County History

About Wisconsin

The State of Wisconsin became a part of the Northwest Territory in 1836. It became a state in 1848, and at that time, Bayfield County was a part of LaPointe County.

In 1858, the county seat of LaPointe was moved to Bayfield from the Village of LaPointe on nearby Madeline Island. The Legislature of 1865 enacted into law Chapter 146 which detached all of Townships 48 and 49 North of Range 5 West, and all of the fractional parts of Townships 48 and 49 North, Range 4 West, situated on the West side of Long Island Bay from Ashland County and annexed to the County of LaPointe. The said Chapter changed the name of LaPointe County to Bayfield County effective May 1, 1866. A referenda election in 1892 changed the county seat to the City of Washburn.

How the State Received its Name

Though there are several opinions about the origin of the word Wisconsin, the derivation suggested by Louis Kelogg, who was an authority on Wisconsin history is that:

  • The state derived its name from the principal river which runs centrally through it.
  • The Chippewas upon its head waters called this river Weeskonsan which signified “the gathering of the waters.”
  • They gave it this name, as an Indian trader stated, “on account of its numbers branches near its head concentrated into one stream.”

General Information

  • Bayfield County is the second largest county in Wisconsin in area and contains approximately 966,000 acres with a greatly varied landscape.
  • From the north along Lake Superior to the south's network of inland lakes, you will find plenty of diversity.
  • Heavily glaciated, Bayfield County has the look of character, marked with a range of hills known as the Bayfield Peninsula. The same glacier that formed the hills also left a network of streams and lakes, ideal for swimming, boating, and fishing.
  • Sandstone cliffs rising 60 feet above Lake Superior have been undercut and sculptured by waves. Picturesque pillars, caves, and arches have been formed.
  • Bayfield County has 25 towns, two cities and one village.
  • The 2010 census gave Bayfield County a population of 15,014 residents.
  • Bayfield County is governed by a 13-member Board of Supervisors. The Board is elected in April of even-numbered years.
  • The name Bayfield County was in honor of Henry Wolsey Bayfield, a British Real Admiral in the Royal Navy. He surveyed Lake Superior in 1823-1824.
  • Bayfield County could not be any closer to another natural attraction, the expansive Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It includes 42,000 acres of land, 26,500 acres of water, and 20 islands, as well as a narrow strip along the Bayfield Peninsula.
  • Bayfield County has 966 lakes (398 with access and with fish to challenge anyone); 20,650 acres of surface water, and 400 miles of streams.
  • Deer, bear, grouse, rabbits, and migrated waterfowl abound in Bayfield County.


Bayfield County’s main industries are:

  • Agriculture - Dairy farming, berries and fruits
  • Recreation - Skiing at Mt. Telemark near Cable; skiing at Mt. Ashwabay near Bayfield; trolling for trout on Lake Superior, great fishing in inland lakes and streams, snowmobiling with hundreds of miles of trails
  • Education - Several schools with adequate facilities-grades Kindergarten through 12th grade, part of District Number 17, area vocational, technical and adult education school situated in Ashland, with classes being conducted in several other locations in Bayfield County
  • Numerous churches throughout the county
  • Forests - U.S. Forests (approximately 240,000 acres)
  • County Forest Lands (approximately 167,500 acres)
  • Woodworking Industries
  • Commercial Fishing