Touring the Dells of the Wisconsin River

Touring the Dells of the Wisconsin River

Wisconsin Dells bills itself as the “waterpark capital of the world” for good reason. This popular Midwestern tourist destination has the largest concentration of outdoor and indoor waterparks of any place in the world! But there’s another watery attraction that should not be missed on a visit to Wisconsin Dells–a boat tour of the Wisconsin River, a tributary of the mighty Mississippi and the state’s longest river at 430 miles in length.

As the Wisconsin River flows south through the state, it reaches the dells, a glacially formed geological feature of dramatic sandstone cliffs and canyons that reach up over 100 feet from river banks below. They were created after the waters of a prehistoric glacial lake burst through the walls of an ice dam holding the lake in place. The resulting catastrophic flood carved the majestic 5-mile gorge, or dells, from which the city takes its name.

The word “dells” originates from the French word “dalles,” or narrows or rapids on a river. French fur traders used to navigate these waters in the 18th and early 19th century, when the region was still a part of New France.

Exploring The Dells: A Range of Touring Options

Lush green stands of pine and oak cling to protected cliffs and rock ledges, providing a stark contrast to the stark bareness found in other parts of the gorge that are more exposed to the elements. The tranquil, haunting beauty of the dells, which were carved out of the rock by the erosive forces of water, wind and time, recalls the rocky coast of Maine, or perhaps even the multi-hued canyons of the great Colorado River. The Dells were also home to several American Indian tribes, who left behind important archeological finds including burial mounds, camps and village sites, and rock art.

The Dells Wisconsin River TourBoat tours offer spectacular views of the gorge and cliffs, as well as tributary canyons and rock formations. Dells Boat Tours offers a range of cruise options, from a sunset dinner cruise that features a romantic stroll through the torch-lit paths of Witches Gulch, to a “Ghost Boat” tour for the less faint of heart.

Explore the river and the surrounding terrain without changing your seat aboard an Original Wisconsin Ducks® tour. Hop aboard one of their sturdy WWII-era amphibious vehicles and travel miles of exclusive wilderness trails en route to exciting splashdowns along the Wisconsin River.

If you’re feeling the need for speed, explore the amazing scenery of the Dells on an exciting 50-minute jet boat adventure! Each 32-foot boat is powered by 1,200-horsepower engines, giving you a 50 minute ride packed with with power stops, slides, and power spin outs that will get your heart racing!

Photo credit: pchgorman and Zengrrl cc