Copyright © 2019 by Geographic Techniques LLC • Madison, Wisconsin • All Rights Reserved • Email:

Menomonie Drainage Channel

May 18, 2019

The Menomonie drainage channel was constructed back in the early 1960s to manage drainage and storm water runoff from Cherokee Golf Course, along the east side of the City of Madison’s Cherokee Park subdivision.  The subdivision and golf course are surrounded by marshlands, Cherokee Marsh North and South Units, Cherokee Lake and the Upper Yahara River.  The Cherokee Marsh contains the largest expanse of wetlands in Dane County.



Heavy rains and snow melt caused flooding issues all over the Upper-Midwest this past late winter and early spring.  Southern Wisconsin was not spared as river and lake levels reached near-record flood levels, while flooding occurred in Madison and nearby communities.  Recent heavy rainfall during the late summer of 2018, and rain and snow melt this past spring, caused high water levels across the Yahara watershed, including the Madison chain of lakes (Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa).  Areas of downtown Madison saw extensive flooding, rarely, if ever, experienced before in the city.  The drainage channel, located along Menomonie Lane on the far north side of Madison, swelled to levels not seen since 2008, and lapped against backyards and foundations of adjacent homes.  Although sandbags and pumps helped to restrain much of the water from filling basements and ground floors, concern grew over the vulnerability of this happening again in the future.


During the last flooding event, the local list server, run by the Cherokee Park Neighborhood Association (CPNA), was inundated with emails from concerned property owners.  How did this happen?  What can we do so this doesn't happen again?  What about Lake levels?  These issues have sparked much interest and debate across the region.  Because of the interest of property owners and concerned neighbors, the CPNA formed a subcommittee to study the history of the channel and flooding events along and surrounding it.  Of course, Geographic Techniques volunteered to prepare some maps.


Fortunately, there is a host of publicly available map data for Dane County and the City of Madison, including LiDAR.  The one item we did not have was an up-to-date aerial photo of the drainage channel corridor.  Using a small drone, we were able to accomplish this within a half-hour.  Approximately 38 acres were flown at a height of 200' above ground level (the maximum allowed with FAA authorization) in a series of back and fourth flight lines.  Just one drone battery swap was needed.  With the drone camera facing straight down, we captured over 400 photos, which were post-processed into one continuous aerial image (orthomosaic).  Now we have a baseline photo that can be referenced for current and future mapping efforts.  Other derived data include elevation contours, drainage networks, as well as storm sewer structures obtained from the City Engineering Department.


Various map layers were combined into maps showing the current geography and land use immediately surrounding the Menomonie drainage channel (see slide show below). Along with the lastest FEMA flood zone information, the maps can be used to visualize current flood impacts, as well as aid in future mitigation efforts in the interest of the Menomonie Lane and Cherokee Park property owners.


Menomonie Drainage Channel Slide Show


Note:  If you are interested in obtaining a free PDF copy of the full size maps please email us at, or simply use the contact form found on our web page.


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts

Flying For Inventory

October 2, 2019

Please reload

Recent Posts