Schmeeckle Reserve provides numerous outdoor recreation opportunities for the UW-Stevens Point campus and central Wisconsin community. Since Schmeeckle is a nature reserve, certain activities that conflict with its preservaton and education mission are not allowed. See the Rules & Safety page for more information.
Walking and Jogging
Schmeeckle has over 5 miles of trails and boardwalks that are designed for casual walking and jogging. Most trails are surfaced with bark mulch, providing a soft and quiet surface. The trails lead through a diversity of habitats ranging from prairies to oak savannas, from cattail marshes to sedge meadows, from lake shoreline to meandering creek banks, and from mature pine forests to aspen stands.
Please note that the natural character of the trails may present hazards such as roots, rocks, and low-hanging branches. Joggers should especially be cautious. Please report any trail maintenance issues to the Schmeeckle Reserve Visitor Center.
Casual bicycle riding is allowed on all trails in the Reserve. However, most trails are designed speficially for walking; narrow widths and bark mulch surfaces make biking a challenge. We recommend that bicyclists ride the Green Circle Trail in the northern part of the Reserve, which is 8-feet wide and surfaced with crushed granite. The trail meanders through mature pine forests, meadows, cattail marshes, prairie, oak woodlands, and along the Moses Creek wetland. The Granite Parkway that connects the UW campus in the south to North Point Drive is also surfaced with crushed granite for easy biking.
Please note that bicycle riders must yield to all other trail users. Bicycles must be ridden slowly at all times. Off-trail bicycle use is not permitted.
Schmeeckle Reserve is part of Wisconsin's Tension Zone, a thin band where northern and southern natural communities overlap. This results in an area of great diversity, representing plant and animal species typical of both northern and southern habitats. The variety of upland and wetland habitats within Schmeeckle offers ample opportunities to view wildlife.
White-tailed deer, gray and red squirrels, red foxes, and Pileated Woodpeckers are common residents of the woodlands. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded in Schmeeckle Reserve: see the birding checklist here. In the evening, flying squirrels glide through the air; Schmeeckle is one of the few sites where both northern and southern species live side-by-side.
While wildlife watching is popular anywhere in the Reserve, here are a few suggestions:
- Berard Oaks Savanna: This large grassland dotted by massive oaks and surrounded by woodlands provides ideal habitat for deer, red and gray fox, songbirds (like Scarlet Tanagers), and a great diversity of butterflies.
- Moses Creek Wetland Restoration: The 17-acre wetland is the largest in the Reserve and supports waterfowl and wading birds such as Green Herons, Virginia Rails, Woodcock, mallards, and Canada Geese.
- Lake Joanis: The 24-acre lake is an important stopover for migratory waterfowl and serves as a nesting site for mallards and Canada Geese. Common Loons and river otters are occasional visitors.
- Frog Chorus Trail: In spring, this is an ideal place to listen to the deafening chorus of wood frogs, chorus frogs, spring peepers, American toads, gray treefrogs, and green frogs.
- Trail of Reflections pond: This small pond is an excellent place to see muskrats, painted turtles, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates.
With its diversity of habitats and wildlife species, Schmeeckle Reserve is a natural choice for outdoor photography. Scenery, wildlife, flowers, insects, mushrooms, fall colors, winter snow, water reflections... all are popular topics for snapping and sharing pictures. Take any trail and you're bound to see something worth capturing. Here are a few suggestions to get started:
- Prairies: The prairies near the visitor center and along Lake Joanis burst in a rainbow of flowers in early summer. This attracts colorful butterflies and bees that feast on the nectar. In late summer and fall, the tall prairie grasses turn golden.
- Lake Joanis: In spring and fall, the warm water mixing with the cold air produces a scenic fog over the lake in the morning. Fall colors reflected in the water are always impressive.
- Berard Oaks: The most vivid fall colors in the Reserve are in the oak savanna, where maple and oak trees receive full sunlight during the day.
See the Gallery page for photos that have been taken in Schmeeckle Reserve.
Picnicking and Group Gatherings
Several outdoor areas in Schmeeckle Reserve are ideal for picnics and group gatherings. These areas are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. For an indoor meeting place that can be reserved, check out the visitor center meeting room.
- Shelter Building: Located on the Granite Parkway in the southwest corner of the Reserve, the open-sided shelter building features three picnic tables, restrooms, and a drinking fountain. It is an ideal place to get out of the sun or rain.
- Visitor Center decks: A shaded two-tier deck is available on the backside of the Schmeeckle Reserve Visitor Center. It has bench seating and several moveable tables.
- Visitor Center campfire ring: Located just south of the visitor center, a shaded campfire ring surrounded by about twenty rustic benches serves as a gathering place for larger groups.
- Ross Amphitheater: A rustic stone amphitheater in the southwest portion of the Reserve is a quiet gathering place for groups to meet.
Note that fires (including grills) and alcohol are not allowed in Schmeeckle Reserve at any time. Schmeeckle has a carry-in, carry-out policy; no trash cans are located in the natural area. Please help to keep the natural area clean.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Lake Joanis is a pristine setting for paddling sports. A short canoe or kayak paddle around the lake is a relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon. Explore the island, watch for waterfowl, or try your hand at some fishing.
To access Lake Joanis with a canoe or kayak, park on the north side of Maria Drive. A wooden gate marks the trail to access the lake. Carry your canoe or kayak a short 300 feet to the south shore of Lake Joanis, where a sandy area provides plenty of room for launching.
Please note that swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, tubing, and motorized boats are not allowed in the lake at any time.
Fishing is allowed in Lake Joanis per Wisconsin DNR Fishing Regulations. The lake is not regularly stocked, but early introductions have produced healthy populations of some game fish species. Common fish include Northern Pike, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Green Sunfish, Rock Bass, Black Crappie, and Largemouth Bass. Less common fish include Muskellunge, Yellow Perch, Walleye, White Crappie, and Smallmouth Bass. Click here to see a fish checklist.
Fishing can be done from shore or in a canoe or kayak. Please note that wading, swimming, tubing, and motorized boats are not allowed in the lake at any time. The Reserve opens at sunrise and closes at sunset.
Schmeeckle Reserve is open year-round, and winter is one of the best times to experience the solitude and wildlife of the natural area. None of the trails are groomed for winter recreation, but users are quick to tread the paths after a fresh snowfall.
- Snowshoeing/winter hiking: All trails are open for snowshoeing and winter hiking. After a fresh snowfall, it only takes a few days for many trails to be flattened down by snowshoes, providing an opportunity for winter hiking without special equipment.
- Cross-country skiing: All trails are open to cross-country skiing. However, since the trails aren't groomed and are open to snowshoeing, they often aren't ideal for skiers. For nearby groomed ski trails, we recommend the Plover River Ski Trail (6 miles) and Standing Rocks County Park (10 miles).
- Snow biking: Fat tire biking is allowed on all trails of Schmeeckle. Bikers must yield to all other trail users.
- Ice fishing: Ice fishing is allowed on Lake Joanis. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the lake, so all equipment must be carried in. Ice shanties cannot be left up overnight. Schmeeckle Reserve does not monitor ice conditions: use caution and common-sense when determining the safety of the ice.
- Ice skating: Ice skating is allowed on Lake Joanis. However, Schmeeckle doesn't clear snow off of the ice, so conditions usually aren't ideal. Please use caution when determining the safety of the ice.
- Warming up! The Schmeeckle Reserve Visitor Center, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, is an ideal place to warm up during your winter adventures. Restrooms, drinking water, an information desk, and a gift shop are available.
Pets are not allowed in Schmeeckle Reserve. The Reserve was set aside as a wildlife refuge for protecting the natural communities of central Wisconsin and serving as an outdoor laboratory for learning. Several studies have shown that pets can disrupt the natural movements of wildlife species. In order to maintain wildlife populations in a natural state for research, pets are not allowed in the Reserve at any time, with the exception of service dogs.
Leashed pets are allowed on sidewalks that surround Schmeeckle Reserve, a Green Circle Pet Route along North Point Drive, and in all City of Stevens Point parks and Portage County parks. The Stevens Point Dog Park is an ideal nearby site for unleashed dog exercise.