Though Madison has five lakes in the city or just south of the city, it is usually called the City of Four Lakes. The four lakes are successive lakes of the Yahara River. In the summer, it’s great fun to launch a boat in Lake Mendota (“Fourth Lake”) and travel through the lakes and connecting waters passages, heading south past Lake Monona (“Third Lake”), Lake Waubesa (“Second Lake”), and into Lake Kegonsa (“First Lake”). The Yahara River eventually flows into the Rock River which eventually flows into the Mississippi. Lake Wingra, the fifth lake, is not a part of the Yahara system, though it is inside the city proper. Wingra, quite small, is mostly used for canoeing or fishing or just lake watching.
Downtown Madison is positioned between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, and the area is usually referred to as the Isthmus. As in “I’m going to the Isthmus” or occasionally one might say “I’m going to the Capitol” (which is smack dab in the middle of the isthmus). Only infrequently does one hear “I’m going downtown.” Every school kid in Madison grows up knowing what an isthmus is, and how to get to Madison’s Isthmus. Madison even has a newspaper called The Isthmus.
Of Madison’s 85 square miles, 81% is land and 19% is water. Lots of water fun in Madison.
Though right now, it’s more like lots of ice fun – skating, cross-country skiing on the snow covering the ice, kite sailing, and ice fishing for hardy souls.