According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,926 km² (744 mi²). 1,923 km² (743 mi²) of it is land and 3 km² (1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.17% water.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 22,804 people, 8,858 households, and 6,351 families residing in the county. The population density is 12/km² (31/mi²). There are 10,850 housing units at an average density of 6/km² (15/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 98.26% White, 0.14% Black or African American, 0.43% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.14% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. 0.77% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 8,858 households out of which 32.80% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.70% are married couples living together, 9.00% have a female householder with no husband present, and 28.30% are non-families. 24.30% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.30% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.53 and the average family size is 3.00.
In the county the population is spread out with 26.30% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 26.90% from 25 to 44, 23.10% from 45 to 64, and 15.80% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 97.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 94.60 males.
The median income for a household in the county is $30,860, and the median income for a family is $36,558. Males have a median income of $28,005 versus $18,736 for females. The per capita income for the county is $14,825. 16.30% of the population and 12.70% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 23.30% are under the age of 18 and 14.10% are 65 or older.