Lake Monona, Wisconsin, USA

Also known as:  Yahara Chain of Lakes

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Monona — 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 Monona 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 Monona

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.

Things to Do at Lake Monona

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Waterfall
  • Birding

Fish Species Found at Lake Monona

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sturgeon
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Lake Monona

If you’re considering a Lake Monona 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 Monona Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Monona 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 Monona Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Land and Water Resources Department

Surface Area: 3,274 acres

Shoreline Length: 13 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 845 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 843 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 848 feet

Average Depth: 25 feet

Maximum Depth: 74 feet

Water Volume: 85,929 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 1.1 years

Lake Area-Population: 223,389

Drainage Area: 279 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 Monona 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 Monona 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 Monona 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 Monona Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

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