COVID-19 Updates

Arboretum Visitor Center

Arboretum Visitor Center

Recent updates.

Arboretum Drive reopens to motor vehicle traffic from the Wingra Drive entrance to the Visitor Center on July 31. The speed limit has been reduced to 20 miles per hour. Road safety continues to be a high priority. We ask all road users to share the road responsibly and respectfully. Drivers should observe the posted speed limit, be alert for pedestrians, cyclists, and wildlife, and be cautious around blind curves. Pedestrians should walk or run on the shoulder and face traffic. Bicycles are allowed on paved roads only. Trail riding is not allowed. Rollerblades/skis/skates and skateboards are not allowed on the road. Dogs are not permitted at the Arboretum.

The university temporarily closed the stretch of road beginning May 18 to all traffic except pedestrians and cyclists.

Arboretum gardens and many trails are open, except in Curtis Prairie. Most trails in west Curtis Prairie are temporarily closed for an infrastructure project. The trail in central Curtis Prairie has reopened, making the east trail loop through the prairie available again.

We ask all visitors to follow current physical distancing guidelines – avoid crowded areas and maintain at least six feet from people you don’t live with. Masks should be worn when people are less than six feet apart.

The Visitor Center will be closed until further notice. Non-essential employees are  telecommuting and University buildings remain closed to the public. We will follow University policies and guidance on reopening. A portable toilet is located in the main parking lot. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer as we cannot keep them regularly stocked. Water fountains are not available.

Please note that the following are not allowed: dogs and other pets, tree climbing, drones, picnics, sports, hammocks and other weight bearing tree attachments. More information on our etiquette page.

Arboretum in-person programming is cancelled through the summer.

Photography permits will again be issues and photo sessions permitted as of mid-July. However, due to due to coronavirus there are some restrictions on sessions.

  • Photographers and clients should follow current physical distancing guidelines—avoid crowded areas and maintain at least six feet from people you don’t live with.
  • The people being photographed should be from the same household. Group photography of people not in the same household, including sessions for engagement and wedding parties that involve people from multiple households, is not allowed.
  • Photographers should wear masks at all times, and clients should wear masks except during the photography. Sessions should remain contactless between anyone not sharing a household.
  • Photographers may not provide or use any props. Photo sessions should be postponed if anyone is feeling unwell; permit dates can be rescheduled.

To apply for a permit, visit the photography policy page. As the public health landscape changes, the Arboretum may again suspend photo permits and sessions based on recommendations from public health officials and the university. Should this happen, we will notify any permit-holders that might be affected.

For more information about UW–Madison plans for reopening this fall, visit the Smart Restart page.

(Updated July 31)

Bloom and trail updates.

Arboretum gardens and many trails are open, except in Curtis Prairie. We are unable to post regular bloom updates due to COVID-19-related staffing and operations disruptions. Magnolias and crabapploes are largely done blooming. Lilacs are beginning to decline. Azaleas and rhodedendrons are blooming.

We ask all visitors to follow physical distancing guidelines – avoid crowded areas and, as much as possible, maintain at least six feet from people you don’t live with. UW–Madison has issued a new order to promote public safety in outdoor gathering spots.

Due to concerns about crowds and coronovirus, photography permits are suspended and photo sessions are not permitted at this time.

Most trails in Curtis Prairie are closed for an infrastructure project, but trails throughout the rest of the Arboretum remain open.

Please note that the following are not allowed: dogs and other pets, tree climbing, drones, and picnics. Rollerblades/skis and skateboards are not allowed on Arboretum/McCaffrey Drive. More information on our etiquette page.

The Visitor Center will be closed until further notice. Non-essential employees are  telecommuting and University buildings remain closed to the public. We will follow University policies and guidance on reopening. A portable toilet is located in the main parking lot. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer as we cannot keep them regularly stocked. Water fountains are not available.

(Updated May 28)

April 10 – Event cancellations and other notices.

Arboretum events are cancelled through summer. This includes all public adult and youth programs, summer camp, private tours, facility rentals, and meetings.

The Visitor Center remains closed until further notice. Due to limited staffing, the gate in the main parking lot will remain closed at all times (it will not be open on Sunday afternoons). Trail map boxes will not be restocked (download the trail map (PDF). Please carry out any litter to help care for the Arboretum.

Photography permits will not be issued and photo sessions are not permitted until further notice. We will welcome photographers and clients back as soon as possible.

These cancellations and other changes are necessary given predictions of the need to continue social distancing well after the peak of confirmed COVID-19 cases. The university will continue to monitor and update public health guidance and the Arboretum will adjust programming accordingly.

Staff are telecommuting and checking email.

The grounds and trails remain open. Time outdoors can support physical and emotional health during this time of uncertainty. However, to protect your own health and others’, it is critical to follow public health guidelines when visiting the Arboretum and other outdoor locations. First, stay home if you feel unwell. Practice social distancing—visit only with household members and maintain social distance of 6 feet from others. Wash or sanitize your hands regularly. Assume the virus may be on surfaces like benches. Those who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are encouraged to take extra precautions.

Trails in west Curtis Prairie are closed due to a major stormwater infrastructure project to rehabilitate Curtis Pond. For your safety and that of work crews, please observe all trail closures.

A few staff members are patrolling the trails to assist visitors (at an appropriate distance) and assess conditions. The UW Police Department is also helping to patrol the area. Please help us care for the natural areas and ensure a meaningful and restorative experience for others by carrying out litter and following visitor etiquette.

A portable toilet is located in the main parking lot. We recommend bringing your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer as we cannot keep them regularly stocked. Assume that bathrooms, benches, and other surfaces could harbor viruses. Water fountains are not available.

The Arboretum will continue sharing updates through the website, social media, and e-newsletter. We are also sharing stories and resources via social media to help the community enjoy and learn about nature from home.

Follow reliable sources for COVID-19 updates:

(Updated April 10)

April 6 – Photography permits suspended.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, photography permits will not be issued and photo sessions at the Arboretum are not permitted until further notice. We will welcome photographers and clients back as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

April 3 – Main parking lot gate closed.

The gate in the main parking lot near the visitor center will remained closed, including on Sundays, until further notice.

March 20 – Friends of the Arboretum Native Plant Sale Cancelled.

A message from Friends of the Arboretum: “For 30 years, the Native Plant Sale has provided local gardeners with a reliable source for native plants. Though we have faced challenges in the past, the challenge this year puts our volunteers, our customers, and indeed our whole community at risk. That is a risk we cannot run.” Read more»

The Friends have also cancelled the April, May, and June Luncheon-Lectures. If you have registered for lectures, Friends staff will contact you.

March 16 – Visitor Center Closing Through at Least April 10.

The Arboretum will close the Visitor Center effective 4 p.m. on March 16 through at least April 10 to limit face-to-face contact during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The grounds and trails remain open, and we hope a walk outdoors can provide comfort and wellness during this time of uncertainty. A portable toilet is located in the main parking lot. Water fountains will not be available. As usual, visitors should call 911 in case of emergency.

We encourage visitors to follow public health recommendations, including: stay home if you feel unwell, practice social distancing, and wash or sanitize your hands regularly.

The Arboretum will continue to provide content and updates through our website, social media, and e-news.

Keep up on current information from reliable sources such as:

Friends of the Arboretum Cancels April Luncheon-Lecture.

The April Friends of the Arboretum Luncheon-Lecture, Genetic Viability Through Sexual Flexibility in Plants, has been canceled. FOA staff will contact people registered for the lecture with more information.

March 12 – Arboretum Events Canceled Through at Least April 12.

UW–Madison leadership has been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and is working closely with local, state and federal agency partners. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, they have announced that all non-essential events are cancelled beginning March 13 at 5 p.m. through at least April 12. This includes all Arboretum public events, such as walks, classes, family nature programs, and more. Private tours and event rentals will also be cancelled during this time. If you have questions, please get in touch with the contact person for your tour or event, or email info@arboretum.wisc.edu.

The Arboretum is following University guidance and we will continue to adapt our plans accordingly, keeping the health and safety of our community at the center of our decisions. We will share updates about programs after April 12 through our e-newsletter and the Arboretum website.

The Arboretum Visitor Center and grounds remain open. We encourage visitors to make decisions that are best for their own health when considering a visit to the Arboretum.

For information and updates related to the virus and our university’s response, please see UW–Madison’s COVID-19 website.

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