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About Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin






Wisconsin Dells is a city in south-central Wisconsin, with a population of 2,678 people as of the 2010 census. It straddles four counties: AdamsColumbiaJuneau, and Sauk. The city takes its name from the Dells of the Wisconsin River, a scenic, glacially formed gorge that features striking sandstone formations along the banks of the Wisconsin River. Together with the nearby village of Lake Delton, the city forms an area known as "the Dells", a popularMidwestern tourist destination.






Downtown Wisconsin Dells looking west 

Downtown Wisconsin Dells looking west












Origin of the name




Early French explorers named the Dells of the Wisconsin River as dalles, a rapids or narrows on a river in voyageurFrench.






Early history 




Wisconsin Dells was founded as Kilbourn City in 1857 by Byron Kilbourn, who also founded Kilbourntown, one of the three original towns at the confluence of the MilwaukeeMenomonee, and Kinnickinnic Rivers that joined to becomeMilwaukee. Before the establishment of Kilbourn City, the region around the dells of the Wisconsin River was primarily a lumbering area until 1851, when the La Crosse and Milwaukee Railroad was chartered, with Kilbourn as its president. The railroad made plans to bridge the Wisconsin River near the river's dells, and a boomtown named Newport sprang up at the expected site of the bridge in 1853. The population of this new city quickly swelled to over 2,000, but when the railroad finally came through the area in 1857 it took nearly everyone by surprise by crossing the river a mile upstream from the site of Newport. As a result, Newport was rapidly turned into a ghost town as the settlers flocked to the new city at the site of the railroad bridge, Kilbourn City. The land at the point of crossing was originally owned by Parley Eaton. Byron Kilbourn bought the land from Eaton for a reduced price as everyone expected the railroad to cross at Newport. However, Kilbourn then went to Madison and lobbied the state to allow for the railroad right-of-way to be moved to cross at the point where he owned the land and greatly increased its value. Gradually, tourism became a large part of Kilbourn City. To make it easier for tourists to identify Kilbourn City with the natural landscape for which it was famous, the name of the city was changed to Wisconsin Dells in 1931. As the twentieth century progressed, new attractions began to draw even more tourists.





Because of the scenery provided by the dells of the Wisconsin River, Kilbourn City quickly became a popular travel destination in the Midwest. In 1856, Leroy Gates began taking tourists on boat tours of the Wisconsin Dells. These tours were given using wooden rowboats until 1873 when the first steamboat, the Modocawanda, was used. In 1875, early landscape photographer H. H. Bennett established a studio in the city and took many photos of the sandstone formations in the dells, including stereoscopic views. Prints of these photographs were distributed across the United States, further enhancing the status of Kilbourn City as a destination for sightseers. Taking advantage of this, Bennett began offering to take souvenir pictures of visitors to the dells, becoming one of the first to capitalize on the area's burgeoning tourist trade. Today, the H. H. Bennett Studio is a historic site operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The Dells region remained primarily a place for sightseers to escape the bustle of the city for many decades. By 1894, distillate-powered tour boats began to be used. In 1908, the Kilbourn Dam was installed by what is now Alliant Energy, over the protests of people such as H. H. Bennett, separating the Dells into the Upper and Lower Dells.

Since the time of LeRoy Gates, the Dells Boat Tours have gone through many operators. Some of the previous companies were The Riverview Boat Line, the Olson Boat Line, the Dells Boat Company, the Consolidated Boat Company, and the Silver Dollar Boat Line.

A few other events of interest took place during this time, including the June 16, 1911 impact of a 772-gram stony meteorite in rural Columbia County near the city, damaging a barn. In 1928 Mr. Clinton Berry established Berry's Dells airport. It occupied sixty acres and was designated on government maps as beacon No. 19. Berry built the airport to carry visitors to the Dells from the surrounding metropolitan areas. 






DUCKS come to the Dells 





In 1946 a man named Bob Unger acquired an army surplus DUKW (an amphibious truck commonly called a "duck"). He opened the first scenic duck ride in Wisconsin Dells, partnering with Mel Flath (who had the idea for the tour) and leasing land from Helen Raab, who owned woodland property between Lake Delton and the Wisconsin River known as the Lower Dells Scenic Park. Helen Raab and Dr. Reinhold Ebert each had half-ownership of the property, an agreement formally known as the Dells Corporation. The duck tour was named the Wisconsin Dells Amphibian Line, and the fleet was expanded to meet demand. But while the tour was instantly popular, Unger departed after a single season at the helm.

In 1953, Dr. Ebert bought out Mel Flath and made several innovations, including installing canopies and building the first duck dock at the tour's current location at 1890 Dells Parkway. He and Helen Raab continued to work closely promoting the tour and improving the trails, and the tour became famous as a unique and exciting way to see the amazing natural sights of the Wisconsin Dells on both land and water. Then, in 1956, Ebert and Raab transferred their interests and ownership in Wisconsin Dells Amphibian Lines and the Dells Corporation to an ownership group composed of four boat companies: Dells Boat Tours (owned by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation), Olson Boat Company, Consolidated Boat Lines and Riverview Boat Lines. This ownership association formed the company Wisconsin Ducks, Inc. and Ben Olson was named the first manager.

Other duck tours came and went, including Delton Amphibian Lines (1954 - 56) run by Donald Pagel, Dollar Duck Rides (1964 - 1966) run by Mel Flath, and Aquaduck Cruise Tours (mid-1970s) operated by Soma Boat Lines. Because this caused confusion among tourists, Wisconsin Ducks, Inc. became ORIGINAL WISCONSIN DUCKS, INC., to reflect their documented history as the sole duck company in continuous operation since 1946. Today, there are two duck companies in Wisconsin Dells: Dells Duck Tours, Inc., founded in 1977 by Mel Flath's daughter and son-in-law, George and Suzanne Field, and Original Wisconsin Ducks, which at 92 ducks is the world's largest duck fleet and continues to operate on the same land and tour route that was established in 1946. In 2015, Original Wisconsin Ducks celebrates its 70th year of operation.









Lake Delton, Wisconsin Dells's sister city to the south, gradually became popular as the Dells attractions spread out. The Wonder Spot was founded in Lake Delton in 1952, and remained open until 2006.[11] In 1952, a new traveling performance from Chicago called "Tommy Bartlett's Thrill Show" came to Lake Delton on its second stop. Following the show's huge success in the city, its owner, Tommy Bartlett, chose to keep the performance permanently in Wisconsin Dells. To promote the show, Bartlett gave away bumper stickers advertising his thrill show and the city, effectively spreading word about the area across the nation. Soon more attractions followed to serve the ever-increasing tourists, along with countless hotels, shops, and restaurants.




















SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin_Dells,_Wisconsin

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