One of the oldest sites to appear on maps of the western Great Lakes region is the "Dalles" of the Wisconsin River. The French word Dalles translates to "secluded gorge" and was a reference point of French explorers in the 1700's. The name remained after the French explorers left Wisconsin; with the spelling and pronunciation Anglicized as the "dells."

When the railroad arrived in 1857, the new village established at the point where the tracks crossed the Wisconsin River, was named Kilbourn City in honor of the railroad's president. Locals and visitors alike never stopped referring to the area as the "Dells". In 1931, the city of Kilbourn officially changed its name to Wisconsin Dells.

Native Americans have played a considerable part in the history of the Dells and are still a factor in the economic life of this region. Lumbering was the state's leading industry and the Dells played a leading role due to its position on the Wisconsin River. H. H. Bennett made the historic Dells popular with his many scenic nature photographs of his day.

Wisconsin Dells is one of the oldest resort areas in the state. The Wisconsin River, unique rock formations, shopping and attractions, along with the beauty of the region, continue to draw tourist from around the country and the world.

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