Book Report: The Official Guidebook of Dells Boat Tours

Book coverIt’s kind of funny: I read tourist guidebooks for places I have not visited (such as Chichen Itza), and I don’t have trouble counting them in my annual reading list. But when I read a book about a place I have been, especially when it’s the same sort of touristy guidebook but for a place that I’ve been or a tour I’ve taken, suddenly I feel guilty for counting it in my annual total. You would think, gentle reader, with all the trickery I use to pad my annual books read total, I would become inured to the pangs. Oh, but no.

Regardless, I counted this, and you get to read a bit about what I think on it.

I bought this book on our 2017 trip to Wisconsin. The book covers a boat tour of the upper Wisconsin Dells; that is, the side of the river north of the dam downtown (in 2015, I suffered the same pangs when I reviewed a guidebook for a Duck Boat tour of the lower Dells in Old Trails and Duck Tales).

As such, it recounts some of the history of the area along with some of the questionable stories told in the boat crew’s patter. It includes bits about moving lumber down the river (the last such trip was in 1890; in context, this was four years after the last Impressionist art exhibition in Paris which featured Mary Cassatt–these two events would seem to be from far different times, but they were contemporaneous), and Witch’s Glen, a narrow gorge where tourists land and walk through a very cool and very narrow canyon to a gift shop run by the boat tour company.

With many of these stories, one has to wonder how much of the history and stories are retconned to fit the places where the boat goes and how much is true. Probably most of it, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. Although I learned quite a bit about Ho Chunk history on the tour which this book refreshed. Okay, the “quite a bit” is just my saying, “That should be Ho Chunk now” when passing a Winnebago RV on the road. But still.

I’m pleased to have read this book(let) as it refreshed some memories from that trip and the stories I heard on the tour. Which makes it more resonant than some of the guidebooks/tour books I read.