Rules & Safety

The main priorities of Schmeeckle Reserve are to protect natural communities and serve as an outdoor laboratory for learning. Due to these priorities, the Reserve has rules that may be different than other outdoor recreation areas—for example, pets and swimming are not allowed.

The following rules have been established to:

  • Protect native habitats and wildlife
  • Avoid disturbing education/research projects
  • Ensure the safety of all visitors

If you see any inappropriate behavior while visiting Schmeeckle, please contact UWSP Police and Security Services at 715-346-3456.

General Reserve Rules

The Reserve is closed from sunset to sunrise. This ensures the safety of visitors and provides a resting period without human disturbance for wildlife. After-hours use is permitted during special events sponsored by Schmeeckle or with written permission from the Director. Click here to request permission. UWS 18.07 (2)
No Pets
No pets in Schmeeckle (unless designated as a service animal). Pets disrupt wildlife behavior and movements in the Reserve, which can negatively impact research studies. This includes emotional support animals, which are considered pets and not service dogs under the law. Pets may be walked on sidewalks around Schmeeckle and on the Green Circle Pet Route that follows North Point Drive. UWS 18.08 (1)
No Smoking/Tobacco Use
No smoking/vaping/tobacco use. As a tobacco-free campus, smoking, vaping, e-cigarettes, and tobacco products are prohibited on all university grounds, including Schmeeckle Reserve. This includes the parking lots. More information is available at:
No Alcohol
No alcohol. Beer, wine, hard liquor, wine coolers, and any other type of alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the Reserve at any time per university regulations. UWS 18.09 (1)
No Motor Vehicles
No motorized vehicles (except for power-driven wheelchairs). Motorized vehicles disturb wildlife and trail users. Limited vehicular access for research projects may be allowed with written permission from the Director. Click here to request permission. UWS 18.08 (10)
No Weapons
No firearms/weapons. Firearms and other dangerous weapons, including those that resemble real weapons, are prohibited on university property; all state laws apply. UWS 18.10 (3)
No Fire
No fires. Campfires, grills, fireworks, and other fire sources are a threat to safety and habitat. No fire is allowed in the Reserve at any time, except in the Menzel Pavilion fireplace or as part of a Schmeeckle-sponsored event. Prescribed burns are conducted by licensed individuals and organizations to maintain habitat. UWS 18.10 (4)
No Drones/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
No drones/unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The use of unmanned aircraft systems is restricted over university property, including Schmeeckle. Exceptions for teaching or research projects must be approved by the Risk Management Office. More information is available here:
No Hunting
No hunting or trapping. Schmeeckle Reserve is a wildlife refuge. Several public hunting areas are located within Portage County. Live trapping maybe allowed for research projects with written permission from the Director. Click here to request permission. UWS 18.10 (3)
No Collecting
No collecting. The Reserve is an outdoor classroom. Do not pick or collect any natural materials, including plants, flowers, insects, or mushrooms. Leave these resources for all visitors. If collecting is necessary for a research project, please include details in the Teaching and Research Use Form. UWS 18.06 (1)
Carry Out Litter
Carry in and carry out all garbage. There are no trash receptacles located on the trails. This provides a natural setting and eliminates a potentially unnatural food source for wildlife. If you find litter on the trails, bring it to the visitor center or report it to a staff person. UWS 18.06 (3)
Bike Slowly
Bicycle slowly. Most of the Reserve's trails are made for quiet walking and observation. Bicyclists are allowed on the trails, but must yield to all other trail users and ride slowly. The Green Circle Trail is a route constructed for both bikes and hikers, surfaced with crushed granite.

Lake Joanis Rules

No Swimming
No swimming. Lake Joanis has a dangerous, steeply sloped bottom. Swimming disturbs waterfowl and wading birds that feed and rest on the lake. Excellent swimming can be found at nearby parks, such as Bukolt Park, Iverson Park, Mead Park, Jordan County Park, and Lake Emily County Park. UWS 18.08 (10)
No Motor Boats
No motor boats (including electric motors). Motorized boats disturb wildlife and trail users. Limited boat access for research projects may be allowed with written permission from the Director. Click here to request permission. UWS 18.08 (10)
Fishing allowed. Anglers may fish from shore, from the fishing pier at the south side of the lake, or in a hard-sided non-motorized boat (canoes, kayaks, rowboats). A valid fishing license is required and anglers must follow all Wisconsin DNR regulations. Anglers may not fish while standing in the lake.
Canoes and kayaks allowed. Hard-sided, non-motorized boats that are enclosed from the water, such as canoes, kayaks, and rowboats, are allowed. They can be launched from the south shore of the lake, accessible from the east end of Maria Drive.
No Tubing
No tubes, rafts, or paddle boards. Vessels or floats that provide partial immersion in water are not allowed, including inner tubes, inflatable rafts, fishing pontoons, and paddle boards. UWS 18.08 (10)

For more information, view the University of Wisconsin System Administrative Code: Chapter UWS 18 that covers Conduct on University Lands. These rules are enforced by the university and fines can be issued for violations.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Schmeeckle Reserve Visitor Center at 715-346-4992 or

Safety Guidelines

The safety of trail users is of the utmost importance for Schmeeckle Reserve. While staff strive to eliminate hazards along the trails as quickly as possible, potential safety concerns always exist.

Some common sense guidelines will ensure that you have a safe visit to Schmeeckle:

  • The trails are maintained in a natural state; use caution and watch for roots, rocks, and low-hanging branches.
  • Do not enter the Reserve when it is dark; the trails are not maintained for afterhours use.
  • Walkers: Be courteous to other trail users. When in a group, avoid blocking the trail.
  • Runners: Yield to walkers. Slow down and allow oncoming walkers to pass on one side of the trail. When approaching from behind, alert walkers of your presence and pass carefully single file.
  • Bikers: Yield to all other trail users. Alert users of your presence well in advance. Walk bikes over narrow boardwalks. Bike slowly.
  • If using the trails alone, be sure to tell someone where you will be going.
  • Avoid wearing headphones so that you can be alert.
  • Call UWSP Police and Security Services at 715-346-3456 if you see any suspicious behavior or dial 911 in case of emergencies.
  • Lighted campus emergency phones are located at the visitor center parking lot, at the south end of Lake Joanis, and along the Granite Parkway south of the shelter building. Push the button to contact UWSP Police and Security Services.