USA Calls All Quackers - My Family Travels

Cruising aboard the DUCK: an amphibious vehicle provides a unique way for families to tour America's big cities.

The World War II amphibious vehicles known as DUCW (pronounced DUCK) are ingenious half-truck/half-boats which enabled soldiers and cargo to be unloaded in places where dock facilities were non-existent or had been destroyed. 

In 1946, Melvin H. Flath of Milwaukee introduced re-conditioned DUCWs as a means of viewing rock formations in the Wisconsin Dells (608/254-6080). Right after WWII, Melvin read about some surplus trucks for auction in California. He wanted one, so he journeyed the 2,000 miles at great financial risk to buy some needed trucks for his business. Upon arriving in California, Melvin saw that the trucks being auctioned were the amphibious trucks (DUCKS) and not anything he had envisioned. His disappointment turned to adventure and, against all common sense, he bought one.

Melvin didn’t know at that time for what he was going to use his Duck. He bought some used Milwaukee bus seats which he installed in it. On Sundays, Melvin took his family with him on the Duck to Pewaukee Lake. There he charged 50 cents a person to ride it. People screamed with excitement every time the Duck hit the water, and someone suggested that Melvin bring his vehicle to the Wisconsin Dells.

The first Wisconsin Dells Duck tour lasted one and a half hours. That tour doesn’t exist anymore, but today there are two Duck companies with similar tours operating in Wisconsin Dells. The approximately 1,000 surviving ‘Ducks’ are now being enjoyed on land and in the water by sightseers, offering a most unusual spin in over 20 US cities including Branson, Missouri and Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The highpoint of each trip is a waddle into the waterways ranging from Boston’s Charles River (you’ll cruise by everything from the golden-domed State House to the fashionable Newbury Street, complete with a “Splashdown” in the Charles River) to Washington’s Potomac River (Coast Guard-certified Maritime Captains will take you on a fun-filled, musical tour of the Emerald City) or into San Francisco Bay.

Every season, DUCK fever is spreading, from the small ports of Massachusetts to Maine and to Ohio (where you can Ride The Ducks of Newport in Cincinnati) and New York City, where New York Duck Tours has started a quacking business.

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