Lake Wingra

Lake Wingra

Lake Wingra is a small, shallow lake located in the City of Madison, and is connected to Lake Monona via Wingra (Murphy) Creek. The watershed is mostly urban but also includes the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.

Because of its urban environment, the lake faces many challenges, including excess nutrients and road salt (chloride) from urban runoff. The Lake Wingra Watershed Management Plan, adopted by partners in 2015, seeks to address these and other watershed issues.

Lake Wingra by the numbers

Lake Wingra Watershed
Lake Wingra Watershed
  • Watershed area: 3,456 acres
  • Surface area: 345 acres
  • Shoreline: 4 miles
  • Maximum depth: 21 feet
  • Mean depth: 9 feet
  • Flushing rate: 1.3 years

How was the water?

In 2018, total phosphorus levels were “good” and clarity conditions were on the border between “fair” and “good,” according to Wisconsin DNR criteria.

Water clarity (2018 data)

  • 3.0 feet or “fair/good” according to Department of Natural Resources criteria for shallow lakes
Lake Wingra 2018 Median Clarity Chart
Source Dr. R. Lathrop, UW Center for Limnology
Data WDNR (1975-1994), NTL-LTER (1995-2018)

Phosphorus levels (2018 data)

  • 0.056 mg/L or “good” according to Department of Natural Resources criteria for shallow lakes
Lake Wingra 2018 Median Phosphorus Chart
Source Dr. R. Lathrop, UW Center for Limnology
Data WDNR (1975-1994), NTL-LTER (1995-2018)

Beaches (2018 data)

  • Closed 24% of the time and open 76% of the time
  • 4 closure days due to cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)
  • 7 closure days due to E. coli bacteria
  • 0 closure days due to cyanobacteria and E. coli
  • 13 closure days due to flooding

According to data collected by Public Health Madison & Dane County, Lake Wingra’s beach was closed 11 times in 2018, primarily due to high E. coli levels. After August 20th, all the beaches were closed for the remainder of the season (August 21 – Labor Day) due to flood conditions.

What’s new on Lake Wingra?

Summer water quality conditions are linked to the success of the March 2008 carp removal from the lake. Prior to the carp removal, during 1996-2007, median summer phosphorus was 0.056 mg/L and clarity transparency was 2.0 ft. After the carp removal, during 2008-2017, median phosphorus and clarity were 0.034 mg/L and 3.7 feet, respectively. This is a major improvement for the shallow lake.

Stream bank stabilization at Wingra Park
Stream bank stabilization project at Wingra Park
Photo courtesy of City of Madison

2018 Lake Wingra projects

  • City of Madison added several new green infrastructure features during the 2018 Monroe Street reconstruction.
    • A large underground screen structure in Wingra Park to capture sediment and debris within the storm sewer system
    • Two bioretention systems to remove contaminants and sediment
    • A rock infiltration trench along the edge of Edgewood College to help stormwater infiltrate into the ground
    • Two rain gardens and 350 feet of stabilized shoreline on Wingra Creek
  • Friends of Lake Wingra is working with the City of Madison to implement the recommendations of the Lake Wingra Watershed Management Plan. The plan addresses water quality challenges such as chlorides, infiltration, and phosphorus runoff

Organizations supporting Lake Wingra

The following groups work on water quality issues in the Wingra watershed. Consider contacting an organization near you to get involved!

City of Madison
Dane County
Friends of Lake Wingra
Madison Water Utility
Public Health Madison & Dane County
Yahara Watershed Improvement Network

Read about the other lakes in the Yahara Watershed

Here’s how Lake Wingra faired in previous years: