Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds
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Yahara Lakes History & Setting

The Yahara River lakes - Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa - are important in providing scenic beauty and swimming, boating and fishing opportunities to area residents and visitors. As a result, the lakes are highly valued physical resources and an integral part of the quality of life the Dane County residents enjoy.

image of the yahara lakes

The lakes were formed about 10,000 years ago when the last glacier deposited a thick layer of glacial till (unsorted sediment) over the landscape and dammed up the large pre-glacial Yahara River Valley. The Yahara watershed (land area draining to the lakes) now covers 359 square miles. The Yahara River begins just north of Dane County in Columbia County and flows south to connect the four lakes, finally joining the Rock River in Rock County. Much of the watershed is farmed; however, the watershed also contains most of the urban land in the Madison metropolitan area. In addition, the Yahara watershed includes some of the largest wetlands that are left in Dane County. The lakes' watershed includes all or parts of five cities, seven villages and sixteen towns and is home to about a quarter million people.



Yahara Waterways Trail Guide The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Guide is a great resource for exploring our area waters.