While Vacationing in the Dells

By Mary FairchildMfairladydells9



Do you know the Muffler Man?  Roadside statues came to be in the latter half of the 20th century when the West opened up to the middle class as a vacation destination.  These large statues where a way to draw the attention of the tourists.

Until recently, this Muffler Man had been behind the Mobil Station on 12 near Kalahari. Canyon Creek Riding Stables ride, nearby, takes you to an old west town made up of some former Fort Dells buildings, also.

Fort Dells, currently where the Walgreens is located, was a former area attraction originally patterned after Disneyland’s “Frontierland.” Fort Dells opened in 1959 with a guest appearances by actors Hugh O’Brien, TV’s Wyatt Earp.  It closed in 1985 as tastes in family entertainment began to change.

RoadsideAmerica.com provides maps and even a blog updating the latest sightings of the Muffler Men. They report that they where created in the 1960s by a Californiafiberglass company for gas station chains. Some obvious characteristics of the men ranging in size from 18 to 23 feet. The strange hand position of most were once used to hold mufflers or tires! As establishments changed the Muffler Men were transplanted to other areas. Many still can be found on the shoulders of highways across the nation.

“….Though many defy easy categorizing, there are several subspecies of the pure, muffler-holding creature. The Classic Muffler Man features the trademark legs, torso and arms. The short-sleeved shirt often represents a service station uniform. The head is a strong American worker. He sometimes wears a service cap, but has also been seen in a king’s golden crown. The Cowboywears western duds and a Stetson, but is a close variant of the Classic, identifiable by lantern jaw, steely gaze, leg and arm position…..”

“…The popular lumberjack or big woodsman type is often identified as a Paul Bunyan, with bushy beard and wool cap, ax in hand. ” Related post: Giant Fiberglass Statues: Do You Know the Muffler Man?


Lakeless Lake Delton

“Lake Delton has become a tourist destination of an all-together-different sort. Scavengers took to the muck left behind looking for coins, rings, and other valuables left behind when the water drained away. But some of those people found something they didn’t expect: four guns and two bones that looked very human. “You certainly wonder why a person would throw a gun in the lake,” said Lake Delton Police Detective Janet Klipp, assigned to investigate the unusual discovery.

Recently, Dell’s historian Ross M. Curry wrote in the Dells Events about his hunch (8/16/08) relating to an Italian mob that was known to “lay low” in the area when things heated up in Chicago. Curry and local historian Gail Jermier mulled over the fact that Gail’s father remembered spotting a cabin on Mirror Lake that had iron gates and guards and his father then told him many years later that the Tuohy Gang had a hideout there. When the Capone people began to wipe out the other gangs and many went to jail–at one period, Chicago having over 100 gang related deaths, leaving a lot of hot guns to hide.

Ross Curry first became interested in newspapers during high school when he became sports editor for the Dells Events.  Connected to the paper for 57 years, starting in 1946, longer than anyone else, he has written Kilbourn Klippings for years, gathering historical news from old papers.  He worked mainly doing press and layout and retired in 1992.  Recently, he gave up doing the Klippings, but still writes an occasional historical column.


One of my first trips out on the Wisconsin River in 2007, I appreciated sharing the navigation with my husband as we traveled south from Holiday Shores to the dam in the downtown area.  It’s a pretty active area.  Holiday Shores, where we housed our travel trailer, is near the tourist attractions “Stand Rock,” “Witches Gulch,” and then, as you continue on, the various cliffs of interest along the way.


Letting the pups cool off on a sandbar for awhile….. That’s  Louis Bluff behind us. I just found out that there is a hike on it while reading about the River Alliance of Wisconsin.


By the end of the summer, I “finally” got my own kayak. That’s Easton Dreher and his friend Elliot (picture below)”putting me in.” I purchased my kayak just that week at his business Vertical Illusions. Thanks Easton for the great classes and tours since we first met in ’06.

Our travel trailer backs up to a hiking trail in Holiday Shores not far from Witches Gulch and we get some neat birds in our backyard.  Now, with my own kayak, I had the freedom to explore the river and I also had to practice for my upcoming Apostle Islands trip on Lake Superior in Bayfield, Wisconsin.


The Apostle Islands are as far north as you can go in Wisconsin in Lake Superior. Except for the very hot part of summer, most kayakers wear wetsuits. We wore them for more than half of our trip. I went up with a great group from Geneva Kayak. I took my boys and their friends to a class that fall and it was great. The instructors are not only great kayakers, but a lot of fun.

The leaves where just beginning to change and my Wisconsin kayak adventures had brought me to some new heights, or should I say “distances,” as I covered over 60 nautical miles on my six-day back country camp and kayak trip in the  Apostle Islands. I took the pups for a few hikes and took a few more photos of the great fall colors.

My “out of water experiences” proved to be just as rewarding. To the south of the Dells, Devils Lake was spectacular in its fall glory.


To the north, about 25 miles from downtown Dells on highway 13, Friendship Mound was “all a glow” as I shot this view across Friendship Lake. Glacial Mounds of Wisconsin


Finally, I couldn’t resist checking out the views at the Roche-A-Cri State Park which is minutes from Friendship Mound. The French name refers to the 300-foot-high rock outcropping that is the central feature

Wisconsin’s Indian Mounds With Ross M. Curry

“It may come as a surprise to some people to learn that the Dells area was once in the center of what might be called a lost civilization.” (p.10, Dells Area Indian History Volume III by Ross Milo Curry, 1995)

4 miles south on 13 from downtown Dells you’ll find the Kingsley Bend Indian Mounds.

According to Tammy Kempfert, PortalWisconsin.org , “While mounds can be found throughout North America, Wisconsin claims the largest concentration—once numbering between 15,000-20,000, based on cataloging efforts that date back to the 19th century.”

Related Posts

  1. Giant Fiberglass Statues: Do You Know the Muffler Man?
  2. Nestled Deep in Wisconsin’s Woods: A Rustic Wedding at Mirror Lake State Park
  3. Wisconsin’s Glacial Mounds
  4. Baraboo’s Ringling Riverfront
  5. Watertrails Reveal Rich Archaeological History in the Midwest  (Aztalan, The Palace Site)
  6. Wisconsin Dells History: A Walk With Ross M. Curry
  7. Wisconsin’s Indian Mounds
  8. Local Native Americans Buried in Blue Wing Cemetery by Ross M. Curry
  9. Kayaking the Apostle Islands: Kennedys, Native Americans, Religion, and Myth
  10. Mirror, Mirror, on the Water: A Tranquil Paddle at Mirror Lake State Park
  11. Sea Kayaking Lake Superior’s Seiche (Apostle Islands)

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