Lake Waubesa is the third in the Yahara chain of lakes as the Yahara River flows south from Lake Monona through Upper Mud Lake. The watershed has a mix of urban and rural land use. Work in the Mendota and Monona watersheds to prevent phosphorus runoff is helping Lake Waubesa since much of the phosphorus in the lake flows from the upper lakes in the chain.
The north end of Lake Waubesa is surrounded by the Capital Spring State Recreation Area and features the new Lower Yahara River Trail and bike-pedestrian bridge. The south end of the lake receives spring water from Swan Creek, Murphy Creek and Bogholt Deep Spring, which buffers the high-quality Waubesa Wetlands from nutrient runoff. The outlet of the Yahara River sits at the east shore of the lake and runs south towards Lower Mud Lake before joining Lake Kegonsa. Goodland County Park on the western shore of the lake contains the only public beach on Lake Waubesa.
Most of the phosphorus entering the lake each year comes from the upper lakes via the Yahara River, although summer phosphorus levels may also be driven by runoff within the watershed (McDonald & Lathrop, 2016). Efforts to reduce the sources of upstream runoff will reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the lake via the Yahara River outlet (83% of the average annual phosphorus load).
The Yahara CLEAN plan for the Lake Waubesa Watershed calls for action to improve agricultural practices and improve control of construction erosion. Phosphorus reduction in the Lake Waubesa Watershed will come primarily from improving agricultural practices and improving control of construction erosion.
Lake Waubesa by the numbers
Lake Waubesa is a shallow lake, and water flushes through the lake relatively quickly (three months) compared to the deeper lakes.
- Watershed area: 28,160 acres
- Surface area: 2,080 acres
- Shoreline: 9 miles
- Maximum depth: 34 feet
- Mean depth: 16 feet
- Flushing rate: 2.8 months
How was the water (2019)?
2019 average (July – August) water clarity ranked “good” and phosphorus concentrations ranked “fair,” according to Wisconsin DNR criteria for shallow lakes.
2019 community projects & initiatives
- Town of Dunn passed an assessment to allow for the purchase of development rights for the purpose of preserving agricultural land and natural areas.
- Town of Dunn partnered with Lake Waubesa Conservation Association and Dane County Parks to offer a new leaf-collection site at Goodland County Park. This allowed an additional 780 cubic yards of leaves to be collected, bringing the total to 6,000 cubic yards of leaves for the 2019 season.
- Friends of Capital Springs Recreation Area received a Foundation for Dane County Parks grant to develop educational and interpretive resources for an outdoor space at the Lussier Family Heritage Center.
For an update on phosphorus reduction projects, see the State of the Lakes Annual Report.
Organizations supporting Lake Waubesa
The following groups work on water quality issues in the Lake Waubesa watershed. Consider contacting an organization near you to get involved and let us know if we have missed your group.
- City of Fitchburg
- Dane County
- Friends of Capital Springs Recreation Area
- Friends of Waubesa Wetlands
- Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District
- Public Health Madison & Dane County
- Yahara Pride Farms
- Yahara Watershed Improvement Network