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Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

Original Wisconsin Ducks®

Original Wisconsin Ducks

Original Wisconsin Ducks

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1890 Wisconsin Dells PkwyWisconsin Dells 53965
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March 14 - November 5
(608) 254-8751
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Journey on an amphibious vehicle used during World War II. These restored ducks travel by land and water on trails tucked away among the natural beauty of Wisconsin Dells. Squeeze through the narrow walls of Red Bird Gorge. Coast around the exhilarating curves of Roller Coaster Hill. Plunge into the Wisconsin River. Experience 8 1/2 miles of breathtaking views from towering sandstone cliffs to scenic wilderness trails. Take a one-hour tour aboard a green and white duck. Duck Dock located at 1890 Wisconsin Dells Parkway (Hwy 12), just off I-90/94, Exit 87.
Classic Experience

Perhaps best known of the Wisconsin River tour options is the area’s fleet of WWII amphibious vehicles known by their military shorthand - Ducks. These land-to-water transports provide up-close and personal encounters with flora, fauna, the river and the bluffs.  It was shortly after World War II ended that these unique vehicles began their new tour of duty in the Dells.  The first "Duck" tour was back in 1946, and they've been operating continuously since.  The operation has grown to 92 vehicles, making it the largest fleet of amphibious tour Ducks in the country and a classic Dells' attraction.


Duck Dock located one mile South of Wisconsin Dells on Highway 12, just off I-90/94, Exit 87

Convention Overview
FUN! ADVENTURE! ON LAND AND WATER! Ride the nostalgic Ducks on a one hour 8 1/2 mile tour of the Wisconsin River, Dell Creek and Lake Delton. On land travel through 4 miles of scenic wilderness trails.
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    Original Wisconsin Ducks® Stories
    2013-07-29My family and I have been coming to the Dells since I was a baby, and I'm 20 years old! We've done the Original Wisconsin Ducks for the past few years, and it's always a new, fun experience! In fact, we just went yesterday and I swear that the driver created an entirely new, different experience and we learned some new information about the Ducks and Lake Delton! Our driver Cam, just like our past experiences, was of course an awesome tour guide! I highly reccommend visiting the Original Wisconsin Ducks when you and you're family visit the Dells. It's fun for ALL ages!!
    2012-08-19Our family rode on the Original Wisconsin Ducks and what a treat it was! One of our children got to sit up front next to the driver, Trevor who was fantastic, and we all had a wonderful time! I would definitely recommend this attration to anyone visiting the Dells!!
    -AliciaPine City,MN
    2010-01-05I'm remembering when my parents took us for the first time,I and my brother were so amazed by the Duck we couldn't sleep after riding it. This was back in the early 70's, I have a family now and I would love to bring them here to relive all the fun and enjoyment we had so long ago.
    -YolandaChicago Heights,Illinois
    2009-10-14My son was about 4 when he went on his first duck ride. The first thing he asked was if he could sit with the driver. My husbands first thought, having been on the ducks more than 20 times in his life was "not a good idea, no seatbelts". The duck driver, seeing how disappointed my son was said it was not a problem and took care of him through all the twist,turns and drops. Now my son is almost 10 and has been a co pliot at least as many times as his age and knows the duck script and tour by heart! He has said that when he goes to college, he wants to be a duck driver during the summer! Talk about dedication!
    -YvonneRound lake heights,Il
    2009-04-18We used to ride the DUCKS when we were kids back in the 50s. I'm glad to see that they are still around.

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    Original Wisconsin Ducks® Articles
    Wisconsin Dells Rituals2010-06-01You asked for it, you got it. Our picks for the must-do Dells vacation rituals.Read More
    Wisconsin Dells Rituals

    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.


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    How To Keep A Bunch Of Ducks In Order 2010-04-01Meet the Man behind the Ducks.Read More
    How To Keep A Bunch Of Ducks In Order

    original-wisconsin-ducks-21Wagner is the shop supervisor at The Original Wisconsin Ducks®, a tour company that offers land-to-water Wisconsin Dells tours on those lumbering WWII amphibious vehicles known as Ducks, a shorthand moniker for D.U.K.W., the military code representing characteristics of the vehicle: D = 1942 , U = amphibian, K = front-wheel drive, W = rear-wheel drive. He's been with the company for 35 of its 57 years, longer than anyone else on his crew. He knows his way around a GM motor circa 1942-1945 better than anyone, thanks to overseeing a fleet of 92 Ducks, the largest in the world.

    When we stopped by the shop to chat with Wagner, we realized soon enough he's a soft-spoken guy who gives the mechanics who came before him credit for his training. Today, he supervises a crew of eight, including two of his sons, Ryan and Brad. He tells us his youngest, Kyle, who's just 13, wants to work here someday too.

    While the Ducks, a popular Wisconsin Dells attraction, runs mid-March to early November, Wagner is there year-round. Six days a week during the busy summer months, and then full-time in the cold-weather months. He keeps busy in the off-months rebuilding the motors and getting the Dells Ducks ship-shape inside and out for the next season.

    We asked Wagner if he's ever met a Duck he couldn't fix and he humbly replies "no." He tells us he was on a panel for the National Transportation Safety Board regarding uniform safety standards for Ducks, a nice feather in his cap.

    And, we couldn't resist one last question: "Do you get asked for your advice on repairing cars?" "All the time," he told us. "All the time."

    The Original Wisconsin Ducks® carry more than 300,000 visitors a year on their one-hour, 8.5-mile tour of the wooded trails and scenic waterways of Wisconsin Dells. And those 300,000 visitors have John Wagner to thank for that.


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    From Logging Town To Steamboat Tour Central To “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®” 2010-07-01Today’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!®”

    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 at 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" 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 helped change photography forever with his use of a stop-action shutter he called the "snapper". 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 1843. 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, David Rambow, 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 from May to October and those interested outside those dates may look online, call 608.253.3523, or email for information.

    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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    Great Anticipation - The Remaking of Lake Delton2009-04-01Remaking A Lake - Everyone wondered, would Lake Delton be back after draining into the Wisconsin River in 2008 following torrential rains. It's back!Read More
    Great Anticipation - The Remaking of Lake Delton

    Empty Lake Delton WisconsinThere may be no one more eager to christen the lake "open for business" than Tom Diehl, owner of the Tommy Bartlett Show. Ask any of the Dells locals, and they'll tell you it was Diehl who was hardest hit when the lake drained, stranding his water ski show and lopping off nearly all his seasonal income in one fell swoop. Yet, through the hardship, it was also Diehl who volunteered tirelessly on behalf of the entire Village of Lake Delton, while shying away from any accolades for his work, to make certain the mammoth task of remaking the lake would happen in less than a year's time. The Tommy Bartlett Show is making a comeback this summer, which is just what you'd expect from Diehl.

    "The lake being back for the summer of 2009 is a tremendous boost to all the affected businesses. I'm deeply grateful to all those who worked so hard to ensure the lake's return."


    Then there's Dawn Baker, co-owner of Baker's Sunset Bay Resort, a spot so popular for Wisconsin Dells family reunions and return guests that it's like old home week there every day of the summer. On the infamous day, Baker stood in disbelief, watching the waters pull away from her beach. She was interviewed often by reporters wanting to get her first-hand perspective. Today, she's happy to provide it.

    “We felt like we had lost our best friend when we lost the lake. It's exciting to see our old friend again."

    Lake Delton Refilled - 2009


    General Manager at Original Wisconsin Ducks®, Dan Gavinski, had to reroute their land-to-water tours last summer, bypassing the lake and spending more time on the Wisconsin River. This summer, the Duck tour will once again include the famous splashdown in Lake Delton.

    "It brought a smile to all of our faces when the repair work was completed and the lake began to refill. Our passengers will get a real treat when they see the new lake up close on our amphibious tours."


    Finally, Joe Eck, marketing director for the Wilderness on the Lake resort. In a nice turnabout, the Wisconsin Dells resort extended an invitation to any guest who had been there on that fateful June 9 to return this year on the same day, compliments of the resort.

    "We want all of our guests to be awed at what a difference a year makes."


    Wisconsin Dells business owners classify themselves as fierce but friendly competitors, yet this event rallied the community together like never before and brought out the best in everyone. And that was the silver lining to one very large storm cloud.


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    Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About a Duck 2010-04-01Duck Fact-Finding Mission - Historical facts on the famous Duck fleets.Read More
    Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About a Duck


    • Ducks are equipped with a 40-gallon gas tank, with 4.5 gallons of gas used per tour.
    • A Duck has six driving wheels, a steel hull and a land motor in front that also operates in water by means of a propeller at the rear.
    • General Motors manufactured more than 21,000 Ducks between 1942 and 1945. When first produced, each cost $10,000.
    • Ducks were originally used as military transport vehicles in all the large amphibious operations of World War II and the Korean War, including the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion.
    • The first Duck tour in the Dells was in 1946.

    Today there are two Duck tour companies in the Dells -- Dells Army Duck Tours and Original Wisconsin Ducks®.


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    Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

    701 Superior Street, PO Box 390
    Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965-0390
    (800) 223-3557
    (608) 254-4293 (Fax)

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