|WELCOME TO PORTAGE COUNTY|
Nestled in Central Wisconsin, Portage County has it all. We boast diverse employment opportunities; a high-quality workforce; the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and Mid-State Technical College; accomplished public and private school systems; abundant natural resources, highlighted by the Wisconsin River and Green Circle Trail; forward-thinking elected officials; and a quality of life that is second to none.
The Portage County Business Council invites you to learn more about what those who live here already know – Portage County is a great place to live, work, play, pray and retire.
Portage County has an advantage that few other places can tout – location. An improved transportation system anchored by Interstate 39 puts us in the middle of it all. Situated in the heart of Wisconsin, we are within an easy half-day drive of Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.
While we are close to those metropolitan areas, you will quickly find that Portage County's communities have much to offer. We have the urban flair of culture and the arts, a myriad of shopping, and wide-ranging dining options, along with the rural charm of hiking and biking trails, acres of public open space, and quaint old-time Main Streets.
From 1634 to 1763, the area now known as Portage County was originally part of a French Colony. However, it is unknown if the early French explorers, fur traders or missionaries ever visited Central Wisconsin. Only two records of French influence remain in Portage County. The Little Eau Pleine River bears a French name, with no history of how or why it was named. Lake DuBay was named for John B. DuBay. DuBay was a French Canadian who established a fur trading post for the American Fur Company in the 1830s. The post was located on the Wisconsin River 12 miles north of what is now Stevens Point.
Settlement of the area began after 1836, when a treaty was signed between the United States government and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. The treaty stated that the Menominee Tribe would give the United States three miles of land running along the Wisconsin River for a length of 48 miles. This area became known as the Pineries.
Stevens Point was born when surveyor George Stevens needed a place to leave behind supplies. He chose to house his supplies in a crude shack on an embankment of the Wisconsin River. The location of Stevens' shack was no accident; it was dictated by geography. This particular point was the most passable means of transportation to a seemingly inexhaustible supply of lumber, the Pineries, the region the U.S. had been granted in the treaty in 1836.
Most of Portage County’s early settlers were attracted by the abundant natural resources (lumber) in the area. By 1840, nearly all the mill sites on the upper Wisconsin were taken, yet the actual number of settlers was minimal. It was in the 1850s that the lumber industry began to expand. By 1876, there were 25 sawmills and 16 shingle mills operating in Portage County. Up until 1890, the County’s economy was based on the timber industry alone.
However, the Stevens Point Area and Portage County owe their continued growth more to the construction of the Wisconsin Central Railroad (now Canadian National) than to any other factor. The railroad provided easy access to other parts of the state for passengers and products of Portage County.
Today, the educational, transportation, and recreational systems in place provide an opportunity for residents to enjoy life. The governmental units work in cooperation on projects that will benefit the area. Due in part to the cooperation between governments and existing systems, Portage County has a diversified and growing economy.Demographics