Living in Polk County

Polk County is located in the Northwesten part of the state of Wisconsin. Polk County is full of vast waterways, scenic countryside, and charming communities. Home to over 400 lakes, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, two state parks, and the western trailhead of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Polk County is truly a “gift of the glaciers”. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Polk County has a total area of 956 square miles (1539 km), of which 914 square miles (1478 km) is land and 42 square miles (68 km) is water.

Quick Stats

Data & Statistics
Population: 45,431
Median Home Value: $177,100
Median Age: 46.3
Number of Employer Establishments: 1,118
Median Household Income: $61,814
Per Capita Income: $31,995
Municipalities & Towns
Polk County Map
Polk County, Wisconsin is represented by thirty-six (36) municipalities. Twenty-four (24) are towns, ten (10) are villages, and two (2) are cities. The thirty-six communities that represent Polk County are:

  • Town of Alden
  • City of Amery
  • Town of Apple River
  • Town of Balsam Lake
  • Village of Balsam Lake
  • Town of Beaver
  • Town of Black Brook
  • Town of Bone Lake
  • Village of Centuria
  • Town of Clam Falls
  • Town of Clayton
  • Village of Clayton
  • Town of Clear Lake
  • Village of Clear Lake
  • Village of Dresser
  • Town of Eureka
  • Town of Farmington
  • Village of Frederic
  • Town of Garfield
  • Town of Georgetown
  • Town of Johnstown
  • Town of Laketown
  • Town of Lincoln
  • Town of Lorain
  • Town of Luck
  • Village of Luck
  • Town of McKinley
  • Town of Milltown
  • Village of Milltown
  • Town of Osceola
  • Village of Osceola
  • City of St. Croix Falls
  • Town of St. Croix Falls
  • Town of Sterling
  • Village of Turtle Lake
  • Town of West Sweden
Polk County is home to an excellent education system. Eight public school districts service Polk County's residents, enrolling over 6,500 students combined. For post-secondary education, there are numerous institutions of higher learning within an hour of Polk County. 

Primary/Secondary Public Schools
Amery School District (PK, KG-12)
Clayton School District (PK, KG-12)
Clear Lake School District (PK, KG-12)
Frederic School District (PK, KG-12)
Luck School District (PK, KG-12) 
Osceola School District (PK, KG-12)
St. Croix Falls School District (PK, KG-12)
Unity School District (PK, KG-12)

Post-Secondary Education
Balsam Lake Outreach Center-Northwood Tech
Northwood Technical College
Pine Technical College
University of Minnesota System
University of Wisconsin System
University of Wisconsin Extension-Polk County
US Highway 8 spans across the center of Polk County, connecting the eastern city of St. Croix Falls to the western village of Turtle Lake. The highway also provides a convenient route to the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Public Transportation in Polk County

Road Distance from Balsam Lake (County Seat)
  • St. Croix Falls, WI: 12.8 miles
  • Amery, WI: 15.3 miles
  • Osceola, WI: 20.5 miles
  • New Richmond, WI: 25.7
  • Hudson, WI: 41.8 miles
  • Stillwater, MN: 43.3
  • St. Paul, MN: 61 miles
  • Minneapolis, MN: 64 miles
  • Eau Claire, WI: 88 miles
  • Duluth, MN: 108 miles
  • Madison, WI: 266 miles
  • Milwaukee, WI: 330 miles
Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport is a centrally-located travel hub revered for its ease of check-in, security, and amenities. It is the country's 17th busiest travel hub with over 34 million passengers passing through each year and the 12th busiest for aircraft operations. MSP's is located only 69 miles by road from Polk County's seat of Balsam Lake, and offers our residents access to travel by air without a noisy airport in our backyard.
Polk County Early History
The St. Croix Wild and Scenic Riverway forms its western boundary, and the river bluffs abruptly give way to rolling countryside.

The land is dotted with lakes and flows with rivers that offer swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking and canoeing. Interstate State Park is Wisconsin's first state park at St. Croix Falls. It is a splendid testimonial to the era of volcanoes and glaciers that formed this place, the magnificent Dalles of the river presenting the terminus of Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail. The park headquarters presents an overview of the natural forces that formed this land. Also in the park is mute testimony to one of the dreams that brought early settlers to this place . . . . a failed attempt to mine copper in the latter 1800's. But it was logging and lumbering that were primary attractions in what became Polk County . . . . the lush pine forests upriver and the awesome power of the Falls of the St. Croix River bringing the first settlers as early as 1837, even while this land was still home to the Chippewa Indians.

The legal settlement started at St. Croix Falls in 1838, making this the oldest community in the St. Croix River Valley. A few miles south, Osceola Mills grew around grain milling and steamboat building enterprises. The lovely Cascade Falls graces the heart of downtown Osceola and today a historic train ride attraction offered to visitors is reminiscent of the day when the first railroad reached across the river into Polk County in 1883. Eventually, trails and roads led to fledgling farming and dairying communities to the east, and to placid lakeside resorts.

Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut (Duluth), and his four French-Canadian companions are recognized as the first white persons to traverse the St. Croix River in 1680, to visit what would eventually, in 1787 become part of the Northwest Territory, then the "Territory of Wiskonsan,) in 1836, and the State of Wisconsin in 1848. In 1853, Polk County was carved out of what had previously been known as St. Croix County. It was named in honor of James K. Polk, the eleventh president of the United States. At that time it included far more territory than its present 700,000 acres with new counties being formed to the north and east.