The Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls metropolitan area
refers loosely to the urbanized area along the Chippewa
and Eau Claire Rivers
, in west-central Wisconsin
, with its primary center at Eau Claire
and secondary centers at Chippewa Falls
At a ribbon-cutting for the opening of the final stretch of the newly 4-laned section of WIS 29 between Green Bay and Elk Mound, in 2005, Gov. Jim Doyle referred to the region, including Menomonie to the west, as "Wisconsin's Golden Triangle".
Because the United States Census Bureau
uses only counties to define census statistical areas outside New England
, the official Eau Claire Metropolitan Statistical Area
(which includes Chippewa Falls) encompasses all of Eau Claire
and Chippewa Counties
. The 2000 Census gives a combined population for the two counties of 148,337. These counties, combined with Dunn County
to the west, coëxtensive with the Menomonie micropolitan area
, comprise the "Eau Claire-Menomonie CMSA
, with a 2000 population of 188,195. These three counties, especially the cities of Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire and Menomonie comprise the economic and cultural core of west-central Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley
For practical purposes, the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls metropolitan area extends only as far as those municipalities directly adjacent to the incorporated cities and villages in the core area, with the notable exception of the Eau Claire County town of Pleasant Valley, which is included because so much of its population is suburban rather than rural. (The Town of Pleasant Valley was one of Wisconsin's fastest-growing political divisions in the 1990s, posting a population increase of over 28%.) This is the definition used by the Chippewa-Eau Claire Metropolitan Planning Organization. According to the 2000 census, this core area had a 2000 population of 111,551. This population comprises 75.2% of the Eau Claire-Chippewa County area, and 59.3% of the Eau Claire-Chippewa-Dunn County area.
The Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls metropolitan area is served by the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport
. As well as by the Menomonie Municipal Airport
and several smaller private airports.
Regular shuttle service is also available to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the closest international airport, approximately 85 miles distant.
Although the Chippewa River once served as an important transit route for the area, river transit is no longer feasible from the rest of the Mississippi River
system, since the dam
, some 30 miles downriver, does not have a lock
system. Hydroelectric dams
within the metropolitan area, one in Eau Claire and two in Chippewa Falls, further limit its ability to be used as a transit route. The rather shallow Eau Claire River is dammed at Altoona (as well as 20 miles further upstream at Lake Eau Claire
). The rivers, as well as the reservoirs
formed by the dams, are used today principally for recreation.
Many of the primary roadways serving western Wisconsin run through the metropolitan area. Among these are:
Freight rail traffic
to and from the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls metropolitan area is via lines formerly run by the inheritors of both the SOO
and Chicago & North Western Railways
. The rail network in the metropolitan area was much more extensive until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when many lines were first abandoned and then slowly converted to a network of biking and recreation trails
, including the Chippewa River Trail
, which follows much of the old route of the Milwaukee Road
railbed, from downtown Eau Claire to Durand
The only local mass transit
serving the metropolitan area is the Eau Claire Transit bus
system, which has service only within the cities of Eau Claire and Altoona.
Greyhound has a single depot in the area, in the Town of Union, near the junction of I-94, US-12 and Wis. 312. About a dozen other regional tourism and transportation buslines serve the greater Chippewa Valley region.
Amtrak service is only available via bus trips to the Twin Cities, La Crosse or Tomah, although in the past several years there has been discussion of making a new Amtrak line that would serve the area directly. The closest Amtrak station is Winona, Minnesota, approximately 50 miles from Eau Claire.