Discover the Most Sprawling College Campus in Wisconsin

Written by Justin Zipprich
Updated: September 8, 2023
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Key Points

  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the most sprawling college campus in Wisconsin, covering a vast area.
  • The campus welcomes 40,000 students per year from all 50 states and 124 different countries.
  • The campus is home to 388 buildings, including the famous Red Gym and three other National Landmarks.
  • The campus is also inhabited by various animals such as raccoons, squirrels, red foxes, opossums, snakes, American badgers, white-tailed deer, red-shouldered hawks, and bats.
  • There is a diverse range of flora on and off campus, including the pink-ish flower, Golden Stargazer, purple geranium, china pinks, toxic cherry tree, hosta, Siberian iris, and European maple.

Wisconsin is known for its large open spaces and fascinating American Indian history. It’s also a state with great schools, and today, we’ll talk about the most sprawling college campus in Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin-Madison. We’ll tell you about its great history, famous alumni, the wildlife population in the area, the size of the campus, and other fun facts.

What Is the Most Sprawling College Campus in Wisconsin?

The largest college campus in Wisconsin is the University of Wisconsin-Madison at 936 total acres. Other massive colleges exist in Wisconsin, including the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, which comes in at 700 acres, but the Madison campus is the winner.

The school also has one of the largest student bodies, as it regularly welcomes 40,000 students per year. The students in attendance represent all 50 states and 124 different countries. To accommodate all the students, there are almost 900 student organizations. 

It’s been a very successful school over the years, and the alumni have had many crowning achievements, including discovering vitamins in the early 20th century and cultivating embryonic stem cells during the late 20th century. Many of the alumni have also won Nobel Prizes. A select list of the notable alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison includes:

  • Joan Cusack – Actress
  • Laurel Clark -Astronaut
  • Jim Lovell – Astronaut, Apollo 13 Mission
  • Carol Bartz – Former CEO of Yahoo!
  • Herman Dahle – U.S. Representative
  • Emily CoBabe – Ammann, Planetary Scientist

Where is University of Wisconsin-Madison Located?

As the name suggests, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is located in Madison. It’s found on the shores of Lake Mendota.

History of the University of Wisconsin-Madison

UW-Madison Campus

The University of Wisconsin-Madison started with one building and turned into a sprawling campus.


The school was founded way back in 1848 when Wisconsin originally achieved statehood. It was the first university in the state. Over time, the school grew by leaps and bounds, awarding its first Ph.D. in 1892. During World War II, the school was one out of 131 colleges that took part in the Navy training program. The school stalled operations and went to an online-only program during the COVID-19 pandemic. It still remains one of the best schools in the nation.

What Is on the Most Sprawling College Campus in Wisconsin?

There is plenty to see on the largest campus in the state. The campus is organized into 13 different colleges and schools. The campus is so large that there are over 24,000 faculty members, making the university the largest employer in the state. 

The campus also has many impressive buildings, including the Red Gym, which looks more like a castle, This massive gymnastics training facility includes an armory and is considered a National Historic Landmark. 

There are three other National Landmarks on the premises, including the North Hall, which was the first building on campus, built back in 1851. Science Hall is also a landmark due to its age and its association with Charles R. Van, the professor who led the Department of Mineralogy and eventually became one of the presidents of the university. Finally, the Dairy Barn houses 84 milking cows that are used during agricultural classes. 

Overall, there are 388 buildings on the massive campus, and many of them are quite large. The biggest is the Clinical Science Center, which is close to two million square feet. The smallest building is Carillon Tower, which is 1,694 square feet. The school also owns a 1,200-acre arboretum off campus, which is also a National Historical Landmark. 

The Animals of the University of Wisconsin-Madison

red shouldered hawk vs cooper's hawk

Look up at the skies while walking around campus and you may see the gorgeous red-shouldered hawk.

©MTKhaled mahmud/

There are several animals and critters that call Madison, Wisconsin home. You may find these running around on campus:

Raccoons – Although raccoons have a certain charm, they can still be a nuisance if they get into your trash cans or steal your pet food. They may also try to make a home in your attic. Be cautious of them when you’re on campus.

Squirrels – You’ll see squirrels playing in the trees and running through the university grounds.

Red Fox – The red fox is found all over the Northern Hemisphere, but you’ll see it around Madison if you look at the right time.

Opossum – Not as cute and cuddly as the others, the opossum is nonetheless common in Madison. They may live under porches.

Snakes – There are various snakes around Madison, and it is not uncommon to see one while walking through campus. Keep your distance. Though most are harmless, a few are venomous.

American Badger – Since it’s the state animal, it’s only natural to run across the American badger every once in a while. They can be dangerous if threatened, so keep your distance.

White-Tailed Deer – Look off the side of the road or behind a building on campus, and there’s a high chance you’ll spot a white-tailed deer.

Red-Shouldered Hawk – Turn your eyes to the skies, and you could see the red-shouldered hawk. It’s a medium-sized bird that you’ll see nesting or surveying the skies. You may see fewer of them during the winter as they tend to migrate to Central Mexico.

Bats – These unique flying mammals are great for the environment because they eat pesky insects. You may see them hanging (literally) around campus at night.

The Flora of the University of Wisconsin-Madison

There’s also a ton of great flora and plant life around the university. Stop and behold the beauty of these plants and trees:

Asiatic Lily ‘Vermeer’ – This is a gorgeous pink flower that you’ll often see on and off campus. It grows to about 18-24 inches, and you’ll typically spot it in full sun or partial shade.

Oriental Lily ‘Golden Stargazer’ – The golden stargazer is a unique but captivating flower that often blooms pale yellow.

Geranium – The beautiful purple flower is breathtaking, and you’ll spot them in full sun. You can grow your own by watering them regularly, and they’ll come back season after season.

China Pinks – Another unmistakable flower is the China pinks, which has a gorgeous pink and white appearance. You’ll find them in full foliage, but they are quite small, only growing to about 12 inches.

Choke Cherry – This tree appears to have tasty cherries attached but don’t eat them as they can be toxic. Still, it’s a gorgeous species.

Hosta – Also known as the royal standard, the hosta is a small plant with large leaves that you’ll see growing year after year. They do well in light shade.

Siberian Iris – The Siberian iris is a gorgeous purple flower that you can spot a mile away. It’s a medium-sized flower, often reaching about 48 inches in height. They’ll typically bloom around late mid-season.

European Maple – If you’re looking for a shady tree to study under, consider the European maple that has large leaves. The tree can grow to 40+ feet, and it does most of its growing in mid-spring.


We hope you’ve learned a lot about the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the most sprawling college campus in Wisconsin. This huge and very distinguished university is worth a visit if you’re in the area, so check it out!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © EQRoy/

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About the Author

Justin Zipprich is a writer at A-Z Animals, where his primary focus is travel, state facts, pets, and mammals. Justin has been writing and editing animal content for over 7 years, though he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Western Illinois University, which he earned in 2005. As a resident of Texas, he loves discovering local animals and spending time with his wife and two kids.

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