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A unique blend of a lake that occupies 3,200 acres and a 342-acre forest makes Lake Kegonsa State Park one of the best recreational parks for outdoor lovers in Madison.
You can engage in all sorts of activities in Lake Kegonsa State Park: camping, fishing, boating, kayaking, scuba diving, bird watching, picnicking, hiking, cycling-you name it.
Complete Guide to Lake Kegonsa State Park
Lake Kegonsa State Park is a popular tourist destination throughout the year and when planning for a visit, ensure you have a few days to enjoy the utmost outdoor experience on lake Kegonsa State Park.
History – The Formation of Lake Kegonsa
Lake Kegonsa (where the park derives its name) is the highlight of the park and it has an interesting story about its formation process. The lake exists as part of the 4 lakes in the Madison area; Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa, Lake Mendota, and Lake Kegonsa.
The formation of the lakes started during the last ice age. 4 giant glaciers originated from Canada and glided into the northern part of the US. The Wisconsin Glacier was the largest of these glaciers and it occupied most parts of the state, blanketing parks, rivers, and valleys. Eventually, it settled on the moraine south of Lake Kegonsa and the melting process began.
As the glacier melted, it also retreated and carried a lot of sand and gravel into the old valley and left behind tons of glacial rocks on the park’s grounds. These rocks got compacted over time, creating barriers and boulders that became the walls for the 4 dams.
The four lakes are connected by the Yahara River, with Lake Kegonsa being the shallower of them.
The native Indians who occupied these lands are the people responsible for giving the Lake its current name. Kegonsa means ‘the lake of many fishes’ in the Winnebago dialect and true to its name, fishing on the lake is one of the most prolific activities up to date.
The early European settlers referred to the lake as the First Lake because it was the first lake they came across as they ventured up north into Madison.
Things to do In Lake Kegonsa State park
Water sports, camping, hiking, beach lounging, picnicking and a horde of other outdoor fun wait at the park.
Camping in Lake Kegonsa State Park
There are family and group campgrounds here. You may reserve your campsite online or drive into the park and get one on a first-come, first-served basis.
Family Campground at Lake Kegonsa State Park
There are 96 campsites here in the family campground section. Most of the sites here are heavily wooded. 68 campsites can be reserved online while the others are available for walk-ins. The campground contains two electrical campsites reserved for people with disabilities. Shower facilities are wheelchair-accessible.
The campsites are a mixture of tent camping, RV camping, and trailer camping. Make sure you inquire about bringing your rig to camp here when reserving your spot because sometimes they regulate the number of wheeled units that can camp at the same time.
Other amenities present in this campground include drinking water, flush toilets, three vault toilets, garbage bins, dump station, and shower facilities. The dump station is usually closed during May and October, so make inquiries before you book a spot.
There are 6 large camping sites here and each site can hold up to 20 campers at a time. Only tent campers are allowed. RV campers, pop-ups, and trailer campers should book their spot on the family campground.
The sites on the group campground are not very wheelchair-friendly. Parking is limited to 6 cars on each camping site, although you can get other parking options close to the beach.
There is a common playground and picnic area where campers can play volleyball and other games. A sand volleyball court has been erected for that purpose and balls are provided for free by the park’s management.
Other amenities in the group campground include drinking water, a picnic shelter, picnic tables, and fire rings, restroom vaults, a dump station, recycling centers, and garbage bins. The boat landing is close to the upper picnic area, just a few meters from the campground.
There are spacious campsites for people seeking to visit and stay in a motor home. However, some people have reported having issues trying to park rigs larger than 40′, especially when trying to access the dump station. Some tracks may be a bit tight to maneuver with a big rig.
Other options for RV campers in Lake Kegonsa State Park
If you are apprehensive about driving your rig into the park, you can opt to stay at other camping grounds that are RV-friendly close to the park.
This campground is located just out of Stoughton City. They have water and electrical hookups with pull-through sites, a basketball court, a playground, and a swimming pool. You can easily access the Park from this camping ground. Pets are allowed but they must be on a leash at all times.
Creek view RV Park
Creek view is a partially wooded RV Park located just outside of Edgerton. All camping sites here have water and electrical hookups. There is a common dumping station. Golf lovers can explore the adjacent Creek golf course.
Blackhawk Camping Resort
This is located on Clear Lake, Milton. Water and electrical hookups are also available here. Other amenities you have access to here include shower facilities, laundry facilities, swimming pools, restrooms, a picnic area, and a playground.
Firewood Sales at Lake Kegonsa State Park
You will buy your firewood from the concessionaire during the weekend and you are expected to follow the Wisconsin State Park firewood facts, rules, and advice whenever you are camping here. You are not allowed to carry firewood into the park. Cutting down trees for firewood is also prohibited.
Lake Kegonsa State Park Water Sports
Yes – Lake Kegonsa State Pak is on the water – that makes it so fantastic for your watersport activities!
Fishing at Lake Kegonsa State Park
You will find excellent fishing opportunities within Lake Kegonsa all year round. Some local vendors sell or lease fishing boats and other equipment (bait, anglers, for example) near the Lake. Wisconsin State’s fishing and angling policies apply while fishing in Lake Kegonsa and a fishing license is required.
Panfish, smallmouth bass, and Walleyes are in abundance in the Lake. Although fishing happens all year round, the best time to go fishing on Kegonsa would be from April through September. During this time, you are assured of a good harvest.
If you visit the park during the winter season, you will be presented with excellent ice fishing opportunities. The water in the lake is abundant with panfish during this period. When ice fishing, always check with the park’s office because they do not guarantee the safety of the ice.
Things may change quickly when ice fishing and you should always take precautions when engaging in this activity.
Fish can be easily found in weed beds or rock bars. You have to know where to look though. In May, Walleyes are common in those beds, and in June, look out for bluegills as they come to the shallow waters to spawn. Later on in the month, you can catch other fish (perch, bass, crappie) as well. In the summer (as it gets warmer), you can find northern pikes in the Lake.
Lake Kegonsa’s State Park Swimming
Swimming is a common activity in Lake Kegonsa. The shoreline on the beach offers excellent swimming opportunities. There are concession stands where you can rent out swimming gear or other equipment (boats, kayaks, etc.).
Note that there are no lifeguards on duty at the lake, so exercise caution while swimming here. There are designated picnic and lounge areas next to the beach for relaxing after you have had a good swim. There is a bathhouse near the beach.
We put together a Wisconsin State Parks Bucket List Free Printable for you – to keep track of all the state parks and nature areas you visit. Get it here: Crazy Camping Girl FREE Wisconsin State Parks Bucket ListDownload
The Beach at Lake Kegonsa State Park
There are two sections of beaches in Lake Kegonsa State Park: The Dog Beach and the Main Beach. The Dog Beach is a section of the beach that has been set aside specifically for dogs and dog lovers. Dogs are not allowed on the main beach.
The dog beach is well-marked with swim areas in the shallow waters (for smaller dogs) and a wooden jetty from where dogs can dive into the deeper waters. You are advised to keep your dog on a leash (unless when swimming) to prevent them from wandering into the other sections of the beach.
Boating, Canoeing, and Kayaking on Lake Kegonsa
There is a boat launch at the southern part of the park and from here, you can join your friends for a kayaking expedition. Boating, canoeing, and kayaking are popular activities on Lake Kegonsa State Park all year around. Boat rentals and supplies are available about a quarter-mile upriver from the inlet of Yahara River into Lake Kegonsa.
Lake Kegonsa State Park Nature
There are lots of natural wonders to explore in this park. The Woodlands, wetlands, and prairies provide rich grounds for all types of wildlife, birds, and natural vegetation to thrive.
Wildlife at Lake Kegonsa State Park
You will spot different types of animals as you hike or camp inside the park. The most common ones are ground squirrels, cottontail rabbits, chipmunks, fox squirrels, gray squirrels, red fox, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and muskrats.
You may also see turtles, especially close to the marshy areas. Be on the lookout for garter snakes and red-bellied snakes as well. They might not be poisonous but you may want to avoid a confrontation all the same. All types of toads can be found in the marshy sections of the park.
When taking a hike inside the park (on the wetlands and marshy areas), be sure to carry a bug repellent. There are numerous flies, wasps, and even spiders here. Although most of the spiders are not poisonous, try to maintain their natural habitat intact.
Bird watching is another common activity within the park. There are numerous local bird species that call this park home. Others birds come during the migration period. The main migration periods are from mid-March to mid-May and Mid-August to mid-October. Birds come here to nest before the next migration season.
Some of the local birds you are guaranteed to see while you are here include horned larks, kingbirds, sparrows, pheasants, bobolinks, and crows. At the shores of Lake Kegonsa, you will observe different types of ducks including geese, grebes, and ducks.
Lake Kegonsa State Park Prairies
The prairie section of Lake Kegonsa State Park is home to beautiful flowers and plants. When these flowers are blooming, they create an amazing hue that presents the opportunity to have one of the most amazing photo experiences. When visiting this section, observe the park’s rules on environmental preservation.
Hiking at Lake Kegonsa State Park
There are many hiking trails in this park and they all take you through a diverse habitat; marshlands, woodlands, shoreline, beach, and the forest.
The Prairie Trail – Length: 1.3 miles
This trail is amazing during the summer season when the prairies are in full bloom. It is a great hiking trail for bird watchers and prairie lovers. The wildflowers on this trail are stunning, presenting excellent photograph opportunities.
The trail starts at the parking lot close to the park’s office, connects with other trails close to the group camping ground before looping back to the park near the Creek Road.
Bluebird Trail – Length: 0.3 miles
This is a short trail in the southern section of the park. This trail takes you through grassland, before connecting with the prairie trail in the north, and then looping back to the upper picnic area. It is a moderate trail you can easily explore with your kids.
The White Oak Trail – Length: 1.2 Miles
The White Oak Trail is located in the northern part of the park, close to the Indian Mounds and the Pine plantation. It takes you through a variety of habitats, looping around 80 acres of white oak trees, following a gently sloping terrain.
The trail is close to the Family camping ground. There are numerous stops along the way, where you get to see various attractions and learn more about the vegetation and nature of the park.
The Indian Mounds site is one of the main pit stops on this trail. You will learn more about how these mounds were built and for what purpose. This White Oak Trail is a great trail for bird and nature lovers.
The lush landscape, walking under the canopy of giant Oaks, the wildflowers, and the serenity of this trail is unparalleled. During the winter season, the trail can be a bit snowy and it gets muddy in some sections after a downpour. You are likely to encounter deer and other small animals going about their business along the trail.
Oak Knoll Trail – Length: 0.8 miles
This is a moderate trail that takes you through a short grassland and into an Oak-wooded section before looping back to end close to the boat launch area.
Wetland boardwalk trail – Length: 0.1 miles
This is a short trail that takes you to the wildlife viewing platform. From this platform, you get to enjoy a variety of birds and a beautiful shorefront sighting. This is a popular trail with bird watchers. The wetland is also home to thousands of beautiful blue damselflies and green dragonflies.
The Lakeshore trail – Length: 0.5 miles
The Lakeshore trail offers you the best views of the lake in the park. You will start your walk close to the boat landing (next to the picnic area in the South) and go past the Fish pier and the beach. The trail ends at the playground near where the Bluebird Trail begins.
Insects, bugs, and spiders inside the park
When hiking through the park, you are always advised to carry a bug repellent and be on the lookout for bugs that can cause irritations or infections on your skin. Most of the spider species in the park are harmless (Thank God!). You may come across garden spiders such as wolf spiders and jumping spiders. Do not be tempted to disturb them even if they are harmless.
There are beautiful insects here too, and you will see thousands of beautiful butterflies as you take a hike. If you are a butterfly/moth enthusiast, some of the species you can see here include Wisconsin’s largest moth – the cecropia, the Promethea, Polyphemus, Luna, Tiger moths, hawk moths, and Underwing moths.
Wasps, bees, large beetles, and flies are also common here.
Reptiles and amphibians at Lake Kegonsa State Park
Be keen on where you step while hiking here, especially if you decide to deviate from the pre-determined walk paths. There are several snake species here, and although most are non-poisonous, steer from their path if you come across one. Some of the common snake species you can find here include brown and red-bellied snakes, garters, and milk snakes.
Besides snakes, you are likely to see other amphibians including toads and all types of frogs. Soft-shelled turtles, snapping turtles, painted turtles, and Blandings can also be found in the park, particularly in the marshy sections.
Hunting and Trapping inside Lake Kegonsa State Park
Archery hunting is allowed in the park, at specific times of the year, and in the open areas of the park. Gun hunting is NOT ALLOWED. Trapping is not allowed within 100 yards of designated use areas or in closed areas. You should inquire more from the park’s office about this. Trapping on any of the hiking trails is also prohibited.
Click to see the Hunting and trapping map in Lake Kegonsa State Park.
Deer hunting is the most popular hunting activity, although you can still try catching other small animals during the hunting season. The varied landscapes, terrains, and ground cover make hunting a very exciting adventure.
Picnicking and Shelters in Lake Kegonsa State Park
Picnic areas are scattered throughout the park. There are 5 picnic areas and two shelters here. All picnic areas are situated close to the playgrounds. Volleyball courts have been erected. You can get free balls for the game from the park’s office. Tables and fire pits have also been erected on these designated picnic areas.
Water is available at each shelter and every shelter comes with a standard electrical outlet. The shelters are reservable online and others are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Governor Nelson State Park in Winter
A visit in the winter is a little different than the summer but all the more adventurous. Activities range from snowshoeing to cross country skiing – both diagonal-style and skate skiing.
Winter Hiking and Recreation Activities
Hiking is allowed on all trails during the winter season. The trails are usually converted into cross-country skiing courses. Snowshoeing, skiing, and sledding are popular activities on these trails during the winter.
Sledding can be difficult when under icy conditions as the icing becomes thin with use. When the trails get groomed for winter sports, they are open for skiing only, so you do not have to worry about bumping into hikers along the way.
The concession stands (and the park’s office) rent out skiing gear as well. Trails for skate skiers are groomed and trails for diagonal-stride skiers are tracked. These winter trails can be found along the lakeshore, the wetland, and through the wooden areas of the park. ATVs and snowmobiles are not allowed into the park during this time.
Note: Dogs are allowed on all of the trails in this park, apart from the White Oak Nature Trail.
Open Times and Fees
Lake Kegonsa State Park is open year-round from 6 am to 11 pm daily. When driving into the park, a Wisconsin State Park vehicle admission sticker is required. You can purchase the sticker online here.
Directions to Lake Kegonsa State Park
From Madison, take Highway 12 E and turn right onto the County Highway AB. From here, turn into MN and then right onto Door Creek Road. The Door Creek Road will take you to the Park.
Attractions Near Lake Kegonsa State Park
When camping inside the park, you should take time to explore some of the other attractions close to the region.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Distance from Lake Kegonsa State Park: 9.5 miles
More information: http://www.olbrich.org/
Olbrich Botanical Gardens have a mission to protect all types of plants and flowers. There are 16 acres of the sunken garden, a rose garden, a herb garden, and a garden full of amazing wildflowers. The gardens are owned by the Madison Parks as a non-profit venture, alongside the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Take a guided tour on the premises to learn more about thousands of different flower and plant species and their contribution to the ecosystem. Later, visit the Boltz Conservancy to see the 50-foot high glass (Thai Pavilion) pyramid that houses a variety of tropical plants, a waterfall, and several bird species.
Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center
Distance from Lake Kegonsa State Park: 9.9 miles
More information: https://www.mononaterrace.com/
The Monona Terrace Community and convention center opened its doors to the public in 1997. Today, this is a popular tourist attraction. Conventions, conferences, public events, festivities, and many other activities happen occasionally inside this center.
You will learn about the unique architectural designs (breathtaking curvilinear views, and a gallery) by Frank Lloyd Wright. The process of commissioning and building the center took over 60 years and once you visit here, you will learn about the historical significance of the center to the people of Madison.
Distance from the Park: 7.2 miles
More information: https://paddlepub.com/madison/
The paddle pub offers you a unique (and different) wining and dining experience. It is a pedal and cruise, 16 passenger party boat on Lake Monona.
You get to experience the city on the open water while enjoying your favorite people in the company of like-minded adventure seekers. The boat is available for rental for all kinds of events, including birthday parties, corporate tours, and private tours.
Livsreise Norwegian Heritage Center
Distance from the Lake: 4.3 Miles
More information: https://www.livsreise.org/
Located in Downtown Stoughton, the Livsreise heritage center was set up to commemorate the journey Norwegian immigrants traveled as they embraced their Norwegian heritage in Stoughton and across the US. It allows visitors to learn more about the Norwegian identity in the city and understand more about their cultural and natural heritage.
Explore Golfing in Madison
If you love golfing, you can explore some of the excellent golf courses that are available in Madison city. Some of the popular golf courses here include the Glenway Golf Course, the Odana Hills Golf Course, Yahara Hills Golf course, and the Monona Golf course. Inquire at the park’s office for more information and directions to these golf courses within the city.
Restaurants Near Lake Kegonsa State Park
Due to its proximity to Madison and Stoughton cities, Lake Kegonsa State Park offers visitors an opportunity to sample some of the beautiful restaurants located in downtown Madison and Stoughton.
Springers of Lake Kegonsa – Style: American
Location: 3097 Sunnyside Street Stoughton, WI
This is a quaint little pub that offers you the perfect opportunity to enjoy a few drinks as you get entertained. You can sit on the large patio and enjoy uninterrupted views of the lake as you wait for your favorite American snack to be ready.
Tornado Steak House – Style: Classic American Steakhouse
Location: 116 South Hamilton Street, Madison, WI, 53703
Enjoy delicious steak in one of the tasteful restaurants in Madison. They also offer a variety of fresh seafood and oysters delivered from the lakes close to the town. The staff is friendly and very hospitable in a classic Midwestern kind of way.
Viking Brewpub – Style: Brewpub
Built to reflect the Viking style, this is a must-visit location for beer lovers. The unique interior architecture makes this one of the most unique restaurants in Stoughton. It is a brewpub, which means you will be getting your beer freshly brewed. Their food menu features Scandinavian cuisine as well, to wrap everything around the Viking image nicely.
Hotels Near Lake Kegonsa State Park
For those who love exploring the wild but dread spending the night in a tent, here are some of the best hotels you can stay in close to Lake Kegonsa State Park.
Best Western Premier Park Hotel
Directions: 22 S Carroll Street, Madison, WI, 53703
Best Western Premier Park is also another luxury hotel in Madison. You will have access to a swimming pool, free WiFi, air conditioning, spa, and laundry facilities. You will be right in the middle of all Madison action and within a short distance to most of the attractions in, and around Lake Kegonsa State Park.
Hotel Tranquility Way, Stoughton
Located 16 minutes away from Lake Kegonsa State Park and just a minute’s walk from Lake Kegonsa, Tranquility Way Hotel is a water-front guesthouse that is worth checking out when visiting Lake Kegonsa.
Amenities available here include a microwave, full-size refrigerator, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and a fire pit. If you love golfing, Yahara golf course and farm golf courses are close to this hotel.
Hyatt Place Madison Downtown
Directions: 333 W Washington Ave, Madison, WI, 53703
This is the perfect hotel for people seeking to visit the outdoors in absolute luxury. Hyatt hotels are renowned for their impeccable hospitality, professionalism, and perfectionism.
They have amazing rooms which come with equally amazing amenities. You get a queen or king-sized bed that also comes with a sofa bed, flat-screen TVs, room service, mini-bar, and many other extras.