Columbia County, Wisconsin - County Profile

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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, 6 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 8 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.

2019 Population

Towns                   Villages                   Cities  
Arlington 807                 Arlington 833                 Columbus 5,173
Caledonia 1,414                 Cambria 757                 Lodi 3,146
Columbus 651                 Doylestown 288                 Portage 10,186
Courtland 533                 Fall River 1,781                 Wisconsin Dells 2,427
Dekorra 2,340                 Friesland 348                    
Fort Winnebago 824                 Pardeeville 2,090                    
Fountain Prairie 894                 Poynette 2,529                    
Hampden 581                 Randolph 462                    
Leeds 774                 Rio 1,067                    
Lewiston 1,225                 Wyocena 727                    
Lodi 3,348                                        
Lowville 1,017                                        
Marcellon 1,110                                             GRAND TOTAL 57,282
Newport 587                                        
Otsego 692                                        
Pacific 2,734                                        
Randolph 763                                        
Scott 925                                        
Springvale 531                                        
West Point 2,027                                        
Wyocena 1,691                                      

2020 Equalized Assessment Figures

Number of Towns 21     $3,476,912,500 58%               Miles - State Hwy System  281
Number of Villages 10     $836,173,600  14%               Miles - County Trunk System  357
Number of Cities 4     $1,689,782,100  28%               Total Miles - All Highways & Roads  1,742
Number of Voting Wards 88     $6,002,868,200  100%                  

Who are we?

Where do we work?

Top Ten Industry Groups:

      Industry Group

Employment *
      1.  Manufacturing 5,702
      2.  Education & Health 4,966
      3.  Trade, Transportation & Utilities 4,349
      4.  Leisure & Hospitality 2,586
      5.  Public Administration 1,658
      6.  Professional & Business Services 1,000
      7.  Construction 951
      8.  Financial Activities 507
      9.  Other Services 504
    10.  Natural Resources 375

* As reported on the 2019 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.  Portage Community School District Education
      4.  Penda Corporation All other plastic product manufacturing
      5.  Associated Milk Producers, Inc. Dairy product merchant wholesalers
      6.  Columbia Correctional Facility Correctional institutions
      7.  Saint-Gobain Performance Rubber product manufacturing for mechanical use
      8.  Wal-Mart Department store
      9.  Robbins Manufacturing Metal fabrication
    10.  Columbus Community Hospital Health care & services

How do we play?

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 333 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 amusement parks, community festivals and county fairs.


Average Size of Farms Total Acres in Farmland


Columbia Co.            

221 acres

228 acres




  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.