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

(page 10 of 10)

a dock in the winter in a middle of frozen Lake Wingra


The sacred moundscape on Lake Wingra’s ridges shows this was a place of deep meaning and mystery for the moundbuilders. Abundant life-giving springs, which distinguish Wingra from Madison’s other lakes, likely gave it such power. Of the Ho-Chunk living on Wingra’s shores, Charles Brown wrote: “These Indians have a belief that springs are the places through which animals enter the spirit world: hence a former custom of casting tobacco, stone and bone implements, and other articles into springs to obtain the ‘blessings’ of these animals.” 

Perhaps the highest concentration of springs is along the Edgewood College shoreline, where one in particular stands out: New Millennium Spring, emanating from the lake bottom off the end of the boardwalk. This spring, seen most clearly as open water in winter, was discovered and named in 2000 by Edgewood biology professor Jim Lorman when it suddenly bubbled up out of nowhere. While the spring’s appearance is a puzzle, Lorman suggests that infiltration from new rain gardens on campus and along nearby residential streets could have played a role—a potential harbinger of good things to come for Madison’s most intimate lake.


Listen to all Lake Wingra audio stories here

Gordon Heingartner enjoys playing pond hockey on Lake Wingra and secretly wishes winter lasted a little longer. He’s been a geology instructor, water utility worker and volunteer radio news producer and is now doing outreach work for the Clean Lakes Alliance.

Jeff Durbin has canoed Lake Wingra, crossed it on ice, swum to its middle and raced around it. He has a special interest in Madison history and effigy mounds. Professionally, he creates educational exhibits.

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