Upper Mud Lake, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
Upper Mud Lake, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
Upper Mud Lake (804000)
217.95 Acres
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin Natural Communities.
Shallow Lowland
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of monitoring data stored in SWIMS. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
This lake is impaired
PFOS Contaminated Fish Tissue
Trout Water 
Trout Waters are represented by Class I, Class II or Class III waters. These classes have specific ecological characteristics and management actions associated with them. For more information regarding Trout Classifications, see the Fisheries Trout Class Webpages.
Outstanding or Exceptional 
Wisconsin has designated many of the state's highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an 'antidegradation' policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality - especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value.
Impaired Water 
A water is polluted or 'impaired' if it does not support full use by humans, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life and it is shown that one or more of the pollutant criteria are not met.

Fish and Aquatic Life

Current Use
The use the water currently supports. This is not a designation or classification; it is based on the current condition of the water. Information in this column is not designed for, and should not be used for, regulatory purposes.
Shallow Lowland
Shallow lowland lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.
Attainable Use
The use that the investigator believes the water could achieve through managing "controllable" sources. Beaver dams, hydroelectric dams, low gradient streams, and naturally occurring low flows are generally not considered controllable. The attainable use may be the same as the current use or it may be higher.
Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
Designated Use
This is the water classification legally recognized by NR102 and NR104, Wis. Adm. Code. The classification determines water quality criteria and effluent limits. Waters obtain designated uses through classification procedures.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


Upper Mud Lake This shallow, fertile 256-acre lake between Lakes Monona and Waubesa, Upper Mud is entirely surrounded by 1,000 acres of wetlands. In fact, the lake was formed by a railroad grade crossing a marsh at the inlet of the Yahara River to Lake Waubesa. The wetlands provide good spawning areas for northern pike in the Monona-Waubesa lakes and an excellent stopover for migratory waterfowl. The lake's watershed is 11.5 square miles, and contains portions of the town of Blooming Grove and the cities of Monona and Madison. Increased polluted runoff from new development is a concern that should be addressed.

One perennial stream (Penitto Creek) exists in this subwatershed. Past monitoring on the stream has identified the presence of Gammarus sp. indicating groundwater seepage and “very good” water quality based on a biotic index classification system (Marshall, 1990). a project to remove sediments and stabilize Penitto Creek is underway.

Dredging of wetlands associated with the construction of the South Beltline Highway in Monona and Madison altered Upper Mud Lake's fish habitat. A 25-acre wetland restoration project to mitigate wetlands lost or destroyed by the beltline project has been completed in the lake's watershed. Very good fishing has been reported in some of the deep holes left by the dredging.

Boat traffic through Upper and Lower Mud lakes between Lakes Waubesa and Monona is heavy during the entire open water season. Wetlands of Upper Mud Lake are negatively affected by fast boat traffic through the open water areas. Fast boat traffic degrades established wetland vegetation and stirs the lake's sediment which reduces water clarity and inhibits the establishment of wetland plants. Fewer wetland plants means fewer nutrients taken up by aquatic plants, and thus, more phosphorus and nitrogen are available for use by algae. The stirring of bottom sediment and degradation of wetland plants by boat traffic is a serious water quality issue that should be addressed. The Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission worked to pass a proposal for a “no wake” zone on all Madison waterbodies within 200 feet of the shoreline. This proposal should be implemented as it would protect existing vegetation, reduce accidents and hazards in nearshore areas, reduce shoreline erosion, and maintain or help improve water quality.

A pothole wetland located near the northeast corner of the intersection of Vondron and Femrite Roads was identified as a high quality wetland by the 1990 UW-Water Resource Management Workshop. Migratory waterfowl make use of the lake and its wetlands in spring and fall. Because of its location between Monona and Waubesa, the fish consumption advisory should probably be observed on this lake as well.

In the stretch of the Yahara River connecting Upper Mud Lake to Lake Waubesa, which is located in the town of Dunn, archaeologists have identified the “Dyreson Fish Weir,” a structure constructed by prehistoric Native Americans that may be associated with a mound-building culture known to exist on the adjacent banks at one time. This site is currently being nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and is only one of 10 known ancient fish weirs in the state.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist


This wetland complex lies on either side of Upper Mud Lake between Lakes Waubesa and Monona. Portions of the original marsh have been filled in for development or have been otherwise disturbed by urban activities; other parts show evidence of past attempts to drain it. In the late 1980s the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) built a six-lane highway through a portion of the marsh to ease traffic congestion. The construction resulted in some wetland destruction, but other wetland areas were restored (about 25 acres) or created to compensate for the areas lost. Studies have shown, however, that the type of wetland lost, primarily wet meadow, have been replaced or mitigated with deep water marsh. These different habitat types support different wetland plants and perform somewhat different functions.

The Upper Mud Lake wetlands complex is diverse, ranging from shallow marsh with large monotypic cattail stands, to disturbed wet meadows with shrub willow stands. The large monotypic cattail stands may not provide adequate spawning areas for northern pike. A number of waterfowl/wildlife ponds were constructed as part of DOT mitigation to increase habitat diversity. Some of these ponds have been adversely affected by polluted urban runoff. The most serious threat to wetland water quality in the Upper Mud Lake complex is from construction site erosion and urban stormwater runoff from the South Beltline and the city of Monona.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Source: 1985, Surface Water Resources of Dane County,WI: WI-DNR Upper Mud Lake - T7N, R10E, Sec. 28

This shallow, fertile lake was formed by a railroad grade crossing the marsh at the inlet of the Yahara River to Lake Waubesa. The lake is entirely surrounded by timber marsh, shallow marsh, and wet meadow and provides excellent spawning habitat for game fishes. Migrating waterfowl frequent the lake. The Yahara River is thesource of a large, constant flow of nutrients into the lake. Water quality is poor and aquatic vegetation is dense, limiting recreational potential. Upper Mud Lake supports a good fishery for game fish found in the Yahara River system and receives moderate use. Wilderness type access is available through state-owned lands on the eastern shore and through a county park on the western shore. Boats have access through the Yahara River from Lakes Monona and Waubesa. Fish species: longnose gar, bowfin, northern pike, common carp, golden shiner, bluntnose and fathead minnow, white sucker, black, brown, and yellow bullhead, channel catfish, brook silverside, white and rock bass, green sunfish, pumpkinseed, bluegill, largemouth bass, white and black crappie, yellow perch, walleye, and freshwater drum.

Surface acres = 223, SDF = 1.34, Maximum depth = 8 ft

Date  1985

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Upper Mud Lake, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish and Aquatic LifeUpper Mud Lake, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) RecreationUpper Mud Lake, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Upper Mud Lake was placed under a special fish consumption advisory for PFOS in 2020; this lake was added to the 2022 Impaired Waters List for PFOS in fish tissue.

Date  2022

Author  Ashley Beranek


Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available. Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2018. See also the 'monitoring and projects' tab.



Lake Classification
Dane County Lake Classification-Phase 2: The Phase 1 classification grant classified all county lakes and streams. This grant will take the next step by developing a management program based on the classification.
Lake Classification
Dane County Department of Planning and Development will hire a project staff in order to develop a Lake Classification project, which is seen as the first step toward developing a consistent set of county-wide standards and procedures to protect Dane County Waters.

Management Goals

Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable

Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.


Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.

Grants and Management Projects

Monitoring Projects

Watershed Characteristics

Upper Mud Lake is located in the Yahara River and Lake Monona watershed which is 93.73 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily suburban (24.80%), urban (23.90%) and a mix of agricultural (14.50%) and other uses (36.90%). This watershed has 101.97 stream miles, 6,275.33 lake acres and 5,158.72 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Available for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.

Natural Community

Upper Mud Lake is considered a Shallow Lowland under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results and DNR staff valiation processes that confirm or update predicted conditions based on flow and temperature modeling from historic and current landscape features and related variables. Predicated flow and temperatures for waters are associated predicated fish assemblages (communities). Biologists evaluate the model results against current survey data to determine if the modeled results are corect and whether biological indicators show water quaity degradation. This analysis is a core component of the state's resource management framework. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.

Shallow lowland lake describes the depth and location of the lake in a watershed. These variables affect the lakes response to watershed variables.