About Eau Claire
Located roughly 85 miles east of Minneapolis-St.Paul, the city of Eau Claire, Wisc., is situated at the confluence of the Chippewa and the Eau Claire rivers and is the seat of Eau Claire County.
Eau Claire is 32.4 square-miles, of which 2.1 square-miles are water. Its elevation is 787 feet above sea level. Its current population is about 65,000. The area is characterized by river valleys with deep slopes heading from the heart of town to the eastern and southern borders of the city. The area has two lakes, Half Moon (an oxbow lake) and Dell’s Pond (created by a hydroelectric dam). Eau Claire is situated on the northern edges of the “Driftless Zone” or Paleozoic Plateau, a region in the U.S. Midwest known for its deeply carved river valleys.)
The town was founded in the 1840s as a trading post and two other separate settlements. Early French settlers dubbed the hilly, lake region Eaux Claire or the land of “Clear Water.” The city motto is still “Voici l’eau Claire!” (Here is clear water!) Eau Claire was incorporated as a town in 1872.
The driving force behind Eau Claire’s growth in the late-19th century was the lumber industry. At one time, the city had 22 working sawmills. Once a timber-based economy, Eau Claire has a growing economic base anchored in health care, retail sales, manufacturing and information technologies. Eau Claire/La Crosse is listed by Neilson Market Research as the “127th largest TV market” in the country.
In May 2009, Eau Claire, a self-proclaimed “sustainable city”, became an “Eco-municipality” by employing The Natural Step program. A Green Team of city employees is dedicated to employing green methods for all city operations. Eau Claire has been an official Tree City USA for the past 30 years. In addition, the city is an “Energy Independent Community” aiming to reach 25% renewable energy in the next 15 years. Passenger rail service to Eau Claire is considered vital by both the Wisconsin and the Minnesota departments of transportation. The departments hope to foster a revival of passenger trains to Eau Claire by 2030.
The city was deemed one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People (2007) by America’s Promise. With a lively music scene, Eau Claire features an eclectic mix of local indie bands, jazz, folk, rock, country, and family-friendly programs. The first Country Jam was held in 1990, attracting summer visitors to Eau Claire. The city also hosts an annual Jazz Festival and has received the “DownBeat Magazine Award”
for best college jazz ensemble in the country a whopping six times. The rock tune “Turn the Page,” a lament about the difficulties about life on the road by singer Bob Seger was written in an Eau Claire hotel room.
Eau Claire’s higher-education community includes two public colleges, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley Technical College, and two private colleges, Immanuel Lutheran College and the Globe University/Minnesota School of Business Campus.
Written by Kathleen Cooney