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Vilas County, Wisconsin


Vilas County, Wisconsin

Vilas County, Wisconsin
Map of Wisconsin highlighting Vilas County
Location in the state of Wisconsin
Map of the United States highlighting Wisconsin
Wisconsin's location in the U.S.
Founded April 12, 1893
Named for William Freeman Vilas
Seat Eagle River
Largest city Eagle River
 • Total 1,018 sq mi (2,637 km2)
 • Land 857 sq mi (2,220 km2)
 • Water 161 sq mi (417 km2), 16%
 • (2010) 21,430
 • Density 25/sq mi (10/km²)
Congressional district 7th
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5
Website .us.wi.vilas.cowww

Vilas County is a county in the state of Wisconsin, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 21,430.[1] Its county seat is Eagle River.[2]


  • History 1
    • Settlement 1.1
    • Logging era 1.2
  • Geography 2
    • Adjacent counties 2.1
    • Major highways 2.2
    • Airports 2.3
    • National protected areas 2.4
  • Demographics 3
  • Economy 4
  • Communities 5
    • Cities 5.1
    • Towns 5.2
    • Census-designated places 5.3
    • Unincorporated communities 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8



Vilas County was set off from Oneida County on April 12, 1893 and named for William Freeman Vilas. William Vilas was a Vermont Yankee of English descent who moved to Wisconsin as part of a wave of "Yankee" migrants from New England who were instrumental in the founding of the state, and he served as Senator for Wisconsin in the United States Senate from 1891 to 1897.[3][4] The earliest inhabitants of Vilas County were members of the Chippewa band of Native Americans; the first recorded white settler was a man named Ashman who established a trading post in Lac du Flambeau in 1818.[5] In the 1850s migrants from New England, primarily from Vermont and Connecticut, constructed a number of wagon roads and trails through Vilas County including the Ontonogan Mail Trail and a Military Road from Fort Howard to Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor, Michigan.[5]

Logging era

Logging began in the late 1850s. Loggers came from Cortland County, New York, Carroll County, New Hampshire, Orange County, Vermont and Down East Maine in what is now Washington County, Maine and Hancock County, Maine. These were "Yankee" migrants, that is to say they were descended from the English Puritans who had settled New England during the 1600s.[6] Many dams were built throughout the county to assist loggers as they sent their timber downstream to the lumber and paper mills in the Wisconsin River valley.[5] After the county was founded in 1893 and logging ceased to be the primary industry in the area, migrants seeking other forms of employment settled in the county. These later immigrants primarily came from Germany, Ireland and Poland though some came from other parts of the United States.[6]


Sign for Vilas County on U.S. Route 45

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,018 square miles (2,640 km2), of which 857 square miles (2,220 km2) is land and 161 square miles (420 km2) (16%) is water.[7] There are 1,318 lakes in the county. Much of Vilas County is covered by the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest as well as extensive county forest lands. Vilas County waters drain to Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and the Mississippi River. The Wisconsin, Flambeau, and Presque Isle Rivers all find their headwaters in Vilas County.

Adjacent counties

Major highways


  • KARV - Lakeland Airport / Noble F. Lee Memorial Field
  • KEGV - Eagle River Union Airport
  • KLNL - Kings Land O' Lakes Airport
  • D25 - Manitowish Waters Airport

National protected areas

Although these two forests have been administratively combined into the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, it is important to note that the county contains portions of both original forests.


2000 Census Age Pyramid for Vilas County

As of the census[13] of 2000, there were 21,033 people, 9,066 households, and 6,300 families residing in the county. The population density was 24 people per square mile (9/km²). There were 22,397 housing units at an average density of 26 per square mile (10/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 89.69% White, 0.20% Black or African American, 9.08% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.19% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. 0.86% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 37.8% were of German, 7.9% Polish, 6.6% Irish and 5.3% English ancestry according to Census 2000. 95.9% spoke English, 1.3% Spanish and 1.2% German as their first language.

There were 9,066 households out of which 23.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.40% were married couples living together, 7.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.50% were non-families. 26.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.73.

In the county, the population was spread out with 20.70% under the age of 18, 5.00% from 18 to 24, 23.10% from 25 to 44, 28.50% from 45 to 64, and 22.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females there were 99.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.80 males.


The economy in Vilas County is based on tourism centered on its high concentration of lakes and forests. Hunting and sport fishing are the backbones of the fall economy, and ice fishing and especially snowmobiling makes up the bulk of the economy in the wintertime. Logging, forestry, construction and government also account for important parts of the local economy.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

See also


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ William Freeman Vilas: Doctrinaire Democrat Front Cover Horace Samuel Merrill State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1954
  4. ^ Vilas County History.
  5. ^ a b c Vilas County, WI Government Main Page Accessed January 11, 2011
  6. ^ a b History of northern Wisconsin: illustrated : Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1881 Mrs. Allan Moll, Mrs. Sturges W. Bailey Wisconsin State Genealogical Society, 1981
  7. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  9. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  11. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ "American FactFinder".  

External links

  • Vilas County Wisconsin
  • Vilas County official website
  • Vilas County Chamber of Commerce

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