Johnson Lake Park: North Madison’s Hidden Treasure

Those that travel along the heart of Madison’s hilltop may have noticed the stone with the brass plaque that sits on the west side of Cragmont Street and just north of the entrance to Mouser Street  that marks the entrance to Johnson Lake Park entrance to Johnson Lake Park.  The park doesn’t present much that catches the eye when driving past, so those that aren’t already aware of it may not realize just what exactly is there.

According to the plaque the park and it’s lake, were given to the people of Madison by Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Johnson in 1974.

The stone marker and the plaque at the entrance to Johnson Lake Park

The park sits on 13 acres of land and has a 4/10 mile path that takes users on a looping walk around the lake offering an attractive view of the grounds from nearly every angle.

The lake is kept stocked with both catfish and largemouth bass and fishing from the bank is allowed, although you still require a an Indiana fishing license since it is public property.

There are three shelter houses at the park,two of which sit along the lake itself and one that is along Cragmont Street, of these three shelter houses only the one along Cragmont has a barbecue grill (contrary to the information you’ll find listed on the city’s parks page).

The shelter located along Cragmont at the park’s entrance is the only one that has a grill.

During my visit I saw a few persons with lines in the water and roughly five or six persons enjoying the walking path or the porch swing that sits near the lake’s edge.

We saw some fishing going on but not any catching,this day.

While it may not be secluded (it is ringed by houses on nearly all sides) it is a very nice bit of public green-space in the middle of the hilltop’s urban area.

The walking path surrounding the lake is mostly level with a slight incline as you travel southerly toward the railroad tracks that run between the park and the church that sits along Green Road. The track is wide enough to accommodate two persons passing alongside one another, but two persons walking side by side may want to be aware of those travelling in the opposite direction so as not to be an obstacle to traffic.

Walking path at Johnson Lake Park

Unfortunately I have to also report that there was a good deal of garbage strewn about, some of which had made into the lake itself. For the most part the garbage was the usual small stuff. Cups,straws,napkins and etc., but there was also trash from persons that had been fishing. Worm cups,a hook package and various assorted plastic shopping bags. The worst of the trash I saw was a pillow in the lake itself.

My family and I stopped to gather the bits that we could reach but unfortunately that didn’t include the trash in the water. Hopefully the City of Madison has a schedule for cleaning the park and we were just there in-between cleanings.

Garbage left behind at Johnson Lake Park

Perhaps someone misinterpreted the phrase “sleeping with the fishes”?

Regardless of the detritus found there during our visit Johnson Lake Park is worthy of a visit. The Lake is scenic and easily accessible and the walking path feels just long enough to make the user feel they’re actually accomplishing something but isn’t quite so long as to feel boring and completely monotonous.

The future for Johnson Lake could be even better, plans to add a parcourse (a sort of fitness trail originally invented by Swiss architect Erwin Weckemann in 1968) were announced earlier this year. The idea was proposed by Jay Roney to honor his late father-in-law John Petscher who been a longtime Madison area veterinarian. Roney said that his father-in-law often stated that he thought Madison should have a parcourse.

Parks Board approval for the project has already been granted and Mr.Roney and his wife, Jennifer, will be donating $15,000 towards the project themselves and are hoping for other donations that will help them cover the cost of the equipment. They are also hoping to get volunteers to assist with the installation of the equipment, specifically they are hoping that area Boy Scouts could assist since Mr. Petscher had attained the rank of Eagle Scout when he was in the organization as a young man.

Hopefully this article will encourage our readers to go see and enjoy this rarely mentioned gem on Madison’s hilltop. We were pleasantly surprised at what we found and believe that those who haven’t been will enjoy it as well.

Reflection of North Madison Baptist church.

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About Walter Long

Walter is a native Hoosier and has been to have lived in the Madison area for the last 12 years. He’s an avid reader. He’s married with two kids, one cat, one dog, and far too many rabbits.


  1. Megan says:

    Can u swim in this lake?