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The Lakes of Madison, Wisconsin

Updated on September 18, 2017
Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie is from Madison, WI but has traveled extensively. Her family speaks 4 languages, making the world very accessible.

Madison Wisconsin is a haven for water sport lovers. Whether you want to be in, on or just near the water, Madison has a lot to offer. Comfortably situated on five lakes, this mid-sized city is a mecca for those that love to paddle, ski, swim or just sit on the shoreline. There are both wake and wake-free lakes, assuring that there is something for everyone.

Lake Mendota is the largest of the four lakes that are part of Madison proper. It is home to the Hoofer’s Sailing Club and a mecca for those that love to windsurf, sail and get out on their stand up paddleboards. The UW-Madison’s Memorial Student Union, which is a favorite among students and locals alike, borders the lake.

Lake Monona is perhaps most famous for the plane crash of 1967 that claimed the life of Otis Redding, but there is much more positive side to this lovely lake. Whether you navigate by canoe or kayak, enjoy a sunset cruise or come down each September to marvel at the thousands of competitors in the Ford Ironman Competition, Lake Monona is the place to be.

Lake Wingra is the smallest of Madison’s lakes but a favorite for local fishermen. It boasts the pristine Vilas Beach, conveniently located across the street from Henry Vilas Zoo and has two Wingra Rentals locations through which one can rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boards or take windsurfing lessons.

Lake Waubesa is another of Madison’s smaller lakes and is the favorite of campers in Lake Farm Park. As with each of the Madison lakes, it is convenient not only by car by also by bike as it is situated near the Capital City Trail.

Lake Kegonsa, which is located just southeast of Madison this lake is a favorite for campers and hikers after a day of outdoor activity. It has a popular beach and boat landing and is enjoyed by swimmers and skiers alike.

The following are a few recommendations that will help you to make the most of your time on the water.

Rutabaga Paddle Shop

Rutabaga paddle sport shop is a well-known spot for anyone with a love of paddle sports. They offer kayaks and canoes for purchase or rent and are an excellent place to stock up on accessories such as clothing, PFDs, camping gear, instructional materials, paddles and much, much more. Paddlers can put in directly behind the shop and navigate a short channel that lets into Monona Bay. They also offer paddling classes and trips for novices and experienced paddlers alike and have classes specifically for women and children as well as private lessons. Visit them on the web for more information and links to all things paddling at

Betty Lou Cruises

Betty Lou Cruises offers both public and private cruises complete with lunch, bruch, dinner and happy hour options. They have locations on both Lake Mendota (docked at the Mariner’s Inn) and Lake Monona (docked at Machinery Row). They host countless special public cruises including a Wine Lover’s Cruise, Hawaiian Luau Cruise, Pirate Moonlight Cruise and Ladies Night Out Cruise. Visit them on the web for scheduling, rentals and event information at

Wingra Boats

Wingra Boats rents canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, sailboats, row boats and more. They also offer lessons in sailing and windsurfing and are conveniently located on Lake Wingra at 824 Knickerbocker Street in Madison. Rentals are also available at the Vilas Beach location across from Henry Vilas Zoo. Paddle across this peaceful lake; stop for a cool refreshing dip at Vilas Beach and spot herons and egrets feasting along the shallow shoreline. Visit them on the web at

Hoofer's Sailing Club

Hoofers Sailing Club is a full service sailing club for Union Members of all ages. Whether you’re just starting out or consider yourself an expert sailor, this club has something for everyone. Members have countless opportunities to join in fun socials such as the annual Snow Ball, annual costume Buccaneer’s Ball, Friday night socials, Pirate’s Days and more! Who could possible resist fashioning a sailing vessel of large pumpkins and entering the Pumpkin Regatta? There is also a youth program offering lessons in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing for kids between 10 and 18 years of age. For questions about membership or programs contact them at

Mscr Pontoon Boat Rentals and Rides

Madison School and Community Recreation Department MSCR rents pontoon boats for private outings. They also offer drop in rides for groups of five or fewer and even have some days on which free 90 minute rides are offered. Information is available through the MSCR website at You can also download the Pontoon Rental Form from this site. Specialty cruises are available throughout the season including a sunset cruise, fireworks trip, dinner cruises and many more. The boats are located at the Tenney Boat Pier at 1615 Sherman Ave. in Madison.

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© 2012 Jaynie2000


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