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Sometimes called the "City of 4 Lakes," Madison in Dane County is the capital of Wisconsin and its second largest city. Its "Lake, City, Lake" trademark is very appropriate. Madison sits on an isthmus - a narrow strip of land connecting two larger bodies of land bordered on two sides by water. In Madison's case Lake Monona is on one side and Lake Mendota is on the other. Lake Waubesa and Lake Kegonsa are the other two lakes that make up the Yahara chain of lakes near the city.
At six miles long and four miles wide, Lake Mendota is the largest of the four lakes. In fact its name is Chippewa for "large" or "great." Lake Mendota is a natural lake, but it was dammed. In 1847 Teney Dam was built and raised the lake's water levels about four and a half feet. For most of the 19th century the dam was part of a grist mill. Today the dam, spillway, and boat lock are owned by Madison and Dane County. The lake is managed by the Land and Water Resources Department and freezes by Christmas.
There are rowing clubs, marina, and boat launches on Lake Mendota and plenty of room for sailing, canoeing, and water skiing. Anglers will find healthy populations of walleye, northern pike, and muskie along with crappie and large and small mouth bass. Governor Nelson State Park on the northern shore of Lake Mendota has a sand beach for swimming, several boat launches and over 18 miles of hiking and cross country skiing trails.
Visitors to Lake Mendota can enjoy all the amenities and cultural advantages of Madison. The University of Wisconsin-Madison sits on the shores of the lake. Madison was also the boyhood home of Frank Lloyd Wright who designed several buildings in the area. The Olbrich Botanical Gardens, named one of the top 10 inspiring gardens by Horticulture Magazine, is in Madison. With 16 acres of outdoor gardens and the tropical paradise of the Bolz Conservatory, it is sure to delight visitors.
With its expansive waters and even more expansive recreation opportunities, Lake Mendota will please any visitor, and it's sure to be the perfect Wisconsin getaway.
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