Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March 20, 2007

The Wisconsin Dells are a series of rock formations, bluffs and gorges along the Wisconsin River in the central portion of the Badger State. Like the formations at Starved Rock in Illinois, these outcrops were formed during a cataclysmic Pleistocene flood. This in fact is the driftless zone of Wisconsin. The association of the word "dell" is somewhat peculiar: Webster's defines it as "a small, secluded valley or glen."

I didn't see the actual dells in person this past weekend, but I was in the vicinity. Wisconsin Dells must be the most popular tourist attraction in the Midwest, and the glacial features started it all. I would like to say the Dells draw millions of fans of interglacial science to central Wisconsin each year, but this is not the case. The communities of Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton are lined with roadside attractions: indoor waterparks, curiosities and dinner theaters. With T-shirts shops and honky-tonk reigning, the bluffs are an afterthought. Oddly, the waterpark names call to mind nature and wild places: Kalahari, Noah's Ark, Wilderness Resort, Great Wolf Lodge, Grizzly Jack's. We stayed at one of them.

I could write a book-length social commentary about the Dells, but that is outside of the imaginary bounds of this site. I will say this: where did all the tattoos come from? I feel as though I've been living in isolation for most of my life.

CORRECTION: Grizzly Jack's is in Utica, Ill., near Starved Rock. I intended to include it to show that Starved Rock is becoming the next Midwestern glacial formation to attract waterparks.

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