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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4. ROWLEY’S PARADISE
Leslie Rowley spent much of his childhood on his uncle’s farm between Monroe Street and Lake Wingra. In his remembrances of the 1870s, Rowley wrote that “the shores of the lake were shallow, and one had to push a boat through a hundred yards or more of weeds and cat-tails before reaching open water.” This could be hazardous for a young adventurer like Rowley: “I nearly lost my life several times on Dead Lake by stepping from a boat to what was apparently dry ground with grass on it, and sinking in silt up to my armpits.”
Rowley and a pair of brothers who grew up on Lake Wingra, Walter and Samuel Chase, were avid hunters and fishermen. They mention Wingra’s bountiful wildlife: redhead and canvasback ducks, gar and northern pike, otters and bobcats. At night, wolves howled from the south shore. Passenger pigeons, Samuel Chase wrote, “were so thick as to weigh down the oak trees from which they were gathering mast.” Today some wildness is returning: beavers have built lodges around the lake, and coyotes tread the more remote marshes.