Columbia County was organized in 1846, by some of the first settlers who had purchased land nearly ten years before, in an area where Poynette now stands. Villages had been sprouting up at Columbus, Dekorra and Wyocena, each of which wished to become the county seat. But it was Fort Winnebago (Portage) that was eventually chosen.

The County’s early growth came at a time of poverty and political disturbance in Europe. Although the majority of its settlers were from New York, Ohio and New England, others came from overseas. Among them were citizens of Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Norwegian and German heritage.

The first railroad was built across Columbia County in 1857. Other lines followed, making Portage an important railroad center. Soon State roads, and eventually Interstate highways crisscrossed the county. With its abundant waterways, Columbia County steadily developed into the region’s agricultural, industrial and travel hub we know today.

Present day Columbia County covers 774 square miles with 19% covered in forest land. The County also boasts 2 area hospitals, 2 local airports, 5 county parks, 10 community libraries and 22,055 acres of state-owned wildlife areas.  The County contains 90 wind turbines capable of powering approximately 45,000 average residential homes.

Columbia County is governed by the Board of Supervisors representing 28 area districts.  The County Clerk, Treasurer, Register of Deeds, Judges, District Attorney, Clerk of Courts, and Sheriff are elected officials.

Columbia County services are administered from 9 different County building locations. Some of the largest County Departments include the Highway Department; the Columbia County Jail, Huber Center, and Sheriff’s Department; Health and Human Services; and the Columbia County Health Care Center.  Other high profile citizen service areas include Judicial Services, Child Support, Treasurer, Planning & Zoning, County Clerk, Veteran’s Services and Land Information among others.


Towns                   Villages                   Cities  
Arlington 808                 Arlington 825                 Columbus 5,042
Caledonia 1,403                 Cambria 765                 Lodi 3,071
Columbus 650                 Doylestown 294                 Portage 10,281
Courtland 530                 Fall River 1,713                 Wisconsin Dells 2,435
Dekorra 2,327                 Friesland 355                    
Fort Winnebago 823                 Pardeeville 2,110                    
Fountain Prairie 895                 Poynette 2,531                    
Hampden 580                 Randolph 469                    
Leeds 774                 Rio 1,062                    
Lewiston 1,232                 Wyocena 755                    
Lodi 3,307                                        
Lowville 1,012                                        
Marcellon 1,103                                             GRAND TOTAL 57,028
Newport 588                                        
Otsego 695                                        
Pacific 2,714                                        
Randolph 772                                        
Scott 916                                        
Springvale 525                                        
West Point 1,983                                        
Wyocena 1,683                                      

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Number of Towns





              Miles - State Hwy System


Number of Villages 10              




              Miles - County Trunk System


Number of Cities 4              




              Total Miles - All Highways & Roads


Number of Voting Wards 88              




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Ten Largest Municipalities:
  1. Portage
  2. Columbus
  3. Lodi (Town)
  4. Lodi (City)
  5. Pacific
  6. Poynette
  7. Wisconsin Dells
  8. Dekorra
  9. Pardeeville
  10. West Point

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Top Ten Industry Groups:

Industry Group

Est. Employment *
      1.  Trade, Transportation & Utilities 4,553
      2.  Manufacturing 4,548
      3.  Education & Health 4,484
      4.  Leisure & Hospitality 2,224
      5.  Public Administration 1,595
      6.  Construction 936
      7.  Professional & Business Services 853
      8.  Financial Activities 532
      9.  Other Services 510
    10.  Natural Resources 292
 * As reported on the 2013 Economic and Workforce Profile by the State of Wisconsin, Department of Workforce Development.

Prominent Public & Private Sector Employers in Columbia County:


Product or Service

      1.  Divine Savior Healthcare, Inc. General medical & surgical hospitals 
      2.  County of Columbia Executive & legislative offices, combined    
      3.  Associated Milk Producers, Inc. Dairy product merchant wholesalers    
      4.  Portage Community School District Education
      5.  Department of Corrections Correctional institutions    
      6.  Robbins Manufacturing, Inc. Miscellaneous fabricated metal product manufacturing
      7.  Penda Corporation All other plastics product manufacturing
      8.  Saint-Gobain Performance Rubber product manufacturing for mechanical use
      9.  American Packaging Corp. Commercial gravure printing
    10.  Columbus Community Hospital Health care & services
    11.  Lodi School District Education 

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In Columbia County...

  1. There are 56 lakes and 27 boat landings.
  2. There are 35 miles of the Wisconsin River and 50 miles of trout streams.
  3. There are 304 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.
  4. There are 3,000 campsites.
  5. There are 20 miles of hiking trails and 165 miles of biking trails.
  6. There are 7 quality area golf courses with many more nearby.
  7. There are 109+ fine dining and spirits establishments.
  8. There is Cascade Mountain Ski Resort.
  9. There are numerous amusements, community festivals and county fairs.

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Average Size of Farms Total Acres in Farmland  


Columbia Co.

195 acres

197 acres



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  1. There are in excess of 13 historical markers located throughout the Columbia County territory.
  2. The Ice Age National and State Scenic Trial is one of eight Congressionally designated National Scenic Trails located throughout the United States.  The Department of Tourism recognizes the Ice Age Trail as Wisconsin's #1 outdoor recreational resource.

  3. The Indian Agency House is located just outside the City of Portage.

  4. Home of Pulitzer Prize winning author Zona Gale, author and educator Frederick Jackson Tuner, and renowned environmentalist John Muir.

  5. The Merrimac Ferry is the lone survivor of upwards of 500 ferries chartered by territorial and state legislatures before the turn of the century.

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