Learn about the
Wisconsin Dells by reading Wisconsin Dells - Nature's
Wonderland, by Charlie Spence, WTA member and travel writer.
It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus
all you'll need to know to plan your trip, including getting
there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and
things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a
summary of the contact information for your easy reference.
Wisconsin Dells - Nature’s Wonderland
by Charlie Spence, Travel
Writer and WTA Member
The river cruise takes visitors past
miles of unusual rock formations.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau.
It is a 15-mile
stretch along the Wisconsin River that has some of the most unspoiled
and spectacular scenery and diversified recreation opportunities to be
found in such a compact area. The Winnebago Indians had a name for it—Nee-ah-ke-coonah-er-ah—meaning
where the dark rushing waters meet. Early French settlers named this
area the “Dalles,” meaning flat rocks. You could easily call it
one of your favorite vacation spots after you experience the folklore,
the fun, and the fantasies of The Wisconsin Dells.
For more than 150
years Wisconsin Dells has been entertaining travelers who come to this
area for its unique heritage and history in addition to the grandeur
of the rock formations, unspoiled countryside, and numerous show
Near The Dells,
Chief Black Hawk was defeated in the Black Hawk War of 1832. A young
army officer involved in the campaign—Jefferson Davis—was destined
nearly three decades later to lead the Confederate States in another
bitter and bloody conflict. At about the time the Civil War ended,
Henry Bennett was born. As a young soldier he started taking pictures
of the unusual landscape and rock formations. He continued
photographing and his pictures became so popular that tourists began
to travel to this site to see the wonders first hand. Tourism began.
The area includes
two small towns, Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton. The year-round
population is only about 4,000, but don’t let that number fool you.
During the summer months and special activities, the population often
swells to more than 30,000. Include the campgrounds and The Dells area
can accommodate up to 50,000 visitors. The number and variety of
lodging facilities attest to this popularity.
Once you settle in
at any one of the 140 hotels or motels you may start enjoying the
sights and activities.
Bumper Boats are just one of the fun
attractions at water parks.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Probably your first
will be a boat tour. Choose a leisurely cruise, power along in a jet
boat, or tour the lower Dells and the lost city of Newport in an Army
Duck. Narrators point out the different formations, and relate the
area’s history and lore as you pass such sights as Witches Gulch,
Hawk’s Beak, and Cow in the Milk Bottle. For a panoramic view that
will have you oo-ing and ah-ing, take a trip over The Dells in a hot
After the rides on
the river, climb aboard a horse-drawn wagon and tour through the
narrow passages of lost canyon.
is but one of the reasons this area is so popular. Nature lovers have
a variety of places to visit. If you are brave enough, you may feed
any of the 19 reptiles at Alligator Alley. Take a tour of the Nanchas
Elk Ranch, which is home to more than 100 elk in the scenic rolling
hills. Or visit the Wisconsin Deer Park where you can feed, pet, and
photograph a myriad of antlered creatures and game birds.
You will find more
than just nature’s creations to make your visit unforgettable. At the
Circus World Museum you will find the world’s largest collection of
restored circus wagons and big tent memorabilia. This is located in
the original winter quarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus and
provides daily performances.
At the H.H. Bennett
Studio and History Center, six interactive exhibits trace the
evolution of the Dells area. Study the science of photography, and
step aboard a steamboat to experience The Dells at it was before the
hydroelectric dam was completed in 1909.
Amusement parks and
shows offer pure relaxation and rides from go-carts to bumper boats
and roller coasters. Be sure to take in Tommy Bartlett’s water ski
show, which has evolved from water ski jumping into what is now a
world-known thrill show that has performed in 28 countries. If you
like to try your luck in other ways, casinos are available in the
There is still a
strong Indian culture and special ceremonies are held frequently. Try
to time your is it to be sure of attending one these Native American
The Dells is home
to 70 attractions, 80 restaurants, and 140 hotels. For a more complete
look at the area, log on to the web site:
On your first visit
to The Dells, you will find such an array of things to do and see that
the best you can do is give this amazing area the once over lightly
with a promise to return often.
How To Get There
The nearest airport with commercial service is Madison,
Wisconsin. To The Dells is about a 50-minute drive. To visit by
car, log on to The Dells website shown above and click on "Maps
and Directions" for specifics from cities throughout the
Where To Stay
With 140 different hotels and motels in the area, the
visitor is sure to find one that fits the need and the budget.
Rates at most vary with the season. Log on to
The Dells web
www.wisdells.com, and find most of these listed with details
of location and rates. Here are a few examples:
Breese Waye: Victorian charm; $70-$80. (No credit card
Historic Bennett House: Home of the photographer who
helped make The Dells Famous: $85-$95. (No credit cards
Buckly House: variety of accommodations: $59 - $140.
Park Plaza Baraboo: Near Circus World and water parks:
$74 - $129.
Parkway Motel: $38 - $48 Monday thru Friday, add $20
Sandman Inn: $38 off season; $98 in season.
Luna Inn and Suites: $75 - $105 off season; $95 - $145
in season. Some have kitchenettes.
Camelot Hotel and Suites: Castle-like architecture; $45
also check rates and book your room and rental car at
WTA's Online Travel
Booking Service. Deep hotel discounts may apply.
Where To Eat
Take your choice of 80 restaurants. The usual chains have
outlets. Here is a sampling of the casual and fine dining spots.
Casual places like
Country Kitchen and Houlihan’s offer items on
the menu ranging from about $5 to $15. For more elegant fare,
visit places like
Ishmala Supper Club or Wally’s House of
information is current as of January 2003. It is recommended that you
contact the numbers, and/or visit the websites above to determine any
changes to the information.