A Little Time and a Keyboard: Soaking in the Woodlands and Prairie Along Lake Mendota at Lakeshore Nature Preserve

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Soaking in the Woodlands and Prairie Along Lake Mendota at Lakeshore Nature Preserve

 Soaking in the Woodlands and Prairie Along Lake Mendota at Lakeshore Nature Preserve


Located on the south shore of Wisconsin's Lake Mendota, Lakeshore Nature Preserve easily charms nature lovers with lake views, woodlands and prairie. As part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the 300-acre preserve serves as an outdoor classroom for university students and the local community. We quickly found the preserve to be rich in wildlife and experiences during our wander.

Watching boats sail by at Picnic Point in Madison, Wisconsin.
Watching boats sail by at Picnic Point.

Last year, we explored the preserve's notable Picnic Point during a brief stop. Walking along the peninsula to Picnic Point treated our family to the most fantastic views of Lake Mendota. We knew during that journey that we would have to return. At that point, we did not realize how extensive this treasure of a preserve is!

A paved trail arches through the dense woodlands at Lakeshore Nature Preserve in Madison, Wisconsin.
A paved trail arches through the dense woodlands.

Wandering the Trails of Lakeshore Nature Preserve

Upon our recent trip to Madison, we did a little more research on Lakeshore Nature Preserve and immediately knew the web trails would be perfect for our morning in nature. We initially embarked on a paved path through the woodlands. Soon, we found ourselves tracing Lake Mendota on a dirt path.

Lake Mendota gently lapping onto the shore at Lakeshore Nature Preserve in Madison, Wisconsin.
Lake Mendota gently lapping onto the shore.

We enjoyed seeing Lake Mendota gently lap on the shore framed by trees as we hiked. The preserve's beloved Lakeshore Path traces Lake Mendota for 4.3 miles. While following the lakeshore, we enjoyed spying plenty of ducks basking a pleasant summer day.

The dense forest with verdant hues and a soft floor full of last year's remnants.
The dense forest with verdant hues and a soft floor full of last year's remnants.

Soon, we wound more into the woodlands on paths with gentle rolls. While we were enrobed in the forest, rain began to fall. We are currently in a drought, so feeling and hearing the droplets ignited such a joy for us!

Coneflowers light up the prairie at Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
Coneflowers light up the prairie at Lakeshore Nature Preserve.

After ambling through the woodlands, we entered the prairie completely ablaze with flowers. Summer is such a spectacular time on the prairie with flowers of all colors blooming and butterflies and bees flitting around! This preserve has such a great blend of ecosystems that there is plenty to revel in all year round!

A Little Lakeshore Nature Preserve History

Lakeshore Nature Preserve is not only a rich nature haven but also an incredible archaeological site. The preserve was the site of Native American settlement for thousands of years. Several ancient habitation sites have been discovered at Frautschi Point. Additionally, Native American burial mounds may be found at Picnic Point and Eagle Heights Woods. You can definitely feel the whispers of the ancient history of the site as you meander.

In addition to the preserve's Native American history, Lakeshore Nature Preserve maintains reminders of European settlement and the area's heritage as a recreational spot. The preserve's history includes a blend of early settlers as well as those that built homes for a serene escape. Walking a long Lakeshore Path, amblers are actually tracing an old "Pleasure Drive" carriage route used to escape the stuffiness of the city and enjoy the tranquility of nature. Interesting historic elements like this exist throughout the preserve adding another layer of appreciation.


A spectacular view of Lake Mendota from the prairie at Lakeshore Nature Preserve in Madison, Wisconsin.
A spectacular view of Lake Mendota from the prairie.

Today, Lakeshore Nature Preserve is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The stunning preserve not only provides a beautiful place to wander during a visit to the university and Madison but also a fascinating spot for learning and research for students at the community alike.

With such an extensive natural space to investigate, Lakeshore Nature Preserve will delight us on future nature explorations throughout the seasons. Of course, we always look forward to the dreamy views of Lake Mendota from the preserve! But, the entire preserve fosters incredible nature moments to be had. So, definitely add Lakeshore Nature Preserve to your Madison itinerary!

Interesting Adventures at Lakeshore Nature Preserve:

  • Rent a fire circle.
  • Check out the hand water pump and pump your own water!
  • Take in the view at Observatory Hill.
  • Look for the Brittingham Rune Stone on Muir Knoll. The stone commemorates Thomas Brittingham, Jr., a remarkable benefactor of the UW-Madison.
  • You may run across the art and anthropology kiln that is used to fire ceramics with ancient methods. The pieces are placed in nearby pits to study weathering. An interesting site but please do not disturb!
  • Watch boats go by on Lake Mendota.
  • Lakeshore Nature Preserve is so rich in discovery, there is so much more to uncover!


Soaking in the Woodlands and Prairie Along Lake Mendota at Lakeshore Nature Preserve





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