Picnic Point Lifesaving Station / Willows Beach

Web

https://ehs.wisc.edu/lake-safety/ -- Lake Safety

Email
sean.geib@wisc.edu  -- Sean Geib, UWPD Lake Rescue and Safety Supervisor

Phone

(608) 262-5865 -- UWPD Lake Rescue and Safety Supervisor; Sean Geib
(608) 262-3505 -- Emergency Number or 911
(608) 265-5000 -- Environment, Health & Safety Main Number 

Hours
https://uwpd.wisc.edu/lake-rescue-safety/hours-of-operation/ -- Hours of operation fluctuate by date 
Due to COVID-19, Lake Rescue and Safety will open on Saturday, May 23, at 11:00am. Please note the slight changes to some opening times. Updates are also posted on our Twitter page.

Address
Environment, Health & Safety Building
30 East Campus Mall
Madison, WI 53715

UW Lifesaving Station
144 E Gilman St
Madison, WI 53703



Picnic Point lifesaving station. Part of Division of Facilities Planning & Management (FPM) that serves as lake rescue team specifically for UW-Madison watercraft and Lake Mendota Yacht Club. Surveys lake for other distressed boater traffic. Also, monitors the Memorial Union swimming pier and staffs lifeguards at this location.

The UW Lifesaving Station maintains a seasonal (April through October) lake watch from its lookout tower/boathouse facility located on the southeast shore of Lake Mendota. The observation tower affords a view of approximately 80 percent of Lake Mendota's 9,842 acre surface area. Two 31-foot twin-screw rescue launches are maintained to assist boaters. Additionally, the service operates the Memorial Union swim pier, staffed by student lifeguards, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

In April 1908, two UW students drowned in Lake Mendota when their canoe capsized off Picnic Point. One year later, UW President Van Hise, reacting to this and similar tragic stories, proposed a university-operated lifesaving station on Lake Mendota. Jo Steinauer, UW's golf and swimming coach, assisted by a crew of volunteers served from 1912 to 1914.

Thomas Isabell, a successful Great Lakes captain, ship owner, and salvage diver, came to Madison around 1914 to run the lifesaving service and assist the UW crew. His equipment was primitive by today’s standards. In 1921, following the drowning of a UW student near Governors Island, the University Student Senate passed a referendum demanding that Captain Isabell be given additional equipment and staff. The lifesaving service moved into its current home behind the old Governor’s Residence in the fall of 1967.