Tucked away behind the Mendota Mental Health Institute is a small island with some of the nicest views of Madison. Governor’s Island is a small park, now connected to the mainland by a cinder road (aptly called Cinder Lane). The Island is small – you can walk it in around 15 minutes. However, the unimpeded views of the capital, Maple Bluff and other surrounding communities are unmatched anywhere else on Lake Mendota.
One main trail runs the perimeter of the island. In summer, there is a small beach jutting off the end that is a wonderful spot to wade with your dog. To the west of the island is a small bay that is extremely popular with pontoon boats and swimmers during the summer. Shallow, cool and sandy, on a hot day it will be filled with inner tubes and rafts.
At the far southern tip of the island is a bluff that looks directly at the capital. From here you can also see the various currents in the lake running against one another.
Before you visit in Winter, check the DNR website to make sure it isn’t duck hunting season. Both duck hunting and ice-fishing seasons bring a high number of visitors, so parking can be tough. Also, parts of the island are privately owned. Be respectful and do not cut your own trail through the property, start fires, leave garbage or dog poop on the land. The owners have every right to block access if damage continues to their property.