Explore Lake Wisconsin & the Wisconsin River!
Lake Wisconsin is a reservoir on the Wisconsin River in southern Wisconsin in the United States. It is located in Columbia and Sauk counties, approximately 5 mi (8 km) southeast of Baraboo and 25 mi (40 km) NNW of Madison. Today it is home to the Wisconsin wine appellation of the Lake Wisconsin AVA.
When fishing, anglers can expect to catch a variety of fish including Bluegill, Lake Sturgeon, Largemouth Bass, Muskie, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass and Walleye.
It was formed by the construction of a dam at Prairie du Sac, which was begun in 1911 and completed in 1914. It is part of the Wisconsin River system of reservoirs. The lake has a maximum depth of 40 ft (12 m). It has a shoreline of 57 mi (90 km) and an area of 9500 acres (38 km²).
Its construction effectively ended the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway connection to the Mississippi River, although commercial traffic had ended decades before completion of the dam.
The lake provides flood control and is a popular destination for recreational boating and fishing. The Merrimac Ferry crosses the lake at Merrimac, Wisconsin.
The modern Wisconsin River was formed in several stages. The lower, westward-flowing portion of the river is located in the unglaciated Driftless Area, and this section of the river's course likely predates the rest by several million years. The lower reach of the river is narrower than its upstream valley, leading to the suggestion the upper portions of the ancestor of the river flowed east previous to the Pleistocene. The remaining length of the river was formed gradually as glaciers advanced and retreated over Wisconsin. The stretch of river from Stevens Point north to Merrill was a drainage route for meltwater flowing away from the glaciers which covered northern Wisconsin during the Wisconsin Glaciation. As the glaciers retreated further northward, the river also grew in that direction. South from Stevens Point, the meltwater would have flowed into Glacial Lake Wisconsin, a prehistoric proglacial lake that existed in the central part of the state. As temperatures warmed around 15,000 years ago, the ice dam holding the lake in place burst, unleashing a catastrophic flood that carved the Dells of the Wisconsin River and joined the upper stretches of the river with the pre-existing lower river valley that today flows from Portage to Prairie du Chien.
The Lower Wisconsin River State Riverway is a state-funded project designed to protect the southern portion of the Wisconsin River. It extends 93 miles (150 km) from Sauk City to the point where the Wisconsin River empties into the Mississippi, about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of the city of Prairie du Chien. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources manages protected lands of over 75,000 acres (300 km2), including the river itself, islands, and some lands adjacent to the river.
There are no dams or man-made obstructions to the natural flow of water between the hydroelectric dam just north of Sauk City and the confluence of the Wisconsin and the Mississippi. This long stretch of free-flowing river provides important natural habitats for a variety of wildlife, including white-tail deer, otter, beaver, turtles, sandhill cranes, eagles, hawks, and a variety of fish species.
Recreational opportunities on the lower Wisconsin River range from fishing and canoeing to tubing and camping. Canoe camping is particularly popular because of the abundance of suitable sandbars along the riverway and because no permits are required. On summer weekends, naturists can be found on Mazo Beach which is north of the village of Mazomanie. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, two thirds of river users can be found on the stretch between Prairie du Sac and Spring Green.