Madison's Lakes: A Story in Pictures

Our city's beauty and vitality is a reflection of our water

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Native Americans lived, worked and played along these shores long before the white man and his Independence Day celebrations arrived. That the shores of our own Lake Wingra boast the continent’s highest concentration of effigy mounds is both a physical and emotional testament to the strength of the human bonds forged with the water that moves in and around our city. But it’s often said that we are loving our lakes to death. How can this be? Just look at these pictures! We cherish our lakes and the quality of life they afford us. In, on and around them we float, surf, paddle, run, bike and meditate. Other cosmopolitan centers envy us for the outdoor enthusiast lifestyle we are lucky to lead. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright even designed us a monument—Monona Terrace—to celebrate the idea that people and their natural environment can and should be symbiotic. Let’s face it: the lakes need us as much as we need them. So perhaps we should love them back to life. Handle them with care so future Madisonians can have as much darn fun as we do.


One advantage to a slow-moving spring is that close proximity to the lakeshore is not as unpleasant. You know—the familiar foul odor of algae blooming at the mercy of a summer’s sun. Since the mid-1960s the city has employed weed barges (top photo, below) to harvest the stinky plant growth aided and abetted by our overuse of phosphorous and underuse of stormwater management technology. Thankfully, ongoing research (fourth photo, below, Lake Wingra) and public access (fifth photo, below, Bernie’s Beach, Monona Bay) are critical to clean, healthy Madison lakes.

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