What to do in Governor Nelson State Park

Comprised of 422 acres of land and 10,000 Lake Mendota acres, Governor Nelson State Park rests within view of Madison's skyline and the State Capitol. As one of Wisconsin's newest state parks, the popular day use facility boasts ancient Native American effigy mounds, including 358-foot -long panther, bird and conical mounds.

Governor Nelson State Park is located on Madison's largest of five metro lakes offering a variety of day use activities including three hiking trails that explore several habitats including upland oak woodlands, oak Savanna, and restored prairie.

Water-oriented sports include unlimited horsepower boating, sailboarding, sailing, swimming, and pet swimming. The 500-foot beach is flanked by new breakwalls, which have found favor with shoreline anglers enabling them to reach deeper waters. Lake depths average 10 feet with areas dipping 20 feet. Pan fish are the most popular catch with small and largemouth bass, crappie, and perch increasing in numbers. Walleye, pike and muskie were stocked several years back and are being taken as well. A fish cleaning station can be found above the four-lane launching ramp. Check with local bait shops and park officials for best seasons and specific hotspot locations.

From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day the park offers an unguarded 500-foot sand beach with changing house, solar-powered showers and children's playground. Just north of the beach, down a woodchip path, pets have their own beach. The park's picnic area includes playground equipment, tables, grills, and restrooms. Also offered during the warm summer months are weekly nature programs geared for children and their parents. Details are posted on the park bulletin boards and may be obtained at the park office.

Governor Nelson State Park has four wide and unsurfaced hiking trails. Several steep slopes, but primarily level ground, explore the park's old hardwood forests.

In winter, the park welcomes ice fishing and cross-country skiing. Four miles of groomed track are provided.

The park is open all year from 6 AM to 11 PM.

Recreation
Day use recreation includes pet swimming, sunbathing, swimming, power boating, sailing, sailboarding, hiking, picnicking, nature study, viewing ancient Native American mounds, fishing, and cross-country skiing.

Location
Governor Nelson State Park is located in Southeast Wisconsin, Dane County on the northwest shore of Lake Mendota.

Climate
Southeast Wisconsin has four distinct seasons with warm summers and long winters. January's average temperature is above 16 degrees F (-9 degrees C). Average July temperature is 85 degrees F (29 degrees C). During summer, temperatures can climb to above 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). The area's average yearly precipitation ranges from 32-34". Annual snowfalls in the Southeast Region can range from 20 - 50". Dressing in layers is a good way to remain comfortable in Wisconsin.

Address
5140 Cty. Hwy. M
Waunakee, WI 53597

Phone: 608-831-3005

  • Governor Nelson State Park Travel Q&A

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