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 10 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 809                 Arlington 824                 Columbus 5,066
Caledonia 1,403                 Cambria 763                 Lodi 3,087
Columbus 654                 Doylestown 293                 Portage 10,251
Courtland 530                 Fall River 1,732                 Wisconsin Dells 2,416
Dekorra 2,338                 Friesland 354                    
Fort Winnebago 826                 Pardeeville 2,105                    
Fountain Prairie 892                 Poynette 2,525                    
Hampden 581                 Randolph 469                    
Leeds 773                 Rio 1,059                    
Lewiston 1,232                 Wyocena 747                    
Lodi 3,312                                        
Lowville 1,019                                        
Marcellon 1,105                                             GRAND TOTAL 57,066
Newport 589                                        
Otsego 696                                        
Pacific 2,714                                        
Randolph 773                                        
Scott 914                                        
Springvale 533                                        
West Point 1,991                                        
Wyocena 1,691                                      

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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 
    12.  Cascade Mountain Ski Area All other travel accommodation 

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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 6 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 amusement parks, 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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