Ten Views of Lake Wingra

The Madison area is known for its four lakes. But there’s a fifth, and its history, ecology and beauty are well worth a tour

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Wingra: not a dead lake

3. NOT A DEAD LAKE

Named Lake Wingra around 1840, early settlers preferred to call it Dead Lake because they thought it had no outlet. Land between lakes Wingra and Monona was so marshy that finding any stream flow provedimpossible. The eight-story-high glacial moraine known as Dead Lake Ridge, covered by effigy mounds, stood between the lakes; at times it was a virtual island in the marshes. Far from dead, Lake Wingra brimmed with fish, and wild rice beds attracted huge flocks of ducks and geese. Based on the 1834 federal land survey, the pre-settlement lake was double the size of today’s lake, and wetlands were vastly greater.

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