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The Yahara Lakes Association (YLA) is a non-profit organization which works to improve and preserve the lakes and rivers in the Yahara chain of lakes in south central Wisconsin.

YLA is dedicated to representing waterfront property owners and advocating for the vitality of the Yahara chain of lakes so all citizens may enjoy them.

What does Yahara Lakes Association do?

  • Keep our members informed and involved in lake issues and events.

  • Take direct action and advocacy on lake, shoreline, and property issues.

  • Provide legislative representation and interaction with local and state officials.

  • Support and coordinate outreach and research on lake issues with farmers, government officials and communities.

Lake Mendota. Lake Monona.
Yahara River. Lake Waubesa. Lake Kegonsa.


Latest News -


    We find ourselves once again finding our lakes at near record levels after over 6 inches of rain in September. Even though there was a lot of good work done in the spring to develop a long-term plan to better manage our lake levels through enhancement of the flow of water out of the Yahara Lakes, the solution of dredging the Yahara River takes time. The plan to dredge the section from Lake Monona to Lake Waubesa has been pushed from this fall to the spring, but even that would only even out the levels between Lakes Monona and Waubesa. We won’t see any real gain in lake level management until we complete the dredging of the sections from Lake Waubesa to Lake Kegonsa. County Executive’s Parisi’s proposed 2020 budget has $5 million to start the dredging below Waubesa next fall. John Reimer will discuss this in more detail in our November newsletter. 
    So what can we expect for lake levels for the rest of the fall? The good news is the aquatic plants have pretty much died off in the Yahara river so the flow out of Lake Waubesa has increased from the paltry 250-300 cubic feet per second (CFS) that we saw all summer to just below 700 CFS currently. So a significant jump in flow! I think the movement last fall is instructive for this year. Lake Mendota (at 851.2 on 10/14/19) was at 851.5 on October 1st last fall but dropped to 849.7 by the end of November for nearly a 2 ft drop in 2 months. Lake Monona (847.27 at 10/14/19) was at 847.5 on October 1st 2018 but was at 845.7 on November 30, 2018, so nearly a 1.8 ft drop in two months. We should see similar movement this year. Just remember the county tries to bring the lakes down by starting at the upper lakes and working down, so don’t be surprised to see Lake Mendota coming down faster than lakes Monona and Waubesa. 
    Dan Schultz
    Chairman, YLA Lake Level and Flow Committee

  2. Lake Monona is cresting today, and Lake Mendota has risen nearly 4” and continues to rise. Dane County Land & Water Resources will increase the outflow from Lake Mendota into Lake Monona today, which could raise the water level on Lake Monona up to 1”. At this time, the level of Lake Monona is at 847.65. A 1" rise will result in a level slightly above the 100-year flood level. Property owners should assess their shoreline to determine if they need to add sandbags. Sand, bags, and plastic are available at Oneida Park and Healy Park parking lot for residents to use. The City will continue to supply these materials as needed.

  3. A Slow-no-wake order was issued for Lakes Monona and Waubesa effective immediately. Lake flooding is not a risk at this time, but higher water levels can increase risks to piers and shorelines so the slow, no wake orders will be in effect until further notice. The Dane County Sheriff's Office will be enforcing the slow, no wake orders. For additional information click here!

  4. Leaf-Free Streets for Clean Waters — The cooler temperatures may signal an end to boating and swimming season, but fall is the perfect time to take action to protect our waters! Did you know that more that 50% of the annual amount of phosphorus in urban stormwater can come from leaves in the street! When it rains, stormwater flows through leaf piles in streets creating a “leaf tea” that is rich in dissolved phosphorus. This “leaf tea” travels through storm sewers making its way to our lakes, rivers, and streams. Too much phosphorus can lead to toxic algae blooms, low oxygen levels and green murky waters, none of which are good for animals living in the water or those of us who us it for recreation. Simply removing street leaves before the rain can greatly reduce the amount of phosphorus that reaches our waters each fall!

    You can help! Before the rain…..

    1. Safely remove leaves from the street in front of your home and nearby storm drains.

    2. Follow your community’s guidelines for leaf collection or recycle leaves on your property. Many communities offer curbside leaf pick up or free access to yard waste drop off sites.

    3. Sign up to receive Leaf-free Streets Rain Alerts this fall (Oct. 1 - Nov. 30). Alerts are issued 1-2 days before a significant rain event reminding you that it’s time to remove street leaves. ***This program is only available to Dane County residents or businesses.***

    4. Place a Leaf-free Streets for Clean Waters sign in your front yard this fall. Let others know you are taking action to protect area waters and invite them to join the Leaf-free Streets effort. To request a free sign contact Christal Campbell.

    We also have a Leaf-free Streets Partner Toolkit with new resources that groups and neighborhood associations can use to help engage their communities and spread the word. If you are part of a neighborhood association or other group we invite you to check it out.

    For more information visit the Ripple Effects website or contact Christal Campbell at campbell.christal@countyofdane.com

  5. A Slow-no-wake order was issued for Squaw Bay effective as of sunrise Saturday, July 20th. Since then the Dane County sheriffs  have stopped several boaters who say they  were not aware of it. So they have asked us to remind you of it again below. Please pass the word on to your friends  For additional information click here!

Visit Our News & Events

For news, updates, events, and details regarding the Yahara Lake Association, visit our blog page.

Members receive regular updates to the content with our weekly newsletters - make sure to activate your membership today!

Yahara Lakes Blog


Yahara Lakes

The Yahara Lakes Association is led by a Board of Directors elected by our members. Our directors are all lake property owners who share the common goal of improving our lake experience and they actively serve on a variety of lake-oriented committees and boards on your behalf.

Through your membership, you’ll gain access to lake information alerts and members-only events.

Why join YLA?

  • YLA is the only organization focused on Yahara waterfront property owners’ interests and issues.

  • YLA is your community watchdog, working in unity with local and state organizations to improve your lake living experience.

  • Your membership will continue to strengthen our collective YLA voice.


Sign up for a membership today and become a part of our lakefront community. You’ll receive access to newsletters with information you should know as a lakefront property owner as well as volunteer opportunities to help keep our lakes clean in order for everyone to enjoy!


Thank You To Our Sponsors


The Yahara Lakes

The Yahara River is 62 miles long and connects lakes Kegonsa, Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Wingra in a chain that winds through south-central Wisconsin.

Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

The first and the largest lake in the chain of Yahara lakes, Lake Mendota. Mendota is known for it’s ongoing studies and is considered the most studied lake in the United States. Lake Mendota has five maintained beaches by the City of Madison, three of which staff lifeguards.


Lake Monona

Lake Monona

Lake Monona surrounds the south side of Madison’s isthmus and is lined with homes and condominiums. The word “Monona” comes from the Chippewa word, believed to mean beautiful.


Lake Wingra

Lake Wingra

The smallest of the Yahara lakes, Lake Wingra is connected to Lake Monona via the Wingra Creek and is technically a part of the Yahara watershed. This shallow lake encounters many challenges due to excess nutrients and road salt from urban run off.


Lake Waubesa

Lake Waubesa

The third lake in the Yahara chain is Lake Waubesa with a surface area of slightly over 2,000 acres, flowing south from Lake Monona through Upper Mud Lake. The north end is surrounded by the Capital Spring State Recreation Area and features the newly built Yahara River Trail and bike-pedestrian bridge.


Lake Kegonsa

Lake Kegonsa

The final lake in the chain of Yahara lakes is Lake Kegonsa, which is one of the shallower lakes. Lake Kegonsa State Park boarders the northeastern shore, filled with prairie, forest and marsh habitats.


Lake levels and flooding are important to stay ahead of. All lakes, rivers, and creeks have watersheds and the Yahara watershed is 281 square miles of wetlands, urban development, and farmland. Rain falling into those 281-square miles flows downstream and eventually ends up in the Yahara lakes.

There was an interesting article published by the University of Wisconsin Madison Center for Limnology, titled How a 30-Year Rain Event Became a 100-Year Flood.

“People like living on lakes. And, once they’re there, they also like having access to the lakes, which means a pier and a boat and maybe a little beach or swimming area and, most important, consistent water levels. 

But consistently high water levels in Lake Mendota come with a cost. When we get a big rain, the lake doesn’t have the capacity to take that extra load in. It’s already so high that the only thing city officials can do is open the lock and dam and let the excess run downstream.”

For up-to-date lake level information, visit the Dane County L:and & Water Resources Department website.


Community Events

The following are events supported by the Yahara Lakes Assocation.


Yahara Lakes 101 “Suck the Muck” Edition with Dane County Executive Joe Parisi

Join the Clean Lakes Alliance, Land & Water Resources Department staff, and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi for an insiders look at the "Suck the Muck" project at Token Creek County Park.

 Thick layers of eroded soil cover the natural stream bed in Token Creek. These sediments contain excessive amounts of phosphorus which contribute to algae blooms in Lake Mendota.

 In this month's Yahara Lakes 101 talk, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Assistant Director of Land & Water Resources Department John Reimer will talk about this project. Attendees will get to see the phosphorus-laden sediment islands firsthand and learn about the removal process. Ultimately, this project will divert thousands of pounds of phosphorus from entering our lakes.

Event Details
Token Creek County Park
September 24, 2019
5:00 – 6:00 pm
Admission is FREE for all attendees. Online registration is requested.

Click here for full event details and to register.

Stake in the Lake

Take a Stake in the Lakes

Year Round

The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department offers a number of volunteer opportunities that help protect and improve our natural, cultural, and historic resources. The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department also advertises and supports volunteer opportunities offered by other groups that are working to do the same.



Lake Contacts

Sheriff’s Office, DNR Violations and Other Important Contacts can be found here.



Lake Links

Interested in learning more about our wonderful lakes?
Visit this discovery page to explore our directory of various lake-related links.