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Originally called "Tchee-ho-bo-kee-xa-te-la" or Teepee Lake by the Winnebago Indians who lived in the area, Lake Monona is one of the lakes bordering Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is Wisconsin's capital city and is located on an isthmus or strip of land bordered on one side by Lake Mendota and on the other by Lake Monona. Together the lakes give the city its "Lake, City, Lake" trademark. Madison has also been called the "City of Four Lakes," a reference to the lakes in the Yahara Chain. At 3,274 acres Lake Monona is the second largest lake, behind Lake Mendota, in the Yahara Chain which also includes Lake Kegonsa and Lake Waubesa.
All the Yahara Chain Lakes formed during the last Ice Age. One of the glaciers that moved over an old river valley in Wisconsin left debris behind when it melted. The rocks, sand, boulders, and silt dammed what many believe was the ancient Wisconsin River. As a result, Lake Monona and the other Yahara Chain Lakes are natural lakes, most of which have dams to regulate water levels and help navigation. Lake Monona's water level is controlled by a concrete dam and locks at the Yahara River at Lake Mendota. In addition to the Yahara River, Lake Monona is also fed by the Starkweather Creek and Murphy Creek.
Named the ninth most popular recreation lake in Wisconsin, Lake Monona has a long history of providing recreation opportunities in Dane County with resort cottages as far back as the 1800's. In 1866 the Lakeside House opened on Lake Monona drawing visitors from all over. In addition to recreation, an early lake industry was ice harvesting. The ice was cut, packed in sawdust, and shipped south on railroad cars. Today Lake Monona is frozen about 107 days a year from mid December to the beginning of April.
The lake is still drawing visitors from all over, and with approximately 40 percent of the shore publicly owned, there are plenty of places to play. Recreation includes boating, jet skiing, and waterskiing with boat ramps and marinas. There are also several lakeside parks, and the Lake Monona 20K Race is run around the lake every year.
The fishing on Lake Monona is exceptional. There are healthy populations of northern pike, walleye, muskie, bluegill and large and small mouth bass. There are also some lake sturgeon present. The prehistoric fish can grow to be over a hundred pounds and live for more than a hundred years.
Lake Monona is surrounded on three sides by Madison with the City of Monona on the fourth. Madison is the second largest city in Wisconsin, and all the amenities and cultural opportunities of a large city are easily accessible from Lake Monona. There are various accommodations and restaurants including some that can be reached by boat. Frank Lloyd Wright grew up in Madison and designed several buildings in the city. Madison is also home to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Named one of the top 10 inspiring gardens by Horticulture Magazine, the garden includes 16 acres outdoors along with an indoor tropical garden in the Bolz Conservatory. The Conservatory is a glass pyramid filled with a waterfall, orchids, and birds.
Monona is the Chippewa word for beautiful, and with its abundant recreation and cultural opportunities it is certain to be a beautiful Wisconsin getaway.
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