Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, USA

Also known as:  Yahara Chain of Lakes

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Lake Mendota. If you’re considering Lake Mendota vacation rentals and hotels, we’ve made it super easy to compare and book using the interactive map below. Or keep scrolling to read our Lake Mendota Guide!

Lake Mendota Visitor and Community Guide

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.

Custom Lake Mendota House Decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to Do at Lake Mendota

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at Lake Mendota

  • Bass
  • Crappie
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Walleye

Best Hotels and Vacation Rentals at Lake Mendota

The Lake Mendota map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, cottage, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Lake Mendota Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Land And Water Resources Department

Surface Area: 9,842 acres

Shoreline Length: 22 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 848 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 847 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 853 feet

Average Depth: 41 feet

Maximum Depth: 82 feet

Water Volume: 389,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1847

Water Residence Time: 4.5 years

Lake Area-Population: 223,389

Drainage Area: 250 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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