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Dubuque County, Iowa facts for kids

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Dubuque County, Iowa
Seal of Dubuque County, Iowa
Map of Iowa highlighting Dubuque County
Location in the state of Iowa
Map of the USA highlighting Iowa
Iowa's location in the U.S.
Founded 1834
Seat Dubuque
Largest City Dubuque
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

617 sq mi (1,598 km²)
608 sq mi (1,575 km²)
8.3 sq mi (21 km²), 1.4%
 - (2015)
 - Density

154/sq mi (59/km²)
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5
Named for: Julien Dubuque

Dubuque County is a county located in the U.S. state of Iowa. As of the 2010 census, the population was 93,653. The county seat is Dubuque. The county is named for Julien Dubuque, the first European settler of Iowa.

Dubuque County comprises the Dubuque, IA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is the seventh largest county by population in the state.


Early history

Dubuque County is named for French trader Julien Dubuque, the first European settler of Iowa, and an early lead mining pioneer in what is now Dubuque County. Dubuque was French Canadian, and had (by most accounts) a friendly relationship with the local Fox tribe of Native Americans. He and other early pioneers established a lucrative mining and trading industry in the area. When lead deposits began becoming exhausted, the pioneers developed boat building, lumber yards, milling, brewing, and machinery manufacturing to take its place.

The establishment of the City of Dubuque in 1833 led to large-scale settlement of the surrounding area. This was greatly encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, which sent priests, bishops, and nuns to establish churches in the unpopulated countryside. Primarily, Irish and German (many of whom were Catholic) immigrants came to the region.

At an extra session of the Sixth Legislative Assembly of Michigan Territory held in September, 1834, the Iowa District was divided into two counties by running a line due west from the lower end of Rock Island in the Mississippi River. The territory north of this line (which started just south of the present-day Davenport) was named Dubuque County, and all south of it was Demoine County [sic]. Thus, at that time Dubuque County nominally included not only much of what is now the state of Minnesota but portions of what are now North Dakota and South Dakota.

Dubuque County became part of Wisconsin Territory once it was split off from Michigan Territory on July 3, 1836. A massive reorganization and reduction of the county's size was executed on December 21, 1837, when its original area was separated into 13 named new counties and a "non-county area". The land in present day Minnesota and the Dakotas was transferred to the newly created Fayette County in this action. Dubuque County became a part of Iowa Territory upon its creation on July 4, 1838.

In 1858, Saint Francis Catholic Church was established in Dubuque County.

Middle history

In the 1980s, the farm crisis set in, and devastated large sections of the Midwest, including Dubuque County. Since the area was heavily dependent on agriculture-related industries like Deere and Company and the Dubuque Packing Company, unemployment soared. In one month of 1982, Dubuque County had 23% unemployment, the highest in the nation. The county experienced huge population losses during this time, as workers left the area. It would not fully recover from this until the late 1990s, when the economy diversified, shifting away from manufacturing, and toward various service-related establishments.

Modern history

Since the 1990s, the area has become much more prosperous. Today, the county boasts record employment levels and a growing population. The surging economy can especially be seen in the West Side of the City of Dubuque, and in neighboring Peosta and Asbury. These areas have expanded so much that concerns now lie with trying to manage the growth, a sharp change from just 20 years ago.

It is one of Iowa's two original counties along with Des Moines County; both were organized by the Michigan Territorial legislature in 1834.

The city of Dubuque was chartered in 1833 as the first city in Iowa.


Geographic features

The county borders on Illinois and Wisconsin, and is bounded on the northeast by the Mississippi River. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 617 square miles (1,600 km2), of which 608 square miles (1,570 km2) is land and 8.3 square miles (21 km2) (1.4%) is water. The county is drained by north and south forks of the Maquoketa River.

The county seat is Dubuque, Iowa, which is located along the Mississippi River in the east-central portion of the county. Eastern Dubuque County is markedly different from the western portion in that its topography is very uneven. The city of Dubuque and surrounding areas adjacent to the Mississippi River have many steep hills, bluffs, and ravines. Also, the eastern portion is more heavily wooded than the west, which is mostly rolling farmland.

Dubuque County is widely known for its impressive bluffs along the Mississippi River, which run along the entire length of the county's riverbanks. These form part of Iowa's Coulee Region, otherwise known as the Driftless Area. During the last ice age, much of the Mississippi Valley near Dubuque County was bypassed by glacial flows, which flattened the surrounding land in eastern Illinois, Wisconsin, and western Iowa, leaving the Driftless Area unusually rugged.

Major parks

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources administers 3 park and preserve areas in the county:

  • Little Maquoketa River Mounds State Preserve
  • Mines of Spain State Recreation Area/E. B. Lyons Nature Center
  • White Pine Hollow State Forest

The Dubuque County Conservation Board administers 11 park and recreation areas in the county:

The City of Dubuque and other towns in the county also operate public park systems of their own. (see Parks in Dubuque, Iowa)

Major highways

  • US 20 (IA).svg U.S. Highway 20
  • US 52 (IA).svg U.S. Highway 52
  • US 61 (IA).svg U.S. Highway 61
  • US 151 (IA).svg U.S. Highway 151
  • Iowa 3.svg Iowa Highway 3
  • Iowa 32.svg Iowa Highway 32
  • Iowa 136.svg Iowa Highway 136

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

  • Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge (part)
  • Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (part)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 10,841
1860 31,164 187.5%
1870 38,969 25.0%
1880 42,996 10.3%
1890 49,848 15.9%
1900 56,403 13.1%
1910 57,450 1.9%
1920 58,262 1.4%
1930 61,214 5.1%
1940 63,768 4.2%
1950 71,337 11.9%
1960 80,048 12.2%
1970 90,609 13.2%
1980 93,745 3.5%
1990 86,403 −7.8%
2000 89,143 3.2%
2010 93,653 5.1%
Est. 2015 97,125 3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

2010 census

The 2010 census recorded a population of 93,653 in the county, with a population density of 153.9940/sq mi (59.4574/km2). There were 38,951 housing units, of which 36,815 were occupied.

2000 census

USA Dubuque County, Iowa age pyramid
2000 Census Age Pyramid for Dubuque County

At the 2000 census, there were 89,143 people, 33,690 households and 23,111 families residing in the county. The population density was 147 per square mile (57/km²). There were 35,505 housing units at an average density of 58 per square mile (23/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.07% White, 0.86% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.50% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 1.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

2005 estimates by the census indicated that Dubuque had a population that identified itself as being 95.5% non-Hispanic white, 1.3% African American, 0.7% Asian and 1.5% Latino.

There were 33,690 households of which 33.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.80% were married couples living together, 8.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.40% were non-families. 26.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.07.

25.60% of the population were under the age of 18, 10.20% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 22.30% from 45 to 64, and 14.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.30 males.

The median household income was $39,582 and the median family income was $48,742. Males had a median income of $31,977 versus $22,309 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,600. About 4.90% of families and 7.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.80% of those under age 18 and 11.00% of those age 65 or over.



Unincorporated communities


Dubuque County is divided into seventeen townships:

  • Cascade
  • Center
  • Concord
  • Dodge
  • Dubuque
  • Iowa
  • Jefferson
  • Liberty
  • Mosalem
  • New Wine
  • Peru
  • Prairie Creek
  • Table Mound
  • Taylor
  • Vernon
  • Washington
  • Whitewater

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Dubuque County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Dubuque City 57,637
2 Asbury City 4,170
3 Dyersville (partially in Delaware County) City 4,058
4 Cascade (partially in Jones County) City 2,159
5 Epworth City 1,860
6 Farley City 1,537
7 Peosta City 1,377
8 New Vienna City 407
9 Worthington City 401
10 Holy Cross City 374
11 Luxemburg City 240
12 Rickardsville City 182
13 Sherrill City 177
14 Centralia City 134
15 Sageville City 122
16 Bernard City 112
17 Zwingle (partially in Jackson County) City 91
18 Balltown City 68
19 Bankston City 25
20 Durango City 22
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