EAU CLAIRE, WI
Eau Claire is a city in Eau Claire and Chippewa counties in the west-central part of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Located almost entirely in Eau Claire County, for which it is the county seat, the city had an estimated population of 68,802 in 2019, making it the state's eighth-largest city. Eau Claire is the principal city of the Eau Claire, Wisconsin Metropolitan Statistical Area, locally known as the Chippewa Valley, and is also part of the larger Eau Claire-Menomonie Combined Statistical Area.
Eau Claire is located at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers on traditional Ojibwe, Dakota, and Ho-Chunk land. The area's first permanent European American settlers arrived in 1845, and Eau Claire was incorporated as a city in 1872. The city's early growth came from its extensive logging and timber industries. After Eau Claire's lumber industry declined in the early 20th century, the city's economy diversified to encompass manufacturing and Eau Claire became an educational center with the opening of the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire in 1916. Eau Claire is also a regional commercial and business center and is home to the headquarters of home improvement store chain Menards.
Eau Claire is known regionally for its arts and music scenes and is the hometown of indie folk band Bon Iver, whose lead singer Justin Vernon co-curates the city's annual Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. Eau Claire is the second fastest-growing major city in Wisconsin after Madison, with 5.4% population growth between 2010 and 2020.
Eau Claire took its name from Eau Claire County. "Eau Claire" is the singular form of the original French name, "Eaux Claires", meaning "Clear Waters", for the Eau Claire River. According to local legend, the river was so named because early French explorers journeying down the rain-muddied Chippewa River, came upon the confluence with the Eau Claire River, and excitedly exclaimed "Voici l'eau claire!" ("Here is the clear water!") Now used as the city motto, this appears on the city seal.
The area of Eau Claire was first visited by Europeans in the late 17th century. It had been occupied for thousands of years before European fur traders began settling there for trade with local Native American tribes.
The First Treaty of Prairie du Chien signed in 1825 established the Chippewa River "half a day's march below the falls" as the boundary marker between the Sioux and Chippewa, and the "Clear Water River, a branch of the Chippewa" as the boundary between the Chippewa and Winnebago.
The first permanent European-American settlers arrived in 1845, and the city was officially incorporated in 1872. The extensive timber was harvested and logging was the major industry during this time; many sawmills were built as part of the lumber industry. Sawmills and other manufacturing made Eau Claire an industrial city by the late 19th century.
The city was founded near the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers as three separate settlements. The main section of downtown is on the site of the original European-American village, where Stephen McCann, in partnership with J. C. Thomas, put up three buildings in 1845. Although these structures were erected primarily to establish a claim to the land site, the McCann family moved into one of them and became the first permanent settlers.
West Eau Claire, founded in 1856, was across the river, near the site of the current county courthouse, and was incorporated in 1872. Between a mile and a half and two miles downstream, the Daniel Shaw & Co. lumber company founded Shawtown, beyond the west end of what is now the Water Street historic district. Shawtown was annexed to the city of Eau Claire by the 1930s. By the 1950s, the entire city had spread far enough to the east to adjoin Altoona.
In 1916, the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire was founded, which marked a turn in the economy from lumber and manufacturing to rubber, tires, and education.
Eau Claire is approximately east of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The city is located on the northern fringes of the Driftless Zone.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which is land and is water.
The terrain of the city is characterized by the river valleys, with steep slopes leading from the center to the eastern and southern sections of the city. The lands into which the urban area is currently expanding are increasingly hilly.
There are two lakes in the city, Dells Pond and Half Moon Lake. Dells Pond is a reservoir created by a hydroelectric dam, and was formerly used as a holding pool for logs. Half Moon Lake is an oxbow lake created as part of the former course of the Chippewa River.
In the Köppen climate classification, Eau Claire is classified as Dfa/Dfb borderline, usually termed as the subtype of warm, sometimes hot, summer. Its climate is due to its latitude and interior location in North America. The average annual temperature is only . Although the extremes exceed upwards and −40 °F, which demonstrates the four well-defined seasons of the year, with severe winters generally colder than the winters of European Russia south of Moscow at a much lower latitude. The amount of annual snowfall (47") exceeds the amount of annual rainfall (31"), the total precipitation is greater than other major cities in Wisconsin such as Milwaukee and Madison. July has an average temperature of and January an average of , where temperatures below freezing point can remain for a long duration.
As of 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $36,399, and the median income for a family was $49,320. Males had a median income of $32,503 versus $23,418 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,230. About 5.5% of families and 13.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.4% of those under age 18 and 7.4% of those age 65 or over.
In 2017, the median annual household income was $47,660, and the median income for a family was $70,652. The per capita income for the city was $26,605. 17.4% of Eau Claire's population was living in poverty, with the highest prevalence in 18–24-year-old females (26.4%).
As of the census of 2010, there were 65,883 people, 26,803 households, and 14,293 families residing in the city. The population density was . There were 28,134 housing units at an average density of . The racial makeup of the city was 91.4% White, 4.6% Asian, 1.1% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.5% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.
There were 26,803 households, of which 25.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.6% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 46.7% were non-families. 31.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.3% 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 2.89.
The median age in the city was 29.8 years. 19.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 22.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.2% were from 25 to 44; 21.7% were from 45 to 64; and 11.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.5% male and 51.5% female.
As of 2010, there were 1,981 persons within the city limits in Chippewa County and 63,902 in Eau Claire County for a total of 65,883.
The city forms the core of the United States Census Bureau's Eau Claire Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Eau Claire and Chippewa Counties (composite 2010 population: 161,151). Together with the Menomonie Micropolitan Statistical Area (which includes all of Dunn County) to the west, the Eau Claire metropolitan area, forms the Census Bureau's Eau Claire-Menomonie Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had a consolidated 2010 population of 205,008.
As of 2017, Hmong Americans were the largest ethnic minority in Eau Claire. Jenna Christian, Pa Sia Low Moua, and Ingolf Vogeler, the authors of "The Cultural Landscape of the Hmong in Eau Claire, Wisconsin," wrote that the Hmong are also the city's "most visible ethnic group".
In 2010 there were 2,181 Hmong people in Eau Claire County, While the Hmong population is numerically smaller in Eau Claire County compared to Milwaukee, the Hmong have a higher percentage of the population in Eau Claire County, and Christian, Moua, and Vogeler wrote that "the Hmong stand out more singularly as an ethnic minority than they do in metropolitan areas like Milwaukee, which is already more racially and culturally diverse." The majority of the county's Hmong live in the city of Eau Claire. In select Eau Claire neighborhoods, up to 30% of the residents are Hmong.
Eau Claire styles itself as the "horseradish capital of the world", due to the presence of Silver Spring Foods, the world's largest grower and producer of horseradish. The climate, with its cool winters, is conducive to the horseradish crop. Other significant crops grown in the area are apples, pumpkins and plums. Menards, a Midwestern chain of home improvement stores owned by Wisconsin native John Menard, Jr., is headquartered in Eau Claire.
Arts and culture
Eau Claire has a modest but active theater community. Although no professional theater groups make their home in the region, amateur and community theaters have a significant presence; the most visible of these are the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild (CVTG) and the Eau Claire Children's Theatre (ECCT). In addition, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has a robust theatre program, and traveling professional shows frequently make stops in the city. The Pablo Center at the Confluence and Haas Fine Arts Center are the primary indoor performing arts venues, although both CVTG and ECCT have established their own independent venues, in 2006 and 2010 respectively.
The Pablo Center at the Confluence
The Pablo Center at the Confluence was opened in downtown Eau Claire on September 22, 2018. It was built to replace UW-Eau Claire's Kjer Theater as the primary venue for performing arts. Facilities include a 1,200-seat theatre, three rehearsal rooms, visual arts galleries, labs for sound and lighting, set and exhibit design, recording arts, multimedia production, and costume design.
Blugold Marching Band
The Blugold Marching Band is a notable part of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's music program, as well as a fixture of the Eau Claire community. The 475-member ensemble is the largest marching band in the Midwest. The band has gone on multiple tours across the Midwest, and has had many performances on the world stage.
Eau Claire is home to several music festivals including:
Eau Claire Marathon
Eau Claire is also home to the Eau Claire Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifier. The marathon went virtual in 2020, before returning in person in 2021.
The Sculpture Tour Eau Claire is an ongoing outdoor sculpture exhibit located along the streets of downtown Eau Claire. There are 53 sculptures, making this tour the 2nd largest tour of this type in the United States.
Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market
The Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market is located in Phoenix Park. It is open from May to October and offers a variety of produce and products.
Eau Claire has three amateur baseball teams. The Eau Claire Express are a team that plays in the Northwoods League, an NCAA-sanctioned summer baseball league. Their home games are played at Carson Park. The Eau Claire Cavaliers, also plays home games at Carson Park. The Eau Claire Bears play in the Chippewa River Baseball League. Also, three of Eau Claire's High Schools have baseball teams. Eau Claire North H.S. won the 2011 and 2019 state championship. Eau Claire also has a large youth baseball program including a summer parks and recreation league, Little League (Nationals, American, Lowes Creek and Seymour). Eau Claire Little League teams have twice won the state championship (1998 Eau Claire Americans and 2012 Eau Claire Nationals) and advanced to Regional play in Indianapolis, IN. A Babe Ruth League (13- to 18-year-olds) which won State Tournaments at ages 13, 14 and 15 in 2012. Those Teams all went on to win 3rd place at their Regional Tournaments.
Eau Claire Curling Club has been around for 64 years.
The Chippewa Valley Predators football compete in the Northern Elite Football League, play their home games at Carson Park. Their team was established in 2001. The Northern Lights Cowboys compete in the Champions Amateur Football League and play their home games at Carson Park.
Established in 2009, The Chippewa Valley Roller Girls (CVRG) represent Eau Claire and the surrounding Chippewa Valley region. CVRG, a WFTDA League member, is Eau Claire's original all-female flat track roller derby league. It is a non-profit organization managed and operated by the skaters via an elected board of directors and skater-led committees.
Bateaux FC, an amateur soccer club, is based in the city. The club is a founding member of the Wisconsin Primary Amateur Soccer League (WPASL), a USASA and WSL-sanctioned league operating in western Wisconsin.
Union Eau Claire FC made their WPASL debut in 2022 joining Bateaux FC as the second WPASL team in the Eau Claire area
Eau Claire United is a competitive youth soccer team competing in the MYSA. Every summer, Eau Claire United hosts a soccer tournament that brings around 100 teams to the community.
The U.S. National Kubb Championship is held in Eau Claire annually. The Eau Claire Kubb League operates kubb league year round.
The John and Fay Menard YMCA Tennis Center (2017) has 8 indoor courts and hosts several sectional and national tournaments. Jan 8-14th the facility will host an ITF J5 tournament attracting players from all over the world.
Eau Claire hosted the World Horseshoe Championship in 2003, and the Wisconsin State Horseshoe Tournament in 2019.
Each January, Eau Claire hosts the Silver Mine ski jump Invitational. In February 2021, the 135th annual Silver Mine Ski Jump competition will take place.
Parks and recreation
Parks and Trails
There are several large parks in the city: Owen Park, along the Chippewa River, is home to a large bandshell, where open-air concerts are held throughout the summer; Putnam Park, which follows the course of Putnam Creek and Little Niagara Creek east from the UWEC campus; Carson Park, situated in the middle of an oxbow lake (better known as Halfmoon Lake); and Phoenix Park on the site of the old Phoenix Steel plant at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa River. Phoenix Park is the host of a weekly farmers market and open-air concerts during summer months. Riverview Park is also a common summer swimming destination, as well as one of the local boat landings. This park includes picnicking areas and grills, as well as public restrooms. There are also two dog parks in Eau Claire: Otter Creek Off-Leash Dog Park and Sundet Off-Leash Dog Park.
The City of Eau Claire also operates Fairfax public pool, and Hobbs Municipal Ice Center, an indoor ice center.
Eau Claire is at the head of the Chippewa River State Trail, a biking and recreation trail that follows the lower course of the Chippewa River.
In November 1909 a movement to change the city government from the aldermanic to the commission form was launched by the West Side Boosters, the forerunners of the Water Street, Eau Claire Business Men. The campaign that preceded the February 15 election was a heated one. Local rallies and mass meetings were held. The 20 members of the common council were about equally split about the change. The final vote was 1867 for change and 995 against.
Since switching from a mayoral system in 1948, Eau Claire has had a city manager-city council form of government. The city council is a non-partisan 11-member governing council consisting of five members elected from aldermanic districts in odd-numbered years, five members elected at-large in even-numbered years, and an elected city council president, elected at-large in odd-numbered years.
The council's legislative meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Public hearings are held on the Monday evenings before legislative sessions. All meetings are held in the City Council Chambers at City Hall in downtown Eau Claire. Meetings are televised live on public-access television channel 97 and digital cable channel 994 and simulcast on radio station WRFP 101.9 FM.
Eau Claire is represented by Ron Kind (D) in the United States House of Representatives, and by Ron Johnson (R) and Tammy Baldwin (D) in the United States Senate. Kathy Bernier (R) and Jeff Smith (D) represent Eau Claire in the Wisconsin State Senate, and Jesse James (R), Jodi Emerson (D), and Warren Petryk (R) in the Wisconsin State Assembly.
Eau Claire schools are part of the Eau Claire Area School District. The city has two public high schools: Memorial High School and North High School; and two public charter high schools: McKinley Charter School and Technology Charter School. Eau Claire also has two private high schools: Catholic Regis High School and Immanuel Lutheran High School.
Eau Claire is home to two public colleges (University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley Technical College) and one private college (Immanuel Lutheran College).
There are 13 elementary schools, and 3 middle schools in the Eau Claire Area School District. In addition, there is the Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School, which was founded in 2002, and follows the teaching of Maria Montessori.
The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram is published five days a week (the Friday edition has extra weekend content), and dates back to 1881. Volume One is a biweekly magazine published with a circulation of 15,000 and an estimated readership of 45,000
Nielson Market Research lists Eau Claire/ La Crosse as the 127th largest television market area.
Eau Claire is served by the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (KEAU).
Eau Claire is served by both Greyhound Lines (Milwaukee to Minneapolis, via I-94), and Jefferson Lines Bus service (Green Bay to Minneapolis, via Hwy 29 to I-94).
Eau Claire is located on freight rail lines owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, formerly owned by the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway (Omaha Road), and later part of the Chicago and North Western Railway. C&NW operated passenger trains from Chicago through Eau Claire to the Twin Cities area until 1963 when the Twin Cities 400 ended service. Passenger rail service to Eau Claire is seen as critical by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and they plan to return trains to the city by 2030. In March 2021, Amtrak unveiled plans to bring a passenger service to Eau Claire as part of a Milwaukee-to-St. Paul route.
Mayo Clinic Health System's Eau Claire location, which has a level 2 trauma rating and serves as the regional trauma center, offers a family medicine residency program. It was also named the #4 best hospital in Wisconsin and recognized as a Best Regional Hospital in northwestern Wisconsin. Eau Claire also has two other hospitals which each have level 3 trauma ratings: HSHS Sacred Heart and Marshfield Medical Center. All three hospitals offer various specialty care units and services.
Eau Claire is home to two libraries: McIntyre Library on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus and L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library. L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library holds many events, such as children's storytimes, book clubs and makerspace labs.
Oakwood Mall is Eau Claire's main mall. It has been open since 1986 and currently has 91 stores and services. Downtown Eau Claire and Water Street also include a variety of specialty shops, including bike shops, arcades, record shops, and antique stores.
The Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire is headquartered in the city. Its mother church is Christ Church Cathedral. The city is also located within the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse and is home to Sacred Heart Church and St. Patrick's Church. Additionally, Community House, First Congregational Church, First Methodist Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd are located in Eau Claire.
Eau Claire is home to several religious denominations:
Eau Claire's sister cities are:
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