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Beaches closed

Warner Park Beach is among 16 of the 19 beaches in the Madison area that were closed on Thursday because of blue-green algal blooms or high levels of bacteria in the water. 

If you plan on taking the little ones to a beach in Madison during the weekend heat wave, good luck.

Sixteen of the 19 public beaches on Madison-area lakes closed temporarily Thursday due to blue-green algae blooms and high levels of bacteria.

Affected beaches could increase in number or simply shift across the lakes as winds move blue-green algae blooms across the water. As blooms move, Public Health Madison and Dane County will continue to close Madison-area beaches as the conditions warrant.

“The last big storm caused a lot of problems,” said Kirsti Sorsa, environmental health supervisor at Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Sorsa said she discourages Madisonians from using any of the closed beaches, which are posted online, but there is no physical policing of the beaches to see that people don’t use them.

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Beaches closed

Toy trucks are the only visitors to Bernies Beach as blue-green algae creeps into the Lake Monona swimming area.

So, with a heat advisory in effect from noon Friday through 7 p.m. Saturday with temperatures expected to reach into the low 90s Friday and Saturday, residents are monitoring their contact with the water themselves.

Among the most dedicated lake visitors are the campers of Camp Wingra.

Though the algae keeps kids from taking a dip to cool off, camp counselor Finley Nahn said the camp is still making use of Madison beaches during the bloom, fishing, boating and enjoying the beaches while swimming is off-limits.

But, as 8-year-old camper Luca points out, “Not many fish bite when (the algae is) out. That makes us feel pretty bad.”

Others are finding the blooms more troublesome.

After graduating from UW-Madison 15 years ago, Andrew Olson was eager to swim in Lake Mendota while visiting his alma mater.

“I’m disappointed,” Olson said. “I’m here for a conference and I was excited to go swimming.”

Now a neuroscience researcher at Yale, Olson was forced to cherish the lakes from afar during his four-day stay.

Like Olson, UW chemist Charlie Fry said he’s limited his contact with Madison lakes in past years, due almost entirely to the algae blooms.

“As a long-term resident watching this, I think it’s unfortunate that I don’t know what it is we’re supposed to do,” Fry said.

Fry said he and many of his neighbors have stopped using chemicals on their lawns because they know it could exacerbate the algae, but despite their efforts they’re still seeing the algae eat away at the lakes’ ecosystems.

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Algae Bloom on Lake Mendota at Union Terrace

Algae blooms at Union Terrace fill the shores of Lake Mendota with a bright green scum on Thursday. 

“Its disappointing because I know the health effects it has on the water and the fish,” UW student Jenna Szalewski said.

Szalewski currently serves as a water technician for the UW Center for Limnology.

“It makes me sad because I am here to go swimming,” Szalewski said. “I know for it to clear up there has to be a change, policy-wise,” she added, noting one of the major contributions to large algae blooms is agricultural runoff.

The 16 beaches closed Thursday are:

  • BB Clarke Beach:
  • 835 Spaight St., on the north shore of Lake Monona, blue-green algae.
  • Bernie’s Beach:
  • 901 Gilson St., on the south shore of Monona Bay on Lake Monona, blue-green algae.
  • Brittingham Beach:
  • 701 W. Brittingham Place, on the north shore of Monona Bay on Lake Monona, blue-green algae.
  • Esther Beach:
  • 2802 Waunona Way, on the south shore of Lake Monona, bacteria.
  • Goodland County Park Beach:
  • 2862 Waubesa Ave., on the west shore of Lake Waubesa, blue-green algae.
  • Hudson Park Lake Access Point Beach:
  • 2713 Lakeland Ave., on the north shore of Lake Monona, blue-green algae.
  • James Madison Park Beach:
  • 614 E. Gorham St., on the south shore of Lake Mendota, bacteria.
  • Lake Mendota County Park Beach:
  • 5130 Century Ave., Middleton, on the northwest shore of Lake Mendota, bacteria.
  • Marshall Beach:
  • 2101 Allen Blvd., on the west shore of Lake Mendota, blue-green algae.
  • Memorial Union Pier:
  • on the south shore of Lake Mendota, blue-green algae.
  • Olbrich Beach:
  • 3330 Atwood Ave., on the north shore of Lake Monona, blue-green algae.
  • Olin Beach:
  • 1156 Olin-Turville Court, on the southwest shore of Lake Monona, blue-green algae.
  • Schluter Beach:
  • 4517 Winnequah Road, Monona, on the southeast shore of Lake Monona, blue-green algae.
  • Spring Harbor Beach:
  • 1918 Norman Way, on the west shore of Lake Mendota, blue-green algae.
  • Tenney Beach:
  • 1300 Sherman Ave., on the southeast shore of Lake Mendota, bacteria.
  • Warner Beach:
  • 1101 Woodward Drive, on the northeast shore of Lake Mendota, blue-green algae.

Beach closing information can be found online at go.madison.com/beach-closings.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. In the original version, the first name of Kirsti Sorsa was misspelled.]

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Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.