Terrace Views

Have Fun in the Sun With Outdoor UW

Picture this: it’s a hot, sunny day at the Memorial Union Terrace. The bright blue of Lake Mendota surrounds you on all sides. Waves gently bump against the paddleboard you’re standing on while a refreshing breeze ruffles your hair. In front of you, a sailboat glides along the water while up above, a seagull squawks, on the hunt for a snack. The scents of brats and sunscreen mingle and linger in the air, filling your nostrils with the smells of a perfect Madison summer.

Sounds like a dream, right? Well, we’re here to tell you that we can make your nature-loving dreams come true this summer because Outdoor UW, the Wisconsin Union’s hub for everything outdoors, is once again open for you to enjoy!

“We are very excited to invite everyone back into our space,” Outdoor Recreation Advisor for Outdoor UW Jill Griffis said. “It will be awesome to introduce new people into the outdoors and get to work with those who haven’t been able to use our services during the pandemic.”

Outdoor UW, located in the lower level of Memorial Union, was unable to offer its usual summer services last summer because of COVID-19. This year, however, it’s back and better than ever. They’ve begun using a reservation system to help with lines and to ensure you spend more time exploring the beauty of the outdoors. Outdoor UW offers a wide variety of opportunities, such as paddling and camping equipment rentals and yoga classes. 

“The outdoors can be for anyone and everyone,” Griffis said. “Whether you want to picnic in the park, backpack through the mountains, sail the seven seas or anything in between, Outdoor UW can make your next adventure a reality.”

Equipment Rentals

If the picture we painted in the opening paragraph spoke to you, consider taking one of our various paddle crafts out for a spin on Lake Mendota. Paddling options include kayaks (both single and tandem), canoes and standard or eight-person stand-up paddleboards (SUPs). Take in sights of the bustling Terrace, the scenic Lakeshore Path and peaceful Picnic Point (just to name a few) from the comfort of your paddle craft, whether your paddling skills are tried-and-true, newly emerging, or anywhere in between. Check out available paddling equipment, and reserve a boat today by visiting this link.

Looking to take an extended stay in one of Wisconsin’s illustrious state parks or head out of state for a weekend getaway? Outdoor UW has you covered with equipment rentals for camping, hiking, and climbing gear. You can rent equipment such as tents, stoves, backpacks, trekking poles and sleeping bags for a weekend (Friday through Tuesday) or an entire week (Friday through Friday or Tuesday through Tuesday). Camping rentals may be reserved ahead of time by filling out a gear rental request or by visiting the Outdoor UW office. 

If you are unable to request a reservation for equipment through our website for any reason, please give the folks at Outdoor UW a call at 608-262-1630 or send an email to outdooruw@union.wisc.edu for assistance.


Relax with some SUP yoga on Lake Mendota

Engage your mind and body with some yoga offered in partnership with University Recreation & Wellbeing, either on the Terrace or on a stand-up paddleboard. Tune into yourself while tuning out the rest of the world. Bring yourself and your mat (for Terrace yoga), and we’ll provide the calming vibes and stunning views. Event information can be found on the Wisconsin Union event calendar, and reservations can be made on the RecWell website

Group Events

Outdoor UW also offers private group experiences, such as paddling or yoga, by request. Have an idea for a group activity that you don’t see offered? Email ouwpaddling@union.wisc.edu and our Outdoor UW staff will be happy to help you customize your experience. 

Additionally, Outdoor UW will host some open group events, such as Family Night, which will take place every Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. from June 15 to Aug. 24. Family Night includes games, sightseeing and learning paddling skills. Check out the Wisconsin Union event calendar to keep up-to-date with any special events. 

Health and Safety

We, at the Wisconsin Union and Outdoor UW, take your health and safety very seriously. When you make your reservation, we will share with you our current health and safety practices. All of our boats and accessories are cleaned throughout the day. 

Participation in Outdoor UW Services

Outdoor UW is open to the public, all Wisconsin Union members and their guests. If you’re a Wisconsin Union member, you benefit from discounted rental equipment and classes. Not a member yet, or want to learn more? Visit union.wisc.edu/get-involved/become-a-member for more information on Union membership. 

Wisconsin Hoofers

Learn to sail with the Hoofer Sailing Club

Great news: the Wisconsin Hoofers are active this summer! The Hoofers are the largest student-led organization within the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A longstanding tradition within the Wisconsin Union, the Hoofers are composed of six clubs dedicated to outdoor recreation: Mountaineering, Outing, Riding, Sailing, Scuba, and Ski and Snowboard. All six clubs have activities planned for the summer, and the Hoofer Sailing Club, in particular, can’t wait to return to the lake for lessons and day sailing. All people ages 18 and over can join Hoofers clubs, including those with no university affiliation. 

Additional Services

If you’re looking to store your own paddle craft near Lake Mendota, look no further: Outdoor UW offers off-site seasonal storage for members and guests, conveniently located at both University Bay and Willow Beach. Interested? Email outdooruw@union.wisc.edu or call (608) 262-1630 for more information. 

It’s no secret that sunsets over Lake Mendota are one of the most magical parts of a Madison summer. If you have your own sailboat, purchase a mooring with Outdoor UW to store your boat on the lake and secure a front-row seat to every single sunset.

Outdoor UW also offers lift services for large boats via their brand-new crane, the construction and installation of which finished in March 2020. Since Outdoor UW was closed last year, this marks the first summer that the crane will be available for public use. The 55-foot crane stands proudly above Lake Mendota and is available for one-off or group lifts. 

Last but not least, when you visit Outdoor UW for any one of our services, you can keep your belongings safe in one of our storage lockers, which are available to rent for $1 by stopping by the Outdoor UW office.

Our Hours

All of us, at Outdoor UW and the Wisconsin Union, are thrilled to welcome you back into our spaces to make this the summer of your dreams. As of May 31, Outdoor UW is open for services, equipment pick-up and equipment drop-off daily from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. CDT. When will we see you at Outdoor UW?

Author: Abby Synnes

Share This Post On