Tuesday, July 24, 2007, 04:02 PM - WisconsinA “duck” is a vehicle that is both a car and a boat. Originally designed for World War II (and given the name DUKW), a duck can drive right off the edge of a road and float into water. While certainly not the only way to see the famous Wisconsin Dells on water and on land, riding in a duck is one of the more unique experiences in Wisconsin.
Of course, there are other places in America to ride one of these unique amphibious army vehicles. Boston, for example, offers similar tours around town and into the Charles River. In the Dells, however, seeing the Wisconsin River in a duck is a must – the ride is bumpy, the “splashdowns” (going from land to water) are intense, but it is a unique enough experience to recommend to anybody visiting this part of Wisconsin.
Duck tours involve a lot of interesting sights; not just the Dells themselves. There are many wooded paths throughout the area that are reserved for these tours only. So visitors can see things on a duck that they just can’t see anywhere else. Depend-ing on the tour company, the ducks may enter surprisingly quiet and secluded sections of wilderness only a few short miles away from the bustling center of commerce. They twist and turn through the woods, making their way to the river. When they splashdown, passengers may get a bit wet. From there, they float around the river, eventually making their way back to land. For these tours, ducks carry about 20 passengers each. The entire tour lasts about an hour, and run only during the warm tourist season.
There are two major companies currently offering duck tours in Wisconsin Dells, both competing with each other for your business:
Original Wisconsin Ducks
The Original Wisconsin Ducks has been giving tours of the dells and Wisconsin River for about 60 years. They have the largest fleet of Ducks in the United States – they own about 1/3 of the approximately 300 operational Ducks in the nation. The tour is about 8 miles through the city, the wilderness, and the Wisconsin River. Some of the trails are exclusive to the Original Wisconsin Ducks. This tour operates solely on the Lower Dells portion of the river (south of the dam), and explores many off-road places throughout the journey.
Despite the name, there is nothing inherently “original” about these Ducks. They came from the same World War II mold that the other ducks did, across the United States. They are “original” in that the Ducks were originally used for combat during the war, and have since been refurbished (Ducks are no longer manufactured, and haven’t been since the 1950s). Nevertheless, this is one fantastic tour that should not be missed.
Dells Army Ducks
The Dells Army Ducks is one of several tours offered by Dells Glacial Park Tours. These ducks, which traverse the Lower Dells and Lake Delton, see more of Lake Delton, and more of residential and commercial areas. The Dells Army Ducks offers a small fleet and a rather intimate experience. This tour is ideal for those interested in seeing the more populated areas of Wisconsin Dells; drive around the city streets on a very unique aquatic vehicle.
In addition to the Ducks, the Dells Glacial Park Tours offers a more standard boat tour, the Mark Twain Upper Dells Tour. The tour lasts about an hour on its 15-mile journey. There are no stops on this tour; but the boat pulls up close to many of the famous landmarks while you learn about the history of the Dells. The tour has regular departures during the warm months.
By: Dirk Vanderwilt
Dirk Vanderwilt is the author of several travel guidebooks for the Tourist Town Guides series. Tourist Town Guides offer independent, honest advice about America's top tourist hotspots.
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