Lake Waubesa, Wisconsin, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Wisconsin - Southern Savanna Region -

Also known as:  Yahara Chain of Lakes

Dane County in south central Wisconsin has plenty of water for recreation. There are 37 lakes and 475 miles of streams and rivers including 14 miles of the Wisconsin River. Four of Dane County’s lakes near Madison are linked together in a chain by the Yahara River. Called the Yahara Lakes or Yahara Chain, the lakes include Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa and Lake Kegonsa. At just over 2,000 acres, Lake Waubesa is the smallest of the four lakes.

All the Yahara Lakes were formed during the last Ice Age when the glacier that moved across Wisconsin left deposits of rocks, sand, and silt. The debris dammed parts of an old river valley that many believe was the ancient Wisconsin River. The Yahara Lakes are natural lakes, but there are dams and locks to help control water levels and for navigation. The Babcock Park Lock and Dam, completed in 1938 and owned by Dane County, controls the water levels for both Lake Waubesa and Lake Monona. Water levels on Lake Waubesa and the other Yahara Lakes are set by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and maintained by the Dane County Public Works. Control is tight and there is only a six inch difference in winter and summer water levels on Lake Waubesa. The lake freezes in mid to late December and remains frozen until the end of March.

Waubesa is the Chippewa word for “swan.” The lake got its name from the story of a settler who killed an exceptionally large swan in the area. In addition to the Chippewa and Winnebago Indians there is evidence of the “mound builders” around Lake Waubesa. On the eastern shore, the Village of McFarland is one of the first settlements around Lake Waubesa. It was a small resort community with Edwards Park near the lake in the early 1900’s. Prior to 1900 fish harvesting and ice cutting were important industries. The Knickerbocker Company cut ice on Lake Waubesa, packed it in sawdust and stored it until June when it was shipped south by rail. Today McFarland is home to McDaniel Park. With two pebble beaches the Park is popular with swimmers and a good place to launch canoes and kayaks. It is also home base for the Waubesa Sailing Club.

Lake Waubesa is a productive warm water fishery with large populations of pan fish. There are bluegill, crappie, and large and small mouth bass. There are also walleye, northern pike and muskie present. Anglers can fish from a boat or from the shore. Babcock Park, on the eastern side of Lake Waubesa at the outflow of the Yahara River, has a public boat launch, fishing pier and fish cleaning station. Named for Wisconsin dairy scientist Stephen Babcock, the park also has a full service campground with bathrooms and showers. There are several other boat ramps and full service marinas. Much of the shoreline is public land with only a few piers to mar the view.

Lake Waubesa has almost a thousand acres of wetlands. Upper Mud Lake on the northern side of the lake is a fantastic place to bird watch. Between Lake Waubesa and Lake Monona, Upper Mud Lake is the home of lots of migratory waterfowl.

Accommodations on Lake Waubesa range from campgrounds to resorts. In addition to all the amenities of McFarland including restaurants, shopping and accommodations, the lake is very close to Madison. Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and its second largest city with all the amenities and cultural opportunities of a city that size.

The Yahara Chain lakes and Lake Waubesa in particular combine very accessible water, abundant fishing, and cultural opportunities, making it a great Wisconsin getaway with something to please everyone.

Things to do at Lake Waubesa

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lake Waubesa

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

Lake Waubesa Photo Gallery

Lake Waubesa Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Surface Area: 2,050 acres

Shoreline Length: 9 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 846 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 844 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 847 feet

Average Depth: 14 feet

Maximum Depth: 34 feet

Water Volume: 30,689 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: .22 year

Lake Area-Population: 7,336

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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