So what are the Wisconsin Dells anyway? Well, a dell is a valley. In this case the valley is really a gorge lined with sandstone that was carved by glacial flows down what is now the Wisconsin River. Tourists started visiting this area in the mid 1800s. There were tours of the Dells in wooden rowboats back then. It remained a sedate Midwestern tourist destination until the 1950s when a couple of momentous events took place. A resident of the area went to a military surplus auction intending to buy some trucks but on a whim bought some amphibious trucks which became the first “ducks” for touring the Dells. The second event was an appearance in the area by the Tommy Bartlett Water Ski Show which was then persuaded to set up a permanent show. To this day, both the ducks and the water ski show are very prominent fixtures of Dell’s tourism.
Gary had visited the Dells with his family in about 1960 and remembered the ducks and the water ski show from that trip. But what is there now is way beyond those two attractions. There are amusement parks. There are water parks. There are go kart tracks. There are pizza places with fleets of delivery vehicles with moose mounted to the tops of them. There is a hotel with a façade of the Rome Coliseum. There is shopping. There is a casino. The Dells have become a family tourist destination extraordinaire.
We didn’t take a duck tour. The water ski show was closed for the season. We have seen many a river gorge without taking a paid boat trip. We just marveled at all the kitsch and after having filed an extension Gary got to work a bit on our tax returns.