tip. Stop at benches along
the way to take in the view. Make sure to do the "portage walk" across The
Narrows from shore to shore—though the portage will take
you only about 15 seconds! Stop for a peaceful gaze on either side of the portage. A drink at the
bubbler tops off the classic Picnic Point walk.
- Discover Raymer's Cove. Drive to the Raymer's
Cove parking lot off of Lake Mendota Drive near Eagle Heights.
Take the stairs down to the water's edge, where the sandstone cliffs
meet the lake and the waves lap a pebbled beach. It's especially
beautiful at sunset. Stroll up and down the Lakeshore
Path on either side of Raymer's Cove for peaceful views and great
- Just driving and viewing? From Memorial Union,
take Observatory Drive and pause at the Observatory
Hill pull-out. Follow Observatory Drive to Walnut St. Turn right
and follow Walnut Street along University
Bay. Turn right at University Bay Drive and drive through the Class
of 1918 Marsh and past the stone
entrance wall to Picnic Point. Turn right at Lake Mendota Drive
and tour through the woods and natural areas of Eagle Heights. Take
Eagle Heights Drive back to University Bay Drive.
Staying for a 2-4 hour visit? Here are more
- Make it a Preserve picnic. To reserve a picnic site with a fire pit, call 262-2511.
Buy a picnic lunch from
the Memorial Union deli, cafeteria,
or Rathskellar. Then hop on the FREE Campus
80 Bus from the west side of Memorial Union. Ride it all the way
to Picnic Point or to the last stops in Eagle Heights Apartments. Once
you're there, enjoy your picnic and then explore the trails, community
gardens, and restorations before taking the bus home. Campus 80 bus
stops occur all along the route on Lake Mendota Drive.
Got kids? Picnic Point is the place to go!
little children who love to romp on grass? The big lawn
inside the entrance to Picnic
Point is a great place to experience dandelions and nature with
a snack on a blanket while you watch all ages running and walking on the trail below.
- Like poking along the water's edge? It's easy to
find lake-level shorelines on Picnic Point.
You can get right to the edge of shallow water where you can play with sticks
and see wildlife from secondary trails off the main trail.
If you want sand to play in and rocks and washed-up
logs to investigate, walk a ways toward the tip and then take the first
major path to the left (north) to find the old
beach house and the sandy beach that
extends along the north shore. If you want more sand, sun, and rustic
toilets, continue east along the shore to visit the the Narrows—where
Picnic Point becomes so thin that you can see both the
University Bay and
Lake Mendota at the same time. Please note: No swimming is permitted in the waters along the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
Swimming is allowed at the Memorial Union swim pier.
to try an old-fashioned pump and picnic? If you want to
drink water from an old-fashioned hand-powered
drinking fountain (we call them "bubblers" here in
Wisconsin), continue just past the Picnic Point beach to the old
pump on your left at the top of the hill. Kids love to work the pump
to have a cool drink! If you'd like, reserve
a fire circle ahead of time or take your chances at finding an
unoccupied site and enjoy a picnic. That is, after all, how this
place got its name!
- Does your child have a special interest in nature? Check
out the field trips offered by the Friends
of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Or check out the insect photo
album, and see what the kids can discover. See also the hints in the
next section for a wildlife visit and check out the "turtle tunnel."
Looking for something really
different? New visits
- Combine a visit to the Preserve with beautiful gardens and
an ice cream ! Buy a UW ice cream at the Memorial Union
and start your walk along the Lakeshore
Path. At the Porter Boathouse, take a left and walk south, away
from the lake, up Babcock Drive. Visit the Allen
Centennial Gardens. If you missed the ice cream at the Union,
you have another chance! (Or get a second dip?) From the Allen Gardens,
continue to the intersection with Linden Drive, take a right, and
buy an ice cream cone from the famed Babcock Hall Dairy. To take
the high road home to Memorial Union, head back north on Babcock
Drive and turn right (east) on Observatory Drive, taking in the view
at the crest of Observatory Hill by Washburn Observatory.
butterflies? Bring your camera and walk from Picnic
Point to the Biocore Prairie in July
when the prairie flowers are attracting butterflies. Check out our
butterfly photo album and try to identify new ones.
- Hike to the Preserve's highest point for a great view. Tackle
the uphill Eagle Heights Woods trail
from the intersection of Lake Mendota Drive and Eagle Heights Drive.
At the top of this glacial drumlin, you will reach the north end of
two magnificent linear Indian
mounds and a circular mound. This is the highest point on the south
side of Lake Mendota.
- Need to scuff autumn leaves on a crisp day? Walk
the wide trail from Biocore Prairie through Caretaker's
Woods in September and October when the maple leaves are at their
best for scuffing with tennis shoes.
for wildlife? Turn toward campus at the
Picnic Point parking lot and walk or bike the Lakeshore
Path to Willow Creek. In spring and
fall, enjoy the flocks of migrating water fowl. Watch for painted turtles
migrating back and forth across the path between University Bay and
the Class of 1918 Marsh.
Look closely, and you should be able to find the special tunnel that's been
constructed under the road to help turtles make this trip successfully!
In summer, watch
the redwing blackbirds singing and defending their nests in the cattails
of University Bay, muskrats swimming
along the shore, and baby toads on the path. Even in winter, you'll
see birds in this area if you look for them carefully.
- Do you live at Eagle Heights? Walk over to Frautschi
Point and explore the Big Oak Trail and
the butterflies in the new savanna restorations. If you're lucky,
you'll be able to visit with Volunteer Steward Glenda
Denniston while she's hard at work caring for nature and photographing
or identifying the birds, butterflies, and other animals of the Big
Oak Trail. Learn more about volunteer opportunities here.
- Interested in prairie and savanna ecological restorations? Visit
the upper Bill's Woods, Big
Oak Trail, and Biocore Prairie restorations.
Since the 1990s, volunteers and students have been restoring woods,
prairies, and a former cultivated field to enhance native plant establishment.
Before heading out, you can read
about these restoration projects on this website to understand
the stewardship projects that are going on in the Preserve.
- Need to get out of the house in the winter? A drive
to Picnic Point along Lake Mendota Drive or University Bay Drive after
a new snowfall has some dramatic scenery! Bring your skis or snow shoes
or hiking boots: touring the trails of the Preserve through the evergreens
and thickets of Picnic Point and Frautschi
Point is magical after a snowstorm. The dark tree trunks hold patches
of new snow as you catch glimpses of the frozen lake through the branches.
You'll get a better view of Lake Mendota from
the crest of the bluff in Eagle Heights
Woods at this time of year than at any other. The trails of the
Preserve go quiet and still right after fresh snow fall. But be careful—the
snow gets slippery, especially when it's been compressed into ice by
New visiting ideas
1 hour visits
2-4 hour visits
Get help with visits
Visiting with limited mobility?
the Interactive Map. Select the WAYFINDING
button and click on the "Paths" layer text. ROLL your mouse
over the BLUE oval to highlight the wheelchair-accessible trails in
the Preserve (shown as dark line in the map at right,
click to enlarge.)
- Check out our parking page for close-in
parking. Also browse the map for bench and fire circle locations for
stopping along the way.
Or...choose your own adventure
To find a place:
- Browse the Interactive Map. Click
the WAYFINDING button to see roads, parking lots, bus stops, and trails.
- Check out the 360-degree
panoramic photographs of 5 different places.
- On each of the "Most
Visited Places" web pages, a "Getting There" section
shows how to find your destination—and gives you fascinating
the Preserve's history and current restoration activity.
To find the nearest parking lot:
- See our Parking page.
To reserve a fire circle or conduct an organized event:
- Visit the Permits page.
- We're happy to help! Contact the Lakeshore
Nature Preserve staff by phone or email.
Helpful tips for a great visit
Visitors are encouraged to explore the many trails of the Preserve
between the eastern boundary near the Union Terrace and the western
boundary in Eagle Heights Woods. Please remain on marked paths
to prevent erosion and the spread of invasive species. A good
map of trails is available here.
- BEACHES:Please note: Swimming is NOT permitted in the waters along the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
Swimming is permitted at the Memorial Union swim pier.
- RESTROOM FACILITIES: Rustic toilets are
located just west of the Narrows. Modern flush
toilets are located near Parking Lot 131 near the intersection of Lake Mendota Dr. and University Bay Dr. See locations
on the interactive map under WAYFINDING > Visitor
- PARKING: See our separate page on Parking.
- EMERGENCY CALLBOX: An emergency callbox is located at the Limnology
Building entrance to the Lakeshore Path, at Frautschi Point, and at
the entrance to Picnic Point.
- DRINKING WATER: A bubbler is located
near the Narrows on Picnic Point.
- SECURITY: For any security issues in the Preserve, phone 911.
Is it safe to go out on the frozen lake? The Dane County Sheriff Department
Lake Patrol, 284-6878, can give people the "official word." Visit
and Trail Enforcement page of the Dane County Sheriff and read the
Ice Ordinance at http://www.danesheriff.com/ice.htm .
Please note: The university does not provide lifeguards at Preserve beach areas and water quality is not monitored. Swim at your own risk.
Public Health Madison and Dane County can tell you if Spring Harbor or Memorial Union beaches are open and safe for swimming. Visit their website at http://www.publichealthmdc.com/environmental/water/beaches/.