Plan a Picnic Point Outing


May in Madison is lovely, and nothing pairs with the season better than dining at the aptly named Picnic Point along Lake Mendota. Located on the south shore, it’s one of the most popular Preserve destinations. A favorite sanctuary for city dwellers and university students, it offers amazing views, easy access to bays and marshes, and plenty of wildlife sightings. Archaeologists estimate that for 12,000 years it’s been a gorgeous go-to point, and recent researchers have found evidence of ancient inhabitants along the shore.

During the early 19th century, a series of farms were established here by European settlers. You’ll still find outbuildings, a barn and a farmhouse close to what’s now known as Bill’s Woods. At the turn of the century, Picnic Point’s fields were rented to farmers, and the farmhouse was home to a number of families including the first superintendent of University Farms, Professor William Daniells.

A Picnic History

A local entrepreneur, Edward Young, bought the property in 1924 and began a massive renovation project. He installed stables and built onto the property, turning it into a massive 15-room mansion by 1927. Young also planted apple orchards, created walking paths, and constructed the impressive stone entrance.

Although much of Young’s work was lost in a fire, you can still find evidence of his handicraft throughout the area (including the walking paths). There’s a rich Native American history on the grounds and a thriving ecological history to unearth. From birding to spotting one of the numerous beavers in the area, Picnic Point offers a fantastic getaway from the city.