City of Madison Logo
Cherokee Marsh - South Unit (School Road)
5002 School Road

Hours: 4:00am - dusk
Park Type: Conservation
Acres: 255.05
Restroom: No
Drinking Water: No
Shoreline On: Yahara River

Strategically located at the head of Madison's lakes, Cherokee Marsh acts as a living sponge.  It filters upland runoff, using excess fertilizer to grow marsh plants, and slowly releasing cleaner water to the lakes below.  Cherokee Marsh is the largest wetlands in Dane County.  It is used by thousands of students each year for environmental education.  The School Road/South Unit has 3.1 miles of trails for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

September 2012 - Work began on a large storm water construction project at South Cherokee funded by City Engineering.  The project involves creating two large retention ponds to treat urban runoff before releasing the water to the Yahara River.  Park staff worked with engineering to design the project around sensitive areas.  One pond is located in an old abandoned sand and gravel quarry, and the other was placed in a box elder grove.  These ponds replace 1960's storm water technology which consisted of digging deep trenches through the upland and wetlands to drain the water to the river.  The ditches cut through a peat wetland altering the natural hydrology.  As part of this project the ditches will be filled after pipes are installed to convey the storm water from the ponds to the river.  This will help restore the natural hydrology, while eliminating the negative impacts of urban storm water (rich in nutrients) on these valuable peat wetlands.  Native prairie will be seeded on the uplands surrounding the ponds this fall.  Next spring park staff will install aquatic plants in the ponds, and limited trees and shrubs.  The goal is to have this area evolve into an oak savanna with a couple of pseudo prairie potholes.  Trails will be developed to allow the public access while maintaining quiet areas for wildlife to use the ponds.