Sundog, Lake Marie Oregon 2018

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wisconsin Dells

On Friday we said our good-byes to the great state of Minnesota, and headed across the Mississippi to our original home state of Wisconsin. 

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.  

Guess what! 

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 passengers on the upper Dells boat tour disembark at two stops and are able to walk thru the bluff walls along wooden walkways.

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?


  1. I've always wanted to visit Door County and the Wisconsin Dells. Thanks for the vicarious trip!

  2. The Dells has definitely changed. I prefer the boat rides to the amusement parks and water parks. Gotta have ice cream when out sightseeing in the heat of the Midwest.

  3. What a pretty place I had not known about. Thanks for sharing.

  4. The nice thing about the Dells is you can enjoy the natural beauty of the place and/or do all the tourist trap attractions. Nice for families to have options. I too saw the dog jump many years ago. I can't believe they are still doing it. I would have thought PETA would have put a stop to it years ago.

  5. So I take it the dog has been trained to do this jump? What a pretty area, must make note of it!


  6. I adore the pic of you eating your ice cream! :) Blessings...

  7. My parents went to the Dells years ago, and I really enjoyed their pictures. Of course we'll go there one day too. We've done the Duck boats lots of places as well, they're fun!

  8. One more to add to our list - a tour of the Dells on a Duck boat.
    Thanks - great pictures!


  9. As a teen, I visited the Dells. My only memory is an evening show where Indians sang "when I am calling youoooo," and my nephew said there's an Nin nin. I think we had better take your tour. I am sure we took it, but I sure don't remember.

  10. I can see we need to spend more time in WI someday, looks like a great place to visit.

  11. More places to see, when will it end :-)

  12. I found your blog awhile back and have been working my way through them. Just read your "Black Mesa State Park" of 5/31/14. Got a suggestion for you. A hand-held GPS with mapping would be a good thing for your hikes. I have a Garmin GPSmap 60CSx, which is an older model and have topo mapping in it. We GeoCache and it is VERY useful. Garmin sells topo mapping, and FREE mapping is available at http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/
    Makes those hikes a lot easier and safer when you can see where you are and where you want to go! By the way, I really enjoy your blog and am almost caught up! We full-timed up until a couple years ago and now have a sticks & bricks in SW Utah.


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