“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Madison in Dane County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Third Lake

Lake Monona: Place

Third Lake Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William J. Toman, September 2, 2010
1. Third Lake Marker
Inscription.  During Madison's first two decades, this body of water was named Third Lake. Lake Kegonsa, the first lake surveyed in 1834, was called First Lake. The city later created a new name for Third Lake: Monona, mistakenly thought to be an Ojibwe word for "beautiful." Ho-Chunks were the actual residents of the Four Lakes area, which they called Tejop eja.

Survey notes describe a lake rimmed with grassy marshes and surrounded by rolling terrain "thinly timbered with Burr white & Black Oak." Prairie grasses and flowers grew under the scattered trees. Lake Monona was so clear early Madisonians boasted of seeing its sandy bottom.

Lake Monona is more than a simple basin. The Yahara River flows 45 miles from southern Columbia County into Dane County and connects lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa before joining the Rock River in Rock County. These four lakes and Lake Wingra are remnants of Glacial Lake Yahara, which was created by the retreating and melting glacier more than 10,000 years ago.

Landscape of Savanna and Marsh
there's a sharp line between land and
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lake. Until a century ago, Lake Monona spread over low-lying areas to its west, northeast, and east. This watery environment teemed with marsh grass, wild rice, and waterfowl. A savanna of large, fire-resistant oaks grew on uplands with grasses and wildflowers beneath. Prairie fires, driven by west winds, raced across the Isthmus to the Yahara River. Beyond the natural firebreak of the Yahara stood a maple-basswood forest.

Lake Monona Ecology
Monona has 13 miles of shoreline, five of which are publicly owned. With a maximum depth of 74 feet, the lake is deep enough to stratify into layers of warm and cold water in summer. Along the shore, sago pondweed and large-leafed pondweed provide waterfowl food and fish habitat. Lake health has suffered, however. Each summer mechanical plant cutters target Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive species. Algae, which thrives on excess nutrients in runoff, reduces oxygen levels in Monona waters.

Lake Monona Wildlife
Monona still fits the 1834 survey description: "the water is shallow considerable distance from the shore and is well-supplied with a variety of fish." Monona anglers fish for bluegill, bass, muskie, walleye, and northern pike. The lake has a reputation for producing 40-inch muskies. Common carp from Europe were stocked in the 1880s when new immigrants wanted to catch and eat a
Closeup of Map on Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William J. Toman, September 2, 2010
2. Closeup of Map on Marker
The map shows Black Hawk's route through the isthmus; the locations of effigy mound groups, Ho-Chunk villages, glacial features, and present-day parks; and Lake Monona facts.
familiar fish. The carp damaged habitat and stocking soon ended, but they still thrive today. Migrating waterfowl fly over the Yahara chain of lakes, stopping to feed and rest in Lake Monona's bays. During a long migration, these stopover areas are critical for replacing energy reserves. Gulls, ducks, scaups, coots, mergansers, and loons are often seen from Monona Terrace's rooftop.
Erected by the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. (Marker Number 3.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EnvironmentSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1834.
Location. 43° 4.265′ N, 89° 22.823′ W. Marker is in Madison, Wisconsin, in Dane County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Wilson Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, on the left when traveling west. The marker is in the West Circle of the William T. Evjue Rooftop Gardens at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: One John Nolen Drive, Madison WI 53703, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mound City (within shouting distance of this marker); Black Hawk (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Otis Redding (about 500 feet away); Pioneer Men and Women
Third Lake Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William J. Toman, September 2, 2010
3. Third Lake Marker
Looking west, with Lake Monona, the John Nolen Drive causeway, and Monona Bay are in the background.
(about 500 feet away); State Office Building (about 500 feet away); The Fairchild Home (about 500 feet away); Olin Terrace (about 500 feet away); Madison Club (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Madison.
Third Lake Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William J. Toman, September 2, 2010
4. Third Lake Marker
Looking south over Lake Monona toward the City of Monona.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on September 7, 2010, by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 924 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 7, 2010, by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Sep. 27, 2023