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Indigenous Earthwork (Indian Mound) on Lake Mendota's North Shore

Indigenous Earthworks

We know pre-historic people greatly valued our Four Lakes (DeJope) area, because they built roughly 1,200 effigy (animal/spirit-shaped) and other mounds on the high grounds overlooking the lakes starting about 800 BC. While the vast majority was destroyed through development, you will  have an opportunity to take a two to three mile walk where you will see remaining conical, linear, and effigy mounds. The fascinating background of the indigenous people who lived, traded, hunted and fished the shores of Lake Mendota going back 10,000 years. By the end of your walk, you will have seen various styles of indigenous earthworks that are so often overlooked in our midst.

Optional Tour: Governors Island

You will have an opportunity to be introduced to Governors Island as it adjoins the Institute property.  If time permits, we will walk onto the Island for some discovery.


The Walk

You will walk on relatively flat paths and roadway surfaces with some stretches of slight elevation will lead us to two outstanding Mound groupings.

Length of Walk

The grounds are open to you.  You may walk on any and all paths. Feel comfortable taking a 2 to 3 hour walk on the paths and streets leading to the mounds and Governor's Island.


Call to let them know you will be spending some time walking the paths.  Mention that you will be honoring the current social distancing requirements.

Trail Conditions Accessibility 

A three mile walk along a roadway and lawn makes this walk one of the more accessible we'll offer this year.

Driving and Parking Information:

Take highway 113 heading out of Madison.  Turn left onto Troy Drive and another left onto  Main Drive (Mendota Mental Health Institute Grounds).  Set back on the right is the Administration building.  Park in this lot under the shade trees, if possible..

The trailhead begins at the  parking lot in front of the main Administration building on the grounds of the Mendota Mental Health Institute.

You will walk from there, mainly on road but at some points we will be on lawns, which may still be wet with dew at that time of day.

 State of Wisconsin Mental Health Facility  informationAddress:

301 Troy Dr, Madison, WI 53704

Phone: (608) 244-2411

Official website: Website

Comments or questions about the walks?

This self-guided walk was developed from a list of successful docent-led walks Carla and I and other faithful volunteers have conducted over the last four years.  I will be adding more to the list as the pandemic continues to keep us isolated.  Building these self-guided walk is very much a "work in progress".  If you have ideas for improving communications about the walks or additional information I could provide, please let me know.

If you have a favorite walk please drop a note and I'll get back to you shortly.  Please mark the subject line of the email "PLATO Walks" so that I can get to them quickly.

Mike DiIorio at or text me at 608 520 4448.

I hope you enjoy the walks. Stay healthy, stay safe.

PLATO is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supported in part by:

for more information, contact us at:


6209 Mineral Point Road #203
Madison, WI 53705

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