Wisconsin Dells: Lake Delton Completely Empties!!!

Kick The Sky's avatar

Basic story is this: Heavy rains caused Lake Delton to overflow its banks and it circumvented a dam to keep the water from the lake from going into the Wisconsin River. The lake dug it's own channel, however, taking out a major county highway in the process. Once the path to the river was complete, the entire lake emptied out.

For those not familiar with the Dells, this is the major tourist lake in the Dells. It hosted the Tommy Barlett Ski Sky and Stage Show and also was a part of the Duck tours. Also, there are many hotels and resorts around the lake, including the Wilderness.

I included this info because it could have an effect on coaster parks like Mount Olympus and Timber Falls as attendance to the Dells could be affected by the loss of several resorts and attractions. Should be interesting to see which attractions are the true draw to the Dells. If it is the water parks that are the primary draw, this will be a negligible problem for Mount Olympus.

Certain victory.

I grew up in Wisconsin and the Dells were known up in my parts (Appleton) for one thing and one thing only, Noah's Ark. The Ducks were something you did when out of state family/friends were in town and the indoor waterparks were for winter, of if you were lucky icing on the cake to your trip to Noah's Ark.

2022 Trips: WDW, Sea World San Diego & Orlando, CP, KI, BGW, Bay Beach, Canobie Lake, Universal Orlando

Went up there a couple years ago. Agreed Delton is a major part of the area and a big reason the area became popular in the first place.

However the lake was six feet deep and fifteen at the dam. It is reparable

Im much more concerned with the loss to the area residents and buisnesses. They're sure to take a hit and many probably already have from the flooding.


I read that one of the big concerns is that it may take years to get the various sport fish species repopulated. Fishing-based tourism could conceivably take a hit for 4 - 5 years because of this.

My author website: mgrantroberts.com

Yeah, this is definitely a freaky form of Mother Nature at work.

Although it is a man-made lake created from a river kind of like Lake Schafer where Indiana Beach is.

Reading from one article, it looks like a few of the water skiers from the Tommy Bartlett show will be taking on new jobs at Cypress Gardens.

My favorite MJ tune: "Billie Jean" which I have been listening to alot now. RIP MJ.

WildStangAlex's avatar
I was devastated to hear this. I hope everything gets back to normal, and it will be one huge engineering feat to do so.

"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
-Joseph Campbell

Part of the problem is that the berm at that point has no sandstone; just sand. One theory says that the increased water behind the berm increased seepage rates through the sand to the point where piping/sand boiling started. Once that happens in sandy soil, things go south really really quickly.

My subdivision has a lot that had a sinkhole form in the 80s because of an improperly constructed renention pond with a similar weakness, and the resulting underground flow was basically digging an ever-increasing hole through a natural "pipe" of softer soil. Luckily, they found and fixed that one before Bad Things (tm) happened.

*** Edited 6/12/2008 1:43:07 PM UTC by Brian Noble***

eightdotthree's avatar

Chitown said:
Yeah, this is definitely a freaky form of Mother Nature at work.

Except its a man made lake. :)

I saw the video and then saw an interview with the homeowner on The Today Show. I was under the impression that the dam itself failed but obviously that's not the case. I'm guessing things will get fixed and Lake Delton will come back from the dead?
The problem is that it opened up a whole new valley -- that's over 450 feet wide!!! Really, that entire shore between the dam and the other side of the breach where the Wisconsin Ducks (used to) head back onto land needs to be encased in concrete.

There won't be a quick fix for this one, we'll be very lucky to see the lake restored by next summer, even if they determine a method of doing it quickly.

What is really bad is the fact that none of those houses had any flood insurance - because they couldn't buy it! The city of Lake Delton had a chance to agree to the floodplain as set by the Army corp of engineers, and basically did nothing. It was stopped by developers, most notably Tom Diehl. Having a floodplain mapped out and noted by the city would have thrown up all sorts of development obstacles, because of the increased regulations and scrutiny that goes with building in a floodplain. So those homeowners could have bought flood insurance, and could have been protected. But here's the priceless moment - Tom Diehl is president of Tommy Bartlett's. He has "Buisness Interuption Insurance" in case of an unforseen calamity. However, his insurance is saying right now that they won't pay out because......... they should have had flood insurance to cover this.


Kick The Sky's avatar
Just a further note: If you are planning a trip to the Dell's parks or are passing through Wisconsin on the way to other parks, I-94 between Milwaukee and Madison is closed and not expected to reopen for at least a couple weeks because of the flooding. Make other plans to detour around this section of interstate.

Certain victory.

Actually, it should just be like a road construction project by the end of the week. They are building crossovers to route all traffic to the southernmost bridges over the Rock and Crawfish rivers. The northernmost bridges (which would be the side headed from Milwaukee to Madison) have old dump trucks filled with sand parked as ballast on the bridges. The water is up to the bottom of the bridge - I think they are mostly concerned about large objects striking that bridge, or debri piling up and causing more stress. Since the northern bridge "clears the way" for the southern one, they will route all traffic onto that one.

They are building the crossovers since it will be at least 2-3 weeks before the water recedes enough to consider putting the northern bridge back into use - and even then they need to inspect it again.


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