Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - South
|Address:||802 Wheeler Road|
|Hours:||4:00am - dusk|
|Shoreline On:||Yahara River|
Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, South Unit has trails that explore restored prairie, oak savanna, and woodland. High ground offers views of sedge meadow, deep marsh, and the upper Yahara River. Three constructed ponds filter urban stormwater and provide wildlife habitat. A gravel boat launch and pier provide river access. When snow-covered, all trails except the east-most loop are groomed for classic cross-country skiing. The park offers 3.8 miles of trails in total.
Birdlife includes sandhill crane, wood duck, great blue heron, green heron, and belted kingfisher. The wooded areas and woodland edges have woodpeckers, wood-warblers, nesting Baltimore oriole, and blue-gray gnatcatcher.
Visit the Friends of Cherokee Marsh to learn more, including events and volunteer projects.
Land ManagementCherokee Marsh, Dane County's largest wetland, is located at the head of the chain of Yahara lakes. Cherokee Marsh - South Unit is one piece in a complex of protected land that supports wildlife and native plant communities in the marsh and adjacent uplands.
This park is situated on ancestral Ho-Chunk land. Cherokee Marsh's name dates to a 19th-century hunting club in the area.
Before being acquired by the City in the mid-1960s, the uplands and a portion of the wetlands were used for agriculture and gravel mining. Restoration has included converting old fields to tallgrass prairie, removing invasive woody species from oak woodlands, and prescribed burning. Aquatic plants have been established in the stormwater ponds.
Restoration of oak woodland and oak savanna has resulted in increased numbers of woodpeckers, including the red-headed woodpecker, a Wisconsin Species of Special Concern. Parks management follows a snag protection policy to preserve dead, standing trees for wildlife.
American lotus has been established in the river to protect the river shoreline from erosion and improve water quality.
Visit, the Friends of Cherokee Marsh for sponsor events and volunteer workdays.
At this Park
ACCESSING THE LAKES
A daily or annual permit is required year-round at designated sites to launch a motorboat, sailboat, iceboat, canoe, kayak, or ATV (see locations below). Piers are available from spring through fall. Installation and removal are dependent on the weather and lake conditions.
TEMPORARY 2023 CLOSURESSpring Harbor Park Boat Launch - Summer 2023Spring Harbor Boat Launch will be under reconstruction in the summer of 2023 and the launch will be closed during the project. While the exact dates are unknown at this time, the project is expected to last up to 6 weeks. Also, closely related and anticipated at the same time, Lake Mendota Drive will be under reconstruction. See Spring Harbor Boat Launch Project.Marshall Park Boat Launch - September 6-10, 2023
Due to a permitted event, the Marshall Park boat launch will be closed to the public from 4am to 3pm each day, Wednesday, September 6 through Sunday, September 10.
LAKE ACCESS PERMIT (Ordinance 8.215): See Purchase Permit
DESIGNATED CITY OF MADISON LAUNCH LOCATIONS BY LAKE
- A daily or annual permit is required year-round to launch a motorboat, sailboat, iceboat, canoe, kayak, or ATV.
- Purchase permit ONLINE or by calling during regular office hours. Onsite kiosks are not available.
- The permit is valid for the issue year through March 31 of the following year.
- Permits for the following year may be purchased starting November 1 of the previous year.
- The permit should be displayed on the inside driver's side windshield.
- The permit is valid at designated launch sites throughout Dane County. MAP
- LAKE MONONA: Law, Olbrich, Olin
- LAKE MENDOTA: Marshall, Spring Harbor, Tenney, Warner
Daily $8 Annual - Dane County Resident $50 Annual - Non-Resident $60 Annual - Dane County Senior (65+) & Disabled $25 Annual - Non-Res Senior (65+) & Disabled $30 Military/Veteran (New!) $25 Duplicate/Replacement $20
2023 permit is available Nov. 1 and is valid from the time of purchase through March 31, 2024.
2022 permit is valid through March 31, 2023.
TENNEY LOCKS NOTICE updated 04/06/2023The Tenney Locks, managed by Dane County Land & Water, is anticipated to open on Thursday, April 27, 2023. See DCLW for updates.
OLBRICH BOAT LAUNCH CAUTION ADVISORYBoaters are advised to use caution navigating the narrowed channel where the Starkweather Creek meets Lake Monona due to low lake levels and creek sediment. READ MORE
LAUNCH AREA PARKING RULES AND TIPS (Ordinance 8.16):
- Long stalls are for parking vehicles with trailers only.
- Regular-size stalls are for parking vehicles with no trailer only.
- Parking on the grass is prohibited.
- When the launch parking lot is full, you must find an alternative launch site
- Violators are subject to a citation.
In partnership with Dane County Parks, a Lake Access Permit is NOT required on the following days:
- Saturday - Sunday, January 21-22, 2023
- Saturday - Sunday, June 3-4, 2023
Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - South - Boat LaunchLake Access Permit Required: No
Notes: The Upper Yahara River above Hwy 113 is a designated slow/no-wake at all times. Launch is best for canoe/kayak access.
Canoe & Kayak Launch Site
Madison Parks offers various locations to launch a canoe or kayak and is allowed at all of Madison Parks motorboat launch sites. Additionally, the parks listed below have a specially designated area for launch.
If you are looking to store your kayak or canoe in a park, please visit the storage webpage.
View all Canoe & Kayak Launch Sites
Canoe & Kayak Storage
Watercraft Storage SpacesExplore Madison's beautiful lakes, rivers, and creeks by paddle and store your canoe, kayak or paddleboard on the shores of your favorite park. All storage racks are outdoors and uncovered. The annual storage period begins each year on April 1 and ends on March 31 of the following year.
How to Reserve:
- You may be placed on our waitlist at no charge by calling (608) 266-4711 or EMAIL. Please include your name, phone number, email address, and any order of preferences on storage location.
- Current users will be able to renew their watercraft storage beginning in late winter/early spring each year and must renew by April 1.
- As spaces become available, those on the waitlist will be contacted after April 1 and given the opportunity to reserve a space.
City of Madison Resident - Annual, single watercraft $130 City of Madison Resident - Annual, 2 watercraft, same space (100# max) $195 Non-resident - Annual, single watercraft $240 Non-resident - Annual, 2 watercraft, same space (100# max) $360
Watercraft storage rules include:
- Watercraft must not exceed 100 pounds, 18' length, 42" width or 24" height.
- Storage is for permitted watercraft only. No personal property.
- Watercraft must be secured to the boat storage rack. The owner accepts all liability for theft or damage to their property.
- Parks Staff reserves the right to cut any lock and remove any watercraft, under any condition it deems necessary for the function of the boat storage program.
- View all Agreement Rules.
- Brittingham Park: Brittingham Boats 608-250-2555
- Olbrich Park: Rutabaga Paddlesports 608-513-1308
- Wingra Park: Wingra Boats 608-233-5332
Cross-Country Skiing News
- As of Monday, February 27, all designed Madison Parks ski trails CLOSED & grooming operations ended for the 2022-23 season.
- In the event of a significant snowfall after Feb. 27, trails may become skiable again, however, the website will NOT be updated and trails will not be groomed.
- See MadNorSki for area trail conditions posted by volunteers and trail users.
- Ski rentals & concessions are CLOSED for the 2022-23 season.
Cross-Country Skiing in Madison Parks
Seven (7) winter trails are designated and groomed for cross-country skiing. Four are free-to-use and three require a daily or annual cross-country ski permit.
- FREE-TO-USE: Cherokee Marsh Conservation - South, Owen, Turville Point and Yahara Hills.
- Groomed weekly, and as conditions allow.
- PERMIT REQUIRED: Door Creek, Elver and Odana Hills Golf Course.
- Groomed several times per week, and as conditions allow
- A daily or annual Cross-Country Ski Permit is required for anyone aged 16 years or older and may be purchased ONLINE.
- TRAIL STATUS DEFINITIONS
- OPEN = trail is snow-covered, skiable with the most recent grooming date posted.
- CLOSED = skiing is not advised or permitted
- RESTROOMS: Available at Elver, Cherokee Marsh - South (portable), Odana (portable), Owen and Door Creek (portable).
- DOGS: Dogs are NOT allowed on cross-country ski trails. Please walk your leashed dogs on designated hiking/snowshoeing trails.
- HIKING/SNOWSHOEING: Do not walk on a designated cross-country ski trail. Hiking or snowshoeing is allowed ANYWHERE except on cross-country ski trails and off-trail in a conservation park. See SNOWSHOEING for suggested locations. When in doubt, don't.
Classic skis with boots and poles are available to rent from Elver and Odana Hills* and include a daily cross-country ski permit. *Before you head out, be sure to check the status of each location. Rental days are only when a location is listed as open. Please click location to see if listed as open. If a location is closed for winter recreation, rentals are not available.
- Elver Park Wednesday - Sunday
- Odana Hills Saturday & Sunday
Daily $7 Annual $30 Annual Senior (65+) & Disabled $15 Annual Military/Veteran (New!) $15 Replacement $12
- 2023 permit is available Nov. 1 and is valid through December 31, 2023.
- The permit is valid for Dane County Parks trails also.
*New* Door Creek Park Added as Cross-Country Ski Permit Site
Earlier this year, Madison Common Council approved a revised ordinance for the Cross-Country Ski Permit Program, which allows the Board of Park Commissioners to designate fee-based locations. A cross-country ski permit is required for Elver Park, Odana Hills Golf Course, and new this year, Door Creek Park. Yahara Hills is a free-to-use site.
For those not familiar with the ski program in Madison Parks, typical free-to-use ski trail sites, offer limited grooming, about once per week, and as conditions allow. Fee-based sites require a Cross-Country Ski Permit and use funding from the program to provide more frequent grooming, typically 3-4 times per week or as conditions allow.
Grooming the Trails: How & When
The type of grooming performed depends on a few things to make the most of both long and short-term skiing opportunities. The amount and type of snow, as well as, the ground condition at the time of the snow event all play a part in the grooming equation.
Did you know Parks staff is responsible for priority snow removal areas? These priority areas are roads, more than 400 bus stops, bike trails, sidewalks, and parking lots. We always appreciate your patience and understanding as safety will always come before fun.
TRAIL CONDITIONS & GROOMING
- Ski trails typically open after the first snowfall over 4" depending on the type of snow and trail conditions.
- Fee-based trails are groomed more frequently, as conditions allow and for both skate and classic skiing.
- Free-to-use ski trails are tracked or roll groomed for classic cross-country skiing.
- We may not be able to groom or we may close a trail to preserve the trail condition. The website is updated as soon as information from the field is available.
- Permit fees are non-refundable
- You may also visit Madison Nordic Ski Club for trail conditions posted by volunteers and trail users.
TRAIL TIPS & RESPONSIBILITIES
- Follow directional arrows. Some trails are marked for one-way use
- Trails are rated for difficulty at the trailhead
- Skiers stay on groomed trails only
- No dogs, horses, snowboards, motor vehicles, hiking or snowshoeing on groomed trails
- Slower skiers please stay to the right
Cherokee Marsh South - SkiingLocation: 5002 School Road
ClosedCross-Country Skiing at Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - South
Wisconsin residents aged 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Nonresidents aged 16 years old or older need a nonresident fishing license to fish in Wisconsin waters with hook and line. Visit the Wisconsin DNR website for more information.Every year, the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June and the third Saturday and Sunday in January, are designated as Free Fishing Weekends throughout the state of Wisconsin. Residents and nonresidents of all ages can fish without a fishing license (and trout stamps) over these two days. Visit WI DNR
An accessible pier is located in Vilas Park, on Lake Wingra. From WI DNR: Lake Wingra is a 336-acre lake with a maximum depth of 14 feet. Fish include Musky, Panfish, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Walleye.
MESSAGE FROM PUBLIC HEALTH: Eating certain fish can be harmful because they may contain mercury, PCBs, or PFAS. Follow advice for Wisconsin and Dane County waters to choose fish with fewer chemicals. Learn more about PFAS from Public Health Madison & Dane County.
Explore the many scenic trails and pathways throughout Madison Parks. Year-round restrooms are available at Cherokee Marsh, North and Owen conservation parks.
Some of the parks have a trail map on-site or in the "About This Park" on the individual park webpage.
Most parks allow leashed & licensed dogs with a Dog Park Permit. However, dogs are prohibited in all conservation parks and a number of Dog Free Parks. View all Hiking
Parking lots in parks are available for park programs or events during regular park hours: 4:00 am to 10:00 pm. Please observe the following.
- Driving or parking motorized vehicles is not allowed on the grass or near a shelter and is subject to a citation.
- Three-hour limit in all parks, as posted.
- No parking after hours: 10pm to 4am. Overnight parking is not allowed.
- Conservation park hours are 4am until one hour after sunset
- Follow all onsite parking regulation signs.
- Violators are subject to a fine.
The parking lot located on the eastern side of Law Park, commonly known as the Blair Lot, is a metered parking lot, enforced by City of Madison Parking Division between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
View all Parking Lots
About This Park
Get to This Park
Conservation Park Rules
Conservation Parks are uniquely managed to further protect native species and wildlife. The preservation of conservation parks includes some of the following. More information may be found in Madison General Ordinances 8.40.
Alcohol is prohibited in all conservation parks.
Bicycles & Motor Vehicles
Bicycles and motor vehicles are restricted to entrance roads and parking lots.
Dogs and horses are not allowed.
Fires and picnics are prohibited.
No firearms or weapons are permitted in the restrooms or shelters. Violators are considered trespassers and subject to forfeiture or arrest.
Glass is not allowed.
Hunting & Trapping
Hunting and trapping are prohibited.
Conservation park hours are 4am until one hour after sunset.
All plants and animals are protected. Disturbance or removal requires written permission.
Stay on and use designated trails only.
Trash & Recycling
Place trash in container provided. Please take recyclable material home for proper disposal.