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Dane County Parks

Indian Lake County Park

At 791 acres, Indian Lake County Park is one of Dane County's largest parks. The main entrance is located on STH 19 about two miles west of US 12. Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area, a county public hunting area located immediately north of the property, offers additional recreational opportunities.

The trails at the park provide access around the entire lake and offers hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, foraging and access to a log cabin warming house. One winding trail leads to a historic chapel built in 1857, located on a hilltop with a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding valley. A section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail also winds through the park. The timber frame shelter was built in 2017 using trees that were sustainably harvested from county properties -- it can be reserved for picnics or special events. Official youth groups can reserve the group camp site for outings

An unfenced off-leash dog park is located within the park next to the small boat launch on the west side of the lake. The dog park and the boat launch can be accessed from the parking lot at the west entrance. The use of gas motors is prohibited on Indian Lake - electric motors are allowed.

County staff worked with the Ice Age Trail Alliance to create a virtual tour to help visitors learn about the park's natural landscapes and history. Download the free StriveOn! app, create an account and once you are at the park open the Think Outside-Indian Lake Segment under Trails. Click EXPLORE to activate the engagement points along way. Check out these instructions (PDF) for full details

This park is supported in part by the Friends of Indian Lake County Park.


Addresses

Google Maps are provided for reference. Trails, park boundaries, parking lots and other features on this map may not be up-to-date. Please check the official maps for up-to-date information.

Restrooms

History

Indian Lake Passage
On July 21, 1832, during the Black Hawk War, leader Black Hawk and his band left Pheasant Branch, west of Madison, retreating ahead of the military forces commanded by Colonels Ewing and Dodge. The band fled north following a route past the west end of Indian Lake and turned westward down the broad valley now bisected by Highway 12. The military caught up to Black Hawk's people late that afternoon at the Heights overlooking the Wisconsin River. More information can be found on a historical marker at the park.

St. Mary of the Oaks Chapel 
In 1852, four years after Wisconsin became a state, John and Anna Maria Endres and their family settled on an 80-acre farm that is now part of Indian Lake County Park. The Endres’ built the chapel in 1857, some say in gratitude for their family surviving a diphtheria epidemic. It was constructed on the highest point on their land which overlooked their homestead and Indian Lake. More information can be found on a historical marker and an interpretive panel located at the site.

Scoutcraft Log Cabin
Near the current sledding hill is the Scoutcraft Log Cabin. The cabin was built by campers under the direction of Ralph Metcalf, a counselor, and Chief White Eagle, chief of a band of the Chippewa tribe. The original cabin was located on the grounds of Camp Indianola (now Governor Nelson State Park) until it was taken apart and reassembled at Indian Lake County Park. It now serves as a warming cabin during the winter months.

Natural History
Indian Lake Park lies at the edge of the unglaciated or "driftless" area of southwestern Wisconsin. Here, features of both glaciated and unglaciated land are prominent. The steep slopes of exposed rock indicate that this valley was never completely covered with ice. Yet the large boulders found in the draws and on the valley floor could only have been brought here by a finger of ice, which fanned out from the main body of the glacier. Indian Lake is one of many shallow kettle lakes in this area, created when the glacier retreated. The outwash plain by the lake was formed when glacial meltwater carried large quantities of silt and sand into the valley. More information can be found on a natural history marker in the park.