The most notable physiographic feature of the state is its profusion of lakes, over 8,500, ranging in size from Lake Winnebago (215 sq mi/557 sq km) to tiny glacial lakes of surprising beauty. The Wisconsin River, with its extensive dam system, runs generally southward through the middle of the state until it turns west (just NW of Madison) to flow into the Mississippi, dividing the state into eastern and western sectors. Running a parallel course just to the east, Wisconsin's major watershed extends in a broad arc from north to south; to the east the Menominee, the Peshtigo, the Wolf, and the Fox rivers flow E and NE into Lake Michigan, while to the west the Chippewa, the Flambeau, and the Black rivers make their way to the Mississippi.
Wisconsin's frontage on lakes Superior and Michigan as well as its many beautiful lakes and streams and its northern woodlands have made it a haven for hunters, fishermen, and water and winter sports enthusiasts. There are numerous state parks, forests, and two national forests. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Saint Croix and Lower Saint Croix national scenic rivers (see National Parks and Monuments, table) are also here. Madison is the capital and the second largest city; Milwaukee is the largest city. Green Bay and Racine are other major cities.
Sections in this article: