Both American Indians and the French were the initial inhabitants of Wisconsin, and the name of this state located in the Great Lakes area, is actually a blend of both languages: they fished and farmed near a river they called “Meskousing" - meaning "where the waters gather". The French pronounced and spelled this American Indian term “Ouisconsin” and that’s how the state and its largest river got their names.
The Dells, located along the Wisconsin River in the middle of the state, have beautiful and quite unique rock formations in its winding bends, and its name also comes from a French word, “Les Dalles”, which this time Americans transformed into something easier to pronounce. OK, now that we know where the words Wisconsin Dells come from, what is so special about them?
First of all, without enjoying such beautiful scenery, the Wisconsin Dells would certainly not have become the enormous get away for tourists that it has become today. The best way to appreciate it is to take a boat tour on the Wisconsin River, admiring the sandstone bluffs covered in pine and birch trees, seemingly chiseled out of nothing by some majestic hand. Of course they are actually the result of glacial melt waters thousands of years ago, but remain eye-catching and sublime.
But then, in the US, there are plenty of breath-taking places to see, so what is so different about this little town in Wisconsin? The Wisconsin Dells is just a place where you are guaranteed to have good old-fashioned fun – there is something for everyone, and it is definitely family-friendly. Dubbed the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” it has hosts of indoor theme parks and outdoor amusement parks packed in only 19 square miles. Kids love it, especially in the hot Wisconsin summers, and during the cold Wisconsin winters, well coming into a huge pool with slides, waves, and hot-tubs after having spent the day outside in the snow is definitely the best of both worlds. And when the kids love something, generally their parents do too. There are fun and luxury shops for everyone to spend a few dollars, mini-golf courses that will challenge even the most seasoned golfers, amusement parks and rides, the famous Tommy Bartlett water show, museums, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, family or more exclusive restaurants, not to mention the “ducks.”
But this tourist based town did not just happen in a day’s time. How did all of this come to be built in this little picturesque village? This is also an interesting story. During a career that lasted from 1865 to 1908, the photographer H.H. Bennett photographed the landscape and scenery around the Dells. He took pictures not only of the river with its sandstone formations, but of the Indians who then lived there, of the fishermen, river loggers, and yes, of course, the tourists. In fact this man almost invented the word marketing.
He named landmarks to make them more appealing to tourists: Witches Gulf, Fat Man’s Misery, and sometimes put whitewash inside of caves so that they would show up better in his pictures. He invented a device allowing him to mass-produce postcards, of the Dells of course, making it known to people who received these postcards. But his most famous photo, is also an invention that has attracted tourists to the Dells for decades: it was the first time stop-action photos had been possible, and to do this he invented a device he called “The Snapper,” and took a photo of his son jumping across the five and a half foot chasm to a rock named Standing Rock. Today tourists also snap this very same photo when visiting; only this time, a dog jumps across!
H.H. Bennett would certainly have been proud of his success, not only as a photographer, but also as a marketing expert, with the thousands of people that continue to visit the Wisconsin Dells.