Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, USA

Also known as:  Yahara Chain of Lakes

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Mendota — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake Mendota cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Mendota

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.

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

Find Places to Stay at Lake Mendota

If you’re considering a Lake Mendota lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Mendota Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Mendota lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

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

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Lake Mendota Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Lake Mendota Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Lake Mendota Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Lake Mendota Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Lake Mendota article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!