by Don Sanford

Have you ever wondered why someone built a road across Lake Mendota’s North Bay? Or perhaps you want to know when a sea serpent was last spotted, or if your friend really did swim across the lake many years ago.

The answers to these questions, and many more, can be found in my recently published book, On Fourth Lake: A Social History of Lake Mendota. It is the story of the people, places and events that have shaped the shoreline of Lake Mendota, Madison’s greatest lake, as we know it today—the story of Native people, settlers, iceboaters, sailors, fishers, hunters, explorers, politicians, entertainers, lifeguards, boat captains, inventors, scientists and Olympians, much of it in their own words.

I spent over a decade preparing this social history of Lake Mendota. My work combines the personal experiences of people who lived, worked and played on the lake with the events that shaped Madison, the Badger State and the nation.

The first book of its kind, On Fourth Lake takes you on a guided tour around Lake Mendota, looking at the lakeshore from the water. It is richly illustrated with more than 500 maps, newspaper articles and photographs. Many of the images were sourced from private collections and have never before been available to the public. This book is a must-have for anyone who spends time on Lake Mendota or has an interest in the history of Madison and Dane County.

A Lake Mendota mariner, I am a member of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, past Commodore of the Mendota Yacht Club, and Commodore of the International Nite Ice Yacht Class Association. I hold a 100-ton Masters License, Great Lakes and Inland Waters. Since 2006, I have been a captain for Betty Lou Cruises in Madison. I also host Madison School & Community Recreation’s (MSCR) Lake Mendota celebrity cruises.

You may order On Fourth Lake online at: The following Madison book and museum stores also carry the book: University Book Store, A Room of One’s Own, Mystery to Me, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art museum store. Visit the website for a list of upcoming book events. I can be reached at, (608) 225-7520.

Comments are closed.

Close Search Window