Walking the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk


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Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
The Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk offers unique views of a scenic stretch of the Wisconsin River along its entire length.

In 2003 the City of Wisconsin Dells moved to reclaim its most valuable resource, The Wisconsin River, by establishing a riverwalk and linear parkway on its banks. In 2016 a critical expansion of the Riverwalk was concluded nearly doubling its length.

The Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk is a 1/2 mile paved recreational path that begins in the heart of the Dells River Arts District on Broadway and continues to Crandalls Bay and marina on Illinois Avenue. The trail traces the banks of The Wisconsin River, meandering through a lush forested landscape that was previously inaccessible to the public. The length of the trail is punctuated by strategically placed overlooks and includes interpretative monuments which tell the history of Wisconsin Dells over 10 chapters. 



Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
The Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk is paved, and wide. It can accommodate bicycles side by side with walkers and joggers. The trail is ADA accessible. 



It was a dewy autumn morning in 2016, a day Mayor Brian Landers recalled as "About time". The tidal wave of summer tourists had subsided, but in a parking lot behind Wizard Quest a small crowd of local business owners and community stakeholders was gathering. A folding table was dressed with a white table cloth and lined with rows of champagne glasses. That day, a hard fought for expansion of the Dells greatest idea in a generation was to be toasted. An additional 1/4 mile of Riverwalk trail had been completed - critically crossing two reconstructed bridges - a civic engineering feat for any size city - let alone one with a population of 2700.

The Mayor, in his remarks, read a proclamation re-dedicating the Dells Scenic Riverwalk as the Edward William "Bill" Brown River Walk. It was the late Bill Brown who had a vision to expand Wisconsin Dells' downtown commercial district by reconnecting the Broadway tourist avenue with the original reason for its existence - the majestic and sculpted Wisconsin River Valley.

The first leg of the Riverwalk was quietly opened in 2003. It has gradually gained reputation as a can't miss attraction. In a  tourist mecca with inverted White Houses, temples of doom, water slides, and zip lines all competing for tourist attention - this fee free public parkway is managing to get press and notice as a destination attraction.

At the same time that the first leg opened, The Riverwalk Pub opened its doors on a prime property with wide panoramic views of the river from its expansive outdoor seating patio. The Riverwalk wraps around The Pub on two sides and includes a direct access grand staircase.

Further down River Road, Chula Vista Resort installed its own leg of the Riverwalk. It is paved to the same specifications as the City owned Riverwalk and includes scenic overlooks as well as restaurants and restrooms. A crushed stone trail extends from the Chula Vista Riverwalk out along River Road to the Woodside Dome. The original master plan for the Dells Riverwalk is to connect the River Arts District to the Chula Vista leg. And, now that the main trail has been extended to Crandall Bay it seems that the probable path is to use the power line right of way to connect the two together.

From Broadway Avenue the Riverwalk begins just west of Wizard Quest. You'll pass beneath an iron archway and cross a bridge with views of passengers boarding tour boats below. The first overlook is the highest elevation of the trail - a perch with a view of the railroad trestle bridge and Kilbourn Dam. You'll find two interpretative story monuments at the first overlook introducing two of the most historically important industries in Wisconsin Dells: boat tours and railroads.

Further in, the Riverwalk gradually descends a gentle slope through a park-like setting. In the summer months when The Dells is crowded this lovely shaded path where birds chirp carelessly can be just the sort of respite that is needed. The pathway continues to meander around, crossing a wood decked bridge and leading to overlooks with monuments telling the stories of the Ho-Chunk and notable people who influenced and shaped the community of Kilbourn City (The original name of the city which would later be rebranded as Wisconsin Dells).

Where the first leg of the Riverwalk ends at River Road a new overlook has been strategically placed with an amazing elevated view of the Upper Dells. This is among the best sunset spots that can be found in the greater Wisconsin Dells area. You'll want to take your family photo here. And, at the same time you'll be reminded by the story monument at this overlook that a photographer named HH Bennett made Wisconsin Dells famous with his photography that was used by the railroads to entice visitors from Chicago to take the trip to Kilbourn City.

The Riverwalk continues from there - crossing the River Road bridge. It passes in front of a number of hotels, motels, and condos. The Drinker Dock near Illinois Avenue is another loading point for river boat tours and charters. At Illinois avenue the Riverwalk turns and crosses a newly constructed bridge over Crandalls Bay. Immediately after the bridge is the last overlook and the current terminus of the route. A story monument there commemorates the log rafters who guided timbers felled Up North to saw mills in South Central WI. This overlook is the lowest elevation on the Riverwalk - and the closest to the water.

All in all, the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk is a mere 1/2 mile (1 mile out-n-back). It will take less than a half hour to walk its full length and return at a leisurely pace. It's an escape from the bustling crowds on Broadway to a shaded and more natural side of The Dells. You can walk its length and then enjoy drinks on the patio at the Riverwalk Pub.

It appears that this sort of quieter activity is growing in popularity and demand. There will never be a shortage of colorful attractions in the Dells, but it seems that the City of Wisconsin Dells is moving in the direction of more up-scale and adult focused entertainment by investing heavily in its riverwalk experience. We've begun to see more spas, golf courses, and ski hills open over the years. You can begin to envision how the Dells is remaking itself into a year round vacation retreat for families - but also for young couples, adults, and retired mature adults. Baby Boomers make up the lion's share of travelers with disposable income these days - and they're more likely to want a day at the spa and a walk by the river than a ride on a roller coaster.

Bill Brown had a vision of a more peaceful, pensive, and timeless Dells; an experience closer to what it might have been to visit Kilbourn City when personal guides brought you by canoe to wonder at rock formations in The Narrows. Now that his idea of a Riverwalk has begun to shape the future of the Dells, we can only hope that his dream of continuing the trail out to Chula Vista through the state natural areas will become a reality. This year, we are several steps closer to seeing that vision come true.





The Riverwalk Pub
The Riverwalk Pub has commanding views of the River and plenty of outdoor and indoor
seating options. The Riverwalk Pub is near the midpoint of the Riverwalk.



Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk


COUNTY: Columbia
COMMUNITIES: Wisconsin Dells

TOTAL MILES: .5 miles linear (1 mile out-n-back)
DIFFICULTY: Very Easy (paved pathway)

POINTS OF INTEREST: Wisconsin River, Dells River Arts District, Riverwalk Pub, Drinker Dock, Crandalls Bay, Crandalls Bay Marina, Dells Boat Tours




Directions and Trail Map



If viewing on a mobile device, open the trail map above to load into Google Maps App by touching the expand rectangle in the upper right corner.

Address for your GPS: 105 Broadway, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
| coordinates: 43.627777, -89.776926 |

From Milwaukee2 Hours
From Madison1 Hour
From Green Bay2.5 Hours
From Wausau1.5 Hours
From Minneapolis3 Hours
From Chicago3 Hours


Photos



Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk, interpretative monuments are set into scenic vignettes. There are 10 story monuments
along the length of the trail. Each tells a chapter in the history and culture of the City of Wisconsin Dells.

View of the Wisconsin River from the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
Near the beginning of the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk is an overlook with a view of the River Boat Tour Docks, Kilbourn Dam, and train trestle bridge. The bridge is original and its crossing at this location was the reason Wisconsin Dells (Then Kilbourn City) became a city. It originally carried a road on the lower deck. Today passenger and freight trains still cross The Wisconsin River on this bridge. The shape and steel of the trestle trusses is echoed in the angular shapes of the story monuments which populate the Riverwalk and tell the story of Wisconsin Dells. 


Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk


Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
A scenic overlook on the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk includes two story monuments. One tells the story of the founding of
Kilbourn City - the original name of the Wisconsin Dells.

Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
An overlook of the Wisconsin River offers a long view of the River up to the mouth of The Narrows. A story monument located here tells the story of HH Bennett - the photographer who made Wisconsin Dells famous.

Along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
A 2016 expansion of the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk extends along River Road - with plenty of protection from the busy road. 

A view of Sunset Cove Condominiums from the scenic overlook at Illinois Avenue
A view of Sunset Cove Condominiums from the scenic overlook at Illinois Avenue

View of the Drinker Dock from the Illinois Avenue Overlook on the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk
View of the Drinker Dock from the Illinois Avenue Overlook on the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk

A view of the Riverwalk from the Riverwalk Pub
A view of the Riverwalk from the Riverwalk Pub







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