Canoeing magazines also rave about Madison . This comes as little surprise since the city boasts four lakes, the larger two of which—Mendota and Monona—are connected by the Yahara River, a superb ribbony urban stream passing through locks and a series of smaller lakes. The Yahara connects to the Rock River, which itself flows through southern Wisconsin. Factoring in tributaries of the Rock leading westward to the Ol’ Miss, technically, you could paddle all the way to the Big Easy!
Wingra Boats (824 Knickerbocker St., 608/233-5332) rents boats, canoes, kayaks and sailboats, and also gives lessons; find them at Vilas Park next to the Henry Vilas Zoo.