Our Region

Polk County

Fun facts:

• Polk became Florida's 39th county on February 8, 1861, when the state divided Hillsborough County into eastern and western halves.

• It is named after James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States and the first president to govern the state of Florida for a full term.

• Bartow, the county seat, was named after Francis S. Bartow, the first Confederate officer to die in battle in the Civil War. 

• The county is known as “Central Florida’s food capital” and also “The Water Ski Capital of the World” because of its 554 lakes.

• In land mass, Polk is the fourth-larges county in the state and the largest north of the Everglades with 2,010 square miles of acreage and water. It is bigger than the state of Rhode Island and equal in size to Delaware. 

• Polk County is known for citrus farming and for mining phosphate and sand. 

• Tourism has been a major source of revenue in Polk since Bok Towers was established in 1929 and the former Cypress Gardens opened in 1930. Today Cypress Gardens has been converted to Legoland Florida, and the county also is home to Fantasy of Flight, the Sun ‘n’ Fun Air Museum, and spring training facilities for the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland and Cleveland Indians in Winter Haven. 


How does Polk County rank on the 2012 Central Florida Scorecard? Here are some highlights:

• Population: 609,500, the second-highest in the region behind Orange, which has 1.2 million residents.

• College attainment: 19 percent, tied with Lake County for the lowest in the region, well below the regional average of 25 percent. 

• Water consumption: 144 gallons per day per capita, the third-lowest in the region and less than the regional average of 154. 

• Unemployment rate: 10.6 percent, the highest in the region. 

• Voter turnout: 50.2 percent, the third-lowest in the region behind Osceola and Orange counties. 

• Charitable contributions: $4,800 per capita, the highest in the region by far, with the second-highest at $4,200 in Orange County. 

Municipalities in Polk


Bartow (county seat)



Eagle Lake

Fort Meade


Haines City

Highland Park

Hillcrest Heights

Lake Alfred

Lake Hamilton


Lake Wales


Polk City

Winter Haven

Polk County


Want to see how Polk County compares with the rest of the region?

Click here to explore more with the Central Florida Scorecard.