Cherokee Marsh North Unit


While not a state park, this collection of land is such an easy day or partial day trip, it had to be represented on the blog. Managed by the City of Madison, the Cherokee Marsh is the largest wetland in Dane County. The marsh sits at the head of all the major Madison lakes. The marsh is broken into 3 units, the north unit, the south unit, and the Mendota unit.

capitalThe north unit, being focused on in this entry, is made up of 916 acres of river, wetlands, prairie, and forest. Through the unit, 3.4 miles of trail can be found in various forms. Grass, dirt, and boardwalk make up the walking surface throughout the park.

Without clear trail names, describing the trail locations can be tricky. Luckily, I found a map for a visual aid. You can find the map here.


Walking in the fall, the day was warm. As any Wisconsin resident who loves summer will know, the last warm days of fall are something to be treasured. There is a constant, low level fear that the next cold front will be a wave of arctic air that the forecast can’t rebound from. The snakes seemed to feel it to. Along the parking lot and paths, we spotted numerous snakes enjoying the warmth.


Starting in the main parking lot, we first moved east towards the Yahara River. Along the path to the river, the council mound can be found on the right of the trail. Other than the sign located on the mound, I couldn’t find any other information on the history of it.

The sign reads, “This mound was constructed by people of a hunting and gathering culture who met periodically at ceremonial grounds like this one to bury their dead.”

Heading on, this trail eventually curves to follow the river and turns from a dirt and grass path into a boardwalk. The trail ends in a dead end over the river, forcing the hiker to retrace their steps.

Back at the starting point, we then traveled northeast along the river. This path too, ends in a dead end. Near the end of the trail, there is a path leading away from the river, into the woods towards the prairie or wetlands. This is where most of the length of trail is found. These trails are a combination of dirt, grass, and boardwalk.


The majority of the trails are flat with the exception of one large hill between the woods and the prairie that always gets me out of breath. Overall the scenery of the area is pretty, but nothing that will astound you. This site is a common spot for trail runners and people looking to get their daily step count while avoiding a boring neighborhood walk. Wildlife is very common here and visitors can see snakes, frogs, rodents, birds, and small mammals.

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