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Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort

Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort

Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort

  • Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort
Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort Map
Address:
511 E Adams StWisconsin Dells 53965
Phone:
(608) 253-9729
(800) 867-9453
Open:
Year-round
Contact:
X
Phone:
(608) 253-9729
 
Phone:
(608) 253-9729
Fax:
(608) 254-1079
 
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Overview

The Wilderness Resort, as seen on the Travel Channel’s Extreme Resorts show, is America's Largest Waterpark Resort. It features 4 indoor and 4 outdoor waterparks, which are home to some of the amusement industry's most thrilling water rides. The Resort is also home to Wild Rock Golf Club, The Woods 9-Hole Family Course; a four-story Timberland Play Park; a two-story laser tag arena and laser maze; an indoor ropes course, 3 mega arcades; 3 indoor 3-D black light mini golf courses; Jurassic outdoor mini golf; indoor and outdoor go-karts and the Wilderness Canyon Canopy Zip Line Tour. There are also more than a dozen eating options on premise and a WildKids club.

 

Water Activities:

Guests at any Wilderness property (Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, Wilderness on the Lake or Glacier Canyon Lodge) have access to 4 indoor and 4 outdoor waterparks as well as a variety of attractions which are spread out between all three properties located on the Wilderness Territory right here in Wisconsin Dells. A convenient resort shuttle and water taxi service takes guests wherever they want to go on the Territory. Plus, all Wilderness waterparks are exclusively for guests so you don’t have to worry about overcrowding!

NEW IN 2014: A two-story laser tag arena, laser maze, indoor go-karts, Margarita’s adults-only swim-up bar and Klondike Boardwalk which will be home to Yukon Yogurt, Klondike Pizza Kitchen and Klondike Kate’s Libations.
 
Indoor Waterparks:
 
Located at Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, the Wild West Waterpark spans 70,000 sq. ft. and features:     
 
  • Wild West Bumper Boats
  • The Black Hole thrill slide 
  • The Fantastic Voyage, the Dells' only 5-person raft ride
  • Ransack Ridge, a four-story interactive play feature
  • Four speed slides and indoor/outdoor hot spas
  • Indoor/outdoor hot spa

Located at Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, Klondike Kavern Waterpark spans over 65,000 sq. ft. and features:  
 
  • The Hurricane thrill slide, the Dells tallest indoor 4-person raft ride which was featured on the Travel Channel’s Xtreme Waterparks television show
  • Bonanza Brook, a 400-foot lazy river 
  • Sulfur Springs indoor/outdoor hot spa
  • Bonanza Bluff, a huge play feature which includes 50 play & spray features, a 750-gallon tipping bucket, a 20 foot body slide and a 4 foot side by side children's slide.
  • Two 500-foot tube rides which drop five stories
  • A 180-Foot body slide

Located at Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, the Wild WaterDome Waterpark, spans 70,000 square feet and features: 

  • A see-through roof which allows UV rays to permeate through it so you can tan indoors year-round
  • Margarita’s adults-only swim-up bar (opening May 2014)
  • The Great Wave, the country’s largest indoor wave pool spanning 15,450 square feet
  • The Dueling Mammoths thrilling family raft ride
  • A 2,200 square foot 'zero-depth' play lagoon for the smaller ones
  • 9 cave-themed private cabanas available for rent.
     

Located at Wilderness on the Lake on the Wilderness Territory, Cubby's Cove Waterpark encompasses 35,000 square feet and features:

 
  • Interactive multi-level aquatic kids play structure complete with play and spray features as well as two smaller body slides that are perfect for introducing toddlers and young children to waterparks.
  • Indoor/outdoor hot spas 
  • Water basketball pool
 

Outdoor Waterparks:

  • Located at Glacier Canyon Lodge on the Wilderness Territory, Lost World Waterpark, spans 3.2 acres and features:
  • Lunar Loop extreme thrill slide, which features a five story drop before propelling thrill seekers into a nearly vertical spiral loop at speeds of up to 40 mph
  • Cosmic Drop, extreme which features a straight, stomach-dropping, five-story plunge that feels like a free fall at speeds of up to 40 mph
  • Halley’s Comet Racers featuring steep twists, turns and stomach drops
  • The Lost World Adventure River that includes fast rapids, uphill currents, twisting slides, swirls and run-offs
  • A swimming pool with a lily pad bridge
  • Dinosaur-themed play ‘n spray structure with tipping bucket to douse unsuspecting little tykes
  • Water basketball pool
  • Outdoor spa
  • Dinosaur Crossing, A WildKid’s Club activity area
  • 15 private cabanas available for rent

Located at Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, Lake Wilderness Waterpark spans over 40,000 square feet and features:

 

  • Island Pool: a 13,000 sq. ft. lazy lake complete with sideline play activities and built-in lounging ridge
  • Rafter’s Rage Tube Slide: a 300-foot tube slide complete with twists & turns
  • Rafter’s Rage Body Slide: a 220-foot body slide
  • Lil’ Chutes: Two 100-foot body slides with plunge pool
  • A lap pool
  • A children’s wading pool with hands-on water activities & spray features
  • 9 private poolside cabanas available for rent 

Located at Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, New Frontier Waterpark spans over 95,000 square feet and features:
 
  • Prospector's Creek, a 600-foot lazy river
  • Gold Rush Tube Slide, a thrilling 400-foot tunnel slide that launches off a 40-foot high tower and Timber Falls, a lightning fast body slide that launches from the same tower
  • Bear Foot Island Sprayground, that features spraying fountains, exploding geysers, shooting water jets and other fun water play features
  • Toddler's Cove, zero-depth play area with tree swing, smaller slides, bubbling geysers and other fun activities
  • Two activity pools
  • Margarita’s adults only, indoor/outdoor swim-up bar
  • Over an acre of deck space with lounge chairs and tables so you can relax while the kids play

 

Located at Wilderness on the Lake on the Wilderness Territory, Cubby's Cove Waterpark spans 15,000 square feet and features:

  • An Infinity pool with vanishing edge that overlooks Lake Delton
  • The Watering Hole, a small zero depth play and spray area perfect for small children
  • Scenic views of Lake Delton 
  • Private sandy beach

 

In addition to its waterparks, the Wilderness Resort has many other fun attractions for guests to explore. They include:

Indoor:

  • Northern Light Sky Ropes Course*
  • Wild West Indoor Bumper Boats*
  • Wild Abyss, Wild Buccaneer and Big Fish 3-D Mini Golf*
  • Wilderwoods Go-Karts – NEW summer 2014*
  • Ok Corral Lazer Tag Arena and Marshal Training Lazer Maze –NEW February 2014*
  • 3 Mega Arcades*
  • Timberland Play Park
  • Polka Dot Pots Paint Your Own Pottery*
  • WildKids Club Activities

Outdoor:

  • Wild Rock Golf Club*
  • The Woods 9-Hole Family Course*
  • Wilderness Canyon Zip Line Tour*
  • Lost World Jurassic Outdoor Mini Golf*
  • Cosmic Go-Karts and Kiddie Karts*
  • Horse Drawn Wagon Rides
  • Wilderland Park
  • Nature and Strolling Path

*Please note these attractions are not included with your stay and require an additional fee to participate.

 
 
Convention Overview
55,000+ sq ft of meeting & convention space, Glacier Canyon Lodge is the facility for every event. Experienced staff, state of the art facilities, mouthwatering cuisine, Wi-Fi, post-function on-site amenities will make your attendees feel special.
Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort Convention Amenities
  • Audio Visual On-Site
  • Catering On-Site
  • Food Service Adjacent
  • Food Service On-Site
  • Golf Course Venue
  • Hotel / Resort
  • Internet – Complimentary Meeting Room
  • Outdoor Venue
  • Waterpark - Indoor
  • Waterpark - Outdoor
Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort Rooms and Facilities
Room NameDimensionsSquare FeetCeiling HeightTheatre NumberClassroom NumberBanquet NumberConference Number
Sandstone Room 2 or 7 Each74.8' x 40.6'3,18816'3002002500
Sandstone Room 343' x 40.6'1,84016'20012315048
Clubhousen/a4,392n/a002000
Sandstone Room 4, 5 or 6 Each19.2' x 40.6'81416'88546018
Glacier Room A-D Each18.9' x 28'48714'50303212
Sandstone Room 8 or 9 Each21.6' x 40.6'90616'100607020
Glacier Room A-D All75' x 28'1,91814'20010212850
Sandstone Room 1-9 All175.4' x 80.2'14,82316'161199912000
Wilderness Room 1 or 4 Each42.9' x 38'1,60618'1509010036
Tundra Room A-F Each23.3' x 29'67816'72455016
Wilderness Room 2 or 5 Each41.9' x 38'1,50818'1509010036
Tundra Room A-F All137.4' x 29'4,06816'4442763300
Wilderness Room 3 or 6 Each34.4' x 47'1,29217'80306424
Wilderness Room 1-6 All118.9' x 76'8,81218'8445555000
Lake Delton Board Room16.6' x 31'53911'00012
Sandstone Room 157.6' x 40.6'2,45116'26616520052
 
Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort Videos
 
Add Your Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort Story
Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort
 
Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort Stories
04/08/2014I went with my BFF and her family and it was the best I can't even try to explain and we are going back this summer and I'm so lucky to be going!
- 
03/19/2014 We went to Wilderness for spring break with our daughter a couple of years ago. She loved it! There is so much to do besides the waterparks and slides. The dining options are great, too. The rooms were very clean and the staff was very helpful. The lifeguards were great as well. My daughter slipped and scraped her leg at one of the pools. The lifeguard saw her, went right over and cleaned the cut and put on a band-aid the walked her over to us. We are going back this year. My husband and I are almost excited as she is. This a great place to go. It is indoors and warm even during the coldest days of a Wisconsin winter.
-TiffanyLake Zurich,IL
11/03/2013If you think Disney world is worth it then go to the wilderness territory man this place rocks its so cool and nicely themed. I love the wild water dome and the ruling mammoths and I also like the haunted hotel it creepy yet fun and I'm going in three weeks for my sister bday can't wait I recommend this place if you like Disneyland or world
-angel 
05/16/2013Great
-Stephane 
03/23/2013The Wilderness is the best waterpark in the Dells. They have awesome water attractions. The hurricane is the best waterslide. The wild water dome is awesome. The sun coming in while riding the waves in the huge wave pool. They have great waterslides the wilderness express, fantastic voyage, hurricane, black hole, body slides and more. The hot tubs are awesome in the winter you can still go outside and swim. It's perfect for all ages. If you wanna go out of the water there are so many activities. Ropes coarse, 3-D mini gold coarses, arcades, and if you have a sweet tooth goody goody gum drop is candy heaven. They have all kinds of candy anything you can imagine! They have some great resturaunts . There is so much to do. We went for my bday a few months ago and my family is going again this week for spring break. We are all so excited.
-Jessica 

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Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort Articles
Ladies And Gentlemen, Put Your Hands Together For The "Fab Five Inside!"03/19/2010Get the stats and must-do's for the area's top indoor waterparks.Read More
Ladies And Gentlemen, Put Your Hands Together For The "Fab Five Inside!"
03/19/2010

chula-vista-indoor-water-park-wi-dellsChula Vista Resort

Perched on the bluffs towering above the Wisconsin River, this resort has undergone a magical transformation over the past few years. New condos, golf course villas, an upscale steakhouse and an incredibly themed indoor water park -- Lost Rios. Inside this 80,000 square-foot Aztec paradise, you can race each other on the Matador Mat Racers or hang out in Mount Montezuma's giant rain forest. Not to be missed is the Flyan Myan Zip Coaster, the world's fastest and longest indoor water roller coaster.

 

 

great-wolf-indoor-waterparks-wi-dellsGreat Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge combines the rustic charm of a Northwoods lodge with the amenities you'd expect at a top-notch resort, with loads of dryland activities geared toward younger children too. Head to the resort's indoor water parks -- there are three of them, measuring a mammoth 100,000 square feet -- and there you'll find a range of rides that are family-pleasing. For the older kids and daredevil adults, the Howlin Tornado, a six-story high extreme tube ride, is the centerpiece. For the young ones, a four-story treehouse waterfort is irresistible.

 

 

kalahari-wisconsin-dells-indoor-waterparksKalahari Waterpark Resort Convention Center

This resort is distinguished by its authentic African art, a live animal exhibit with tiger cubs and baby kangaroos, and some of the largest freestanding condominiums in the area that include five bedrooms, four bathrooms, billiard room and theater room. But it's the indoor surf machine known as the FlowRider® that has made this place famous. Stand-up surf or boogie board on this ride, with 50,000 gallons of water flowing under you each minute to create a five-foot ocean-like wave. A close second in talk value is their Master Blaster uphill water roller coaster. This indoor water park comes in at a whopping 125,000 square feet.

 

 

wilderness-resort-wi-dells-indoor-water-parksWilderness Hotel & Golf Resort

Bigger is better here, no doubt about it. The Wilderness Resort is America's largest indoor/outdoor combination water park resort, with three massive indoor water parks totaling 250,000 square feet and another three outdoor to match. Guests tan year-round in the Wild WaterDome with its see-through roof, when they're not in family-raft racing rides or bobbing in the country's largest indoor wave pool that is. Klondike Kavern is famous for its lazy river and Hurricane water raft ride. Wild West Waterpark is fun for all ages and features the Fantastic Voyage family raft ride.

 

 

mt-olympus-indoor-water-parksMt. Olympus Water & Theme Parks

While this hotel and theme park complex has a decidedly Greek theme going, the indoor water park draws on an eclectic mix of imagery to get the fun started. Towering tube slides named for killer snakes like Cobra, Diamondback, Anaconda and Boa; a Mayan raging river; a pirate ship complete with tattered sails, tunnels and water slides for the little ones; and a jungle water walk are the most popular attractions here.

Of course, these handful of water parks are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The nice thing about Wisconsin Dells is that, if you prefer cozier surroundings in a water park, they've got that too. So you choose - big, small, something in between, or all of the above.

 

View Article
Wisconsin Dells Rituals06/01/2010You asked for it, you got it. Our picks for the must-do Dells vacation rituals.Read More
Wisconsin Dells Rituals
06/01/2010

wisconsin-dells-tours-17Ride a DUCK

See the Dells in amusing style. The banter of the drivers is good clean comedy, and the scenery on land and water is a sight to behold, up close and personal.

 

 

 

wisconsin-dells-fudge-17Eat fudge

Let Dells homemade fudge melt in your mouth. Buy a caramel apple, dipped multiple times for good measure, for midnight snacking.

 

 

 

 

tommy-bartlett-show-wisconsin-dellsSee the Tommy Bartlett Show

Honestly, the Tommy Bartlett Show is synonymous with Wisconsin Dells and is one of the most fun Wisconsin Dells attractions. Remember, don't try all those tricks at home. Leave it to the professionals.

 

 

 

wisconsin-dells-attractions-17Take up mini-golfing and go-karting in the Dells

In addition to being the "The Waterpark Capital of the World!®", the Dells is also considered the country's mini-golf and go-kart capital.

 

 

 

 

 

Jump in the water

Could be at one of the many Wisconsin Dells water parks, a lake, a motel or a campground. Just make certain to get wet before you leave.

 

View Article
Largest Wisconsin Dells Waterparks01/09/2012Waterpark Nirvana - Here are six that set the bar for waterpark paradise, each with its own distinct personality.Read More
Largest Wisconsin Dells Waterparks
01/09/2012

Here are six sweet Wisconsin Dells waterparks that set the gold standard:

noahs-ark-water-park-wisconsin-dells-40Noah's Ark Waterpark

This is the undisputed granddaddy of them all. At 70 acres, Noah's Ark is America's largest outdoor water park.  The park is known for launching waterslide innovations, like the country’s first looping waterslide, Scorpion’s Tail.  Their Black Anaconda watercoaster – a combo waterslide and roller coaster - is a full quarter-mile long.

 

 

 

kalahari-wisconsin-dells-water-parksKalahari Resort Waterparks

The Kalahari made its mark in the water park world when it debuted its indoor surf ride, the "Flowrider®," which uses 50,000 gallons of water per minute to create a five-foot ocean-like wave. They also introduced the country’s first indoor water roller coaster, the Master Blaster. The Kalahari, with its authentic African theme, is Wisconsin’s largest indoor water park.

 

wilderness-wisconsin-dells-water-parksWilderness Hotel & Golf Resort

This is the country's largest indoor/outdoor water park combination, with four indoor and four outdoor water parks that total nearly 500,000 square feet or the equivalent of more than 12 football fields. One of their indoor water parks is under a high-tech dome that allows tropical plants to thrive and people to tan even in the winter.

 

 

 

Chula Vista ResortChula Vista Resort

There's no such thing as too much water at Chula Vista Resort. Look one direction, and there's the meandering Wisconsin River. Look the other way, and there's an outdoor wave pool with sand beach, a full outdoor water park, and a multi-level indoor water park that houses the country’s fastest indoor water coaster, the Flyan Myan.

 

 

 

Great Wolf LodgeGreat Wolf Lodge

A multi-story indoor water park complement by an outdoor water park complex easily put this resort in our list of Top Six. Much of Great Wolf Lodge has an "ultimate kids' camp" feel to it with lots of water rides and activities for the younger set. For the more adventurous, the Howlin’ Tornado funnel ride is a must try.

 

 

 

Mt. Olympus Water and Theme ParksMt. Olympus Water & Theme Parks

An outdoor surf pool with nine-foot waves and sandy beach…need we say more?! No, but we will. Mt. Olympus has some rad racing slides too - six side-by-side racers that are 350-feet in length. Indoors, the tube slides are towering and the endless river raging.

 

View Article
Happy Time-Out For Toddlers02/09/2010Tour waterparks, attractions and more that are just the right size for the little ones.Read More
Happy Time-Out For Toddlers
02/09/2010

noahs-ark-toddler-friendly-water-parksWhile Wisconsin Dells has been known as a family destination for more than a few generations now, we saw a need to do something special for the smallest visitors. And our business owners really came through for us. If you have children under the age of five, you'll want to post this list on your refrigerator, right next to that great crayon artwork.

  • We're known for extreme water park rides, slides and water roller coasters. But there are plenty of water activities that cater to the kiddies. Noah's Ark Waterpark has toddler-appropriate swings, slides, tickle-your-toes geysers, squirt guns and shallow pools. Be sure to try the new Tadpole Bay at Noah's Ark.
Great Wolf Lodge - Toddler Friendly Water Water Parks In Wisconsin Dells

 


  • Indoors and outdoors, Polynesian Resort Hotel & Suites and Great Wolf Lodge know just what the little ones like, delivering both toddler-friendly water park activities and dryland attractions.
Knuckleheads - Wisconsin Dells Toddler Activities

 


  • Speaking of dryland, there are a number of spectacular attractions that have toddler written all over them. First up, the new Kalahari Indoor Theme Park at the Kalahari Waterpark Resort Convention Center, featuring a six-story Ferris wheel and African-themed carousel. Also new this year are two indoor, 3-D, black light mini-golf courses at the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, both themed to sea adventures with aquariums filled with salt water fish and a stingray touch tank. There's also Knuckleheads Bowling & Indoor Amusement Park which offers bumper bowling and cute kiddie rides and Pirate's Cove Family Fun Center with sized-right peddle go-carts, a jumping pillow and sand castle area.
Moosejaw - Kid Friendly Wisconsin Dells Restaurants

 


  • When it comes time to feed your hungry toddler, you'll be pleased with the kid-friendly menus and atmosphere at both Buffalo Phil's Pizza & Grille, Pizza Pub and Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co., to name just a few. For breakfast, try Mr. Pancake or Paul Bunyan's Northwoods Cook Shanty.
Timbavati Wildlife Park/Storybook Gardens - WI Dells Animal Attractions

 


  • To let kids experience the great outdoors, plan for a DUCK ride on the Wisconsin River and a visit to the Wisconsin Deer Park where children can pet tame deer.
Circus World - Wisconsin Dells Museums

 


  • Don’t forget Circus World in nearby Baraboo, where there are animals, acrobats, circus wagons and costumes to delight children of all ages.
Goody Goody Gum Drop - Wisconsin Dells Candy Stores

 


  • And if they're really good, perhaps you'd like to treat your sweet children to some age-appropriate sweets at the two Goody Goody Gum Drop shops in town.

 

 

If you accomplish all of the above, everyone in the family will need a nap!

 

View Article
From Logging Town To Steamboat Tour Central To “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®” 07/01/2010Today’s toddlers, tweens and teenagers think of Wisconsin Dells as a shiny, new vacation spot. Little do they know that the Dells is over 150 years old!Read More
From Logging Town To Steamboat Tour Central To “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®”
07/01/2010

Today’s toddlers, tweens and teenagers think of Wisconsin Dells as a shiny, new vacation spot. Little do they know that the Dells is over 150 years old! It was back in 1856 that Wisconsin Dells, then known as Kilbourn City in honor of the railroad’s president, was incorporated.

500 Million Years Ago

You'll be amazed how we can effectively condense 500 million years of history into a paragraph or two. But this is important, because you have to look that far back to understand how the Dells came to be what it is today. During the Cambrian Period, this community was the sandy shore of an ancient sea. Over time, the sand was compacted, and percolating groundwater cemented the sand into rock. That rock went virtually untouched for millions of years. Are your eyes glazing over yet? No? O.K., good, let's continue.

Fast forward, way forward, to 19,000 years ago, when a glacier extended to within four miles east of the area, never touching the Dells. That glacier melted about 15,000 years ago and formed Glacial Lake Wisconsin, a lake about the size of Utah's Great Salt Lake and as deep as 150 feet. The last ice that held back the waters of Glacial Lake Wisconsin began to melt. The failed ice dam unleashed a catastrophic flood; the lake's depth dropped to 50 feet. The meltwaters cut deep, narrow gorges and unusual rock formations into the sandstone and formed the steep-sided canyons and bluffs you see today lining the Wisconsin River. The flood most likely cut the gorges in the Dells in a matter of days or weeks as the swift water eroded away the soft sandstone.

Ho Chunk Nation Wisconsin DellsNative American History Worthy of Its Own Book

An entire book could be devoted to the history of the Native American culture in Wisconsin Dells. The Dells area has been inhabited by native people for 2,000 years, and probably longer. You see their spirit in petroglyphs and pictographs carved and painted into local rock formations, and in ceremonial and burial mounds. While nearly all of the mounds have been destroyed by farming and floods, you can still find some examples of this ancient culture known as the "Effigy Mound Builders." One treasure is at the Kingsley Bend Wayside on Highway 16 where there are a group of some 20 burial and effigy mounds, including two 100-foot long bears, a panther with a tail as long as a football field, and an eagle with a 200 foot wingspan.

The history of the Ho-Chunk, the largest Native American Nation in Wisconsin Dells, once called Winnebago by the French fur traders, includes immense hardship and tremendous rebuilding. In 1832, the U.S. Government began its infamous removal policy, stating that all Indians must be moved west of the Mississippi River. A series of deadly conflicts deeply scarred the culture. The Ho-Chunk were forced to leave their land and head to northwestern Iowa and south-central Minnesota. They were again moved in 1863 to a desolate reservation in South Dakota. It wasn’t until 1873, when the removal policy was reversed, that the Ho-Chunk could file claims to land in the Dells area. By then, Wisconsin Dells had already become a site for Ho-Chunk pow-wows and dancing, with tourists coming to enjoy the festivals, appreciate the culture and visit Wisconsin Dells attractions.

Today, the 4,900 members of the Ho-Chunk Sovereign Nation hold title to 2,000 acres of land, continuing anew their dedication to preserve the Ho-Chunk culture.

The Birth of the Dells

In 1856, the town was incorporated as Kilbourn City, in honor of the railroad's president. The name did not stick. In 1931, it was officially changed to Wisconsin Dells, the name the locals and tourists had always used, with "Wisconsin" derived from the Native American word meaning "dark rushing waters," and "Dells" mimicking the French word "dalles" that means "layers of flat rock" to describe the bluff rock formations.

The then local newspaper, the Wisconsin Mirror, offered a most accurate prophecy of the future of Wisconsin Dells tourism when it concluded in 1856 that "the wild, romantic scenery of the 'Dells' will always make them a place of resort for seekers of pleasure."

wisconsin-river-44Log Rolling

The community was also a busy logging route in Wisconsin, with pines from the north being moved to larger cities in the south. It was dangerous work, given the rapids and primitively designed dams. In fact, at one point, the whole volume of the Wisconsin River was squeezed into a fifty foot wide rocky, narrow gulch. The area's first bridge, built in the 1850s, turned logging into Wisconsin Dells tourism. About that time, the first railroad bridge was built as well. By the end of the century, a new dam, still in place today, was constructed and the successful destiny of the community was sealed.

hh-bennett-wisconsin-dells-44The Most Recognizable Picture Still Looks Scary

He's known as "the man who made Wisconsin Dells famous." Lest you think it was an owner of Wisconsin Dells water parks, or ski show entrepreneur, let's reveal right here and now that it is Henry Hamilton Bennett. Never heard of him? He’s considered one of the top 10, maybe even the top three landscape photographers of the 19th century. Still not ringing a bell? Perhaps his photos will jog your memory. Surely you've seen the picture of a young man leaping from one rock ledge to another. It's titled "Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock" and is one of Bennett's most famous. The photo captures Bennett's son Ashley frozen in mid-air. At the time, many people thought the photograph was faked since stop-motion had not been invented. Until Bennett invented it, that is. The story goes that Bennett had Ashley repeat the jump multiple times to get just the right shot, a story that would make any mother cringe. His life and photos are superbly chronicled at one of the most historic Wisconsin Dells attractions, the H.H. Bennett Studio which was the photographer's original studio that still stands on Broadway in downtown Dells. There's even an exhibit devoted to the famous photo, with markers on the floor to test your own leaping ability.

Bennett was born in the mid 1800s. A carpenter by trade, he turned to photography after a Civil War injury to his hand made carpentry work impossible. He opened his studio in the Dells, then known as Kilbourn City, in 1875. We strolled the gallery-style museum and original darkroom with Bennett's granddaughter, Jean Reese. She lovingly pointed out photos of her mother as a little girl sporting a cute straw hat with ribbons down the back. According to Reese, her mother admitted to being an impatient subject, very much disliking having to sit still while her father, ever the perfectionist, posed every shot just so.

Along with photos of his family, it's the mystical photos of the towering bluffs and swirling Wisconsin River that drew the first tourists to the area, and ultimately sparked Wisconsin Dells tourism.

According to the museum's director, Dale Williams, the studio may just be the longest running business on a main street in the country. Once you step inside, and take in the incredible photographic portraits of the native Ho-Chunk people, the landscapes of the unusual sandstone bluffs, and Bennett's family photos, you'll have a new appreciation for how the Dells came to be.

Prints of Bennett's most famous photos are available for purchase. The museum at 215 Broadway is open year-round.

Tommy Bartlett Ski ShowA Summer Evening in Wisconsin Dells

During the 1930's and '40's, it wasn't unusual to see tourists and Native Americans line up to watch folks descend on the steamboats for a trip to the Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial. In 1946, Mel Flath brought the first WWII land-to-water vehicles known as Ducks to Wisconsin Dells and set up a tour company. In the 1950's, crowds were first treated to the famous Tommy Bartlett ski show. Wisconsin Dells attractions like Storybook Gardens and Fort Dells entertained thousands in the following decades, the precursor to the Dells as we know it today. In 1994, Stan Anderson, the owner of the Polynesian Resort Hotel, decided to put a roof over a water attraction at this property, and the first indoor water park in the country was christened. One year later, both the Wilderness Resort and Treasure Island water parks opened. A few years after that, Great Wolf Lodge expanded its offerings. In 2000, the Kalahari Resort opened and then quickly expanded its indoor water park. The rest, they say, is history.

 

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