Craig and I were both born and raised in Wisconsin, and were married there. But we have lived in California for 30+ years, and in Texas for a few years before that. We have been back for a few family visits, but have not seen the Wisconsin countryside for many years.
It looks just like Minnesota.
Maybe fewer lakes, but just as green.
When we were kids, one of the only "tourist" spots in Wisconsin, that we knew about, was the Dells. At the end of the year, the sixth grade crossing guard cadets were rewarded for their service with bus trip to the Dells, that included an overnight stay in a MOTEL! Wow!
Craig and I also took our kids there for a weekend before we moved out of state. Not much had changed between these two times. There may have been a few more T-shirt shops, but the primary attraction was still the river and the rock formations along it.
But since then there has been a lot of development and the streets of The Dells are lined with Water Slide Parks and other Amusement Parks. It looks like Las Vegas for ten year olds.
I'm really not sure if this structure that looked like the Trojan Horse was a parking garage or an unfinished amusement ride of some sort, but it was a typical construction.
Not being modern children, we skipped the rides and relived our childhood vacations by taking to the water.
First we went on the Original Ducks tour of the lower Dells.
There are Duck Boats in several places around the country. They are renovated WWII vehicles that can drive on land and also run as a boat in the water. The engine is a loud diesel, the ride is bumpy and sometimes wet, and the tour guide is a Wisconsin College student who seems to repeat the same type of cheesy (it is Wisconsin) jokes that we heard years ago. We smiled and enjoyed ourselves.
We also took the river boat tour of the upper Dells. These waters are separated by a dam and locks. The dam system was built around 1909 and raised the waters of the upper section of the river by 20 feet.
The Dells are the stone formations along a seven or so mile section of the Wisconsin River.
The water is cola brown from the tannin it picks up while going thru several tamarack swamps up river. Tannin is an ingredient in Coke and carmel candy. Red wine picks up tannin from the oak barrels it is aged in.
The layers of stone are very porous and water wicks up from both the river and seeps down from the rains. Trees are able to grow without any soil.
The moss grows lushly on the stone walls.
This place reminded me of the dry slot Antelope Canyon in Arizona, carved by wind and water over the millennium. Different and yet the same.
On our second stop we walked into the forest to a place where there were two large rock formations. This place helped make the Dells a tourist destination in the late 1800's. A dog, a German Shepard dog, has been jumping from one formation to the other over and over for all these years. Can you see him in the picture below?
Here he is in a cropped zoomed in version. He is a real dog. I saw him do the jump when I was eleven, and again when I was in my 30's. Probably not the same dog :)
We had a very nice day reliving and enjoying the natural wonders of the area. Too bad most of the kids today will only remember the water parks and other amusements. Maybe their parents will make them ride in a noisy old Duck boat for an hour or drag them onto one of the boats for a boring two hour cruise.
If they are lucky they will get an ice cream cone at the concession stand deep in Witches Gulch.
Every kid needs an ice cream from time to time, don't they?