News from the Marsh

December 2007

Jan Axelson


Last summer, over 15 inches of rain fell in the rainiest August on record. Lake Mendota rose over a foot and a half above the target summer maximum level recommended by the DNR.

In times of normal rainfall, Dane County manages Lake Mendota’s level by controlling the flow in the Yahara River at the Tenney Park dam. But the river can only carry so much water, and when the rains are heavy, the lake levels rise.

This year, Lake Mendota remained over its target maximum level for 74 days, from August 18 to October 31. The lake levels would have been even higher if not for the wetlands of Cherokee Marsh, which absorb rainfall and runoff before it reaches the river and lakes.

In other news, the Friends of Cherokee Marsh ventured out in canoes this fall and harvested several pounds of American lotus seeds for Madison Parks to use in future plantings.

Lotus has been one of the most successful plantings in the restoration efforts in the marsh. The plants help catch sediment, lessen damaging wave action, and help keep chunks of the banks from breaking off and floating downstream during high water. Lotus plants have large, fragrant, pale yellow blossoms on stalks that can rise several feet over the water.

To find out if the restoration plantings in the marsh are attracting fish, university students surveyed minnows in four habitats in the marsh. The survey found many bluegill minnows hanging around the restoration plantings and few minnows in other areas surveyed. The students were from the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison.

To find out more about Cherokee Marsh and upcoming events in and around the marsh, visit the Friends of Cherokee Marsh website at