About Our Waters


photo credit Richard Hurd
Photo courtesy of Richard Hurd

The many lakes, rivers and streams of Dane County are part of what makes this a special place to live, work and play. Dane waters are vital to the region, contributing tremendously to its environmental and economic well-being as well as the quality of our daily lives. We have 69 named lakes and ponds, over 475 miles of streams and rivers, and more than 52,000 acres of wetlands.



A watershed is an area of land that catches precipitation and drains into a particular water body. Watersheds can come at many different scales. A small stream has an area of land that drains to it. This is the stream’s watershed.  That stream, along with other streams and their watersheds, drain into a larger river. All of those small stream watersheds make up the river’s larger watershed.  That river probably drains into a larger river, such as the Mississippi, which has a much larger watershed.

To learn more about the watersheds in Dane County, check out our interactive watershed mapThis map has different layers that can be turned on or off (basins, subwatersheds, special water places, etc.), a search feature so you can find out what watershed you live in, and descriptions of the watersheds along with links to groups that are active in those areas.


Dane County State of the Waters Report

The Dane County State of the Waters Report (PDF) is a convenient single reference for those seeking in-depth information about the water bodies and watersheds throughout our county. Here you will be able to learn about the characteristics of the four major river basins (groups of watersheds that ultimately drain to a major river or lake) in the county, as well as the watersheds within those basins. You can also learn about issues confronting each watershed, and find contacts for local water resource protection groups.

This is a living document, and the Office of Lakes and Watersheds will be enhancing and expanding the information included in it. If you have comments on the existing content or suggestions for new information that should be included, please contact us at lakes@countyofdane.com.