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Central California

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Central California
San Joaquin Valley, California
San Joaquin Valley, California
Map of counties that overlap Central California
Map of counties that overlap Central California
CountryUnited States
RegionCentral California
Highest elevation
14,505 ft (4,421 m)
Lowest elevation
−13 ft (−4 m)
Time zonePacific Standard Time
 • Summer (DST)Pacific Daylight Time
Area code(s)209, 559, 661, 805, 831

Central California is generally thought of as the middle third of the U.S. state of California, north of Southern California (which includes Los Angeles and San Diego) and south of Northern California (which includes San Francisco and San Jose). It includes the northern portion of the San Joaquin Valley (which itself is the southern portion of the Central Valley, beginning at the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta), part of the Central Coast, the central hills of the California Coast Ranges and the foothills and mountain areas of the central Sierra Nevada.

Central California is considered to be west of the crest of the Sierra Nevada. East of the Sierra is Eastern California. The largest cities in the region (over 50,000 population), from most to least populous, are Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Modesto, Salinas, Visalia, Clovis, Santa Maria, Merced, Turlock, Madera, Lodi, Tulare, Porterville, Hanford and Delano. Over time, droughts and wildfires have increased in frequency and become less seasonal and more year-round, further straining the region's water security.[1][2][3]

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Central California can have widely varying definitions depending on the context. Some divide the state by lines of latitude making northern, central and southern sections. Others divide by county lines or watershed boundaries. Some definitions include more of the San Joaquin Valley and even larger portions of the Central Valley. Some have less or none of Central Coast.

Merced River from Yosemite
Big Sur


The rough definition of Central California includes some or all of the following 15 counties:


Area cities and towns listed below are major regional centers or county seats.

Salinas Valley


The following regions are entirely contained within central California:

The following regions are partially contained within central California:


Central California has opened two new universities recently, one in each of the past two decades.

The University of California has one campus in the region. University of California, Merced opened on a newly constructed site on the east side of Merced in 2005.

The California State University system has four campuses in the region. California State University, Monterey Bay opened on the site of the former Fort Ord army base in 1994. California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock opened in 1957. California State University, Fresno opened in 1911.

The Monterey Institute of International Studies is a graduate school that offers eleven master's degree programs in international policy, international management, language teaching, and translation and interpretation. The Monterey Institute of International Studies is a graduate school of Middlebury College.

San Joaquin College of Law is a private, nonprofit law school located in Clovis.

Fresno Pacific University is a private university in Fresno.

The Naval Postgraduate School and Defense Language Institute are located in Monterey.

The following community college campus sites are in the region:[4]

There are no community colleges in Mariposa or San Benito Counties.


Major highways

Most of the major highways in the region run north-south around the mountains. Interstate 5 and State Route 99 are the primary highways in the San Joaquin Valley. US 101 and State Route 1 are the major coastal highways.


Passenger rail in the region consists of the Amtrak long-haul Coast Starlight and the regional San Joaquins routes.

The California High-Speed Rail system is under construction between Merced and Bakersfield. In Central California, the system will have stations in Merced, Madera, Fresno, and the Kings–Tulare area. Planning is underway to extend the initial line to San Francisco/San Jose and Los Angeles.

Freight rail is served by commercial railroads. Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway operate mainline freight through the region in the Central Valley.


Major and regional airline services are available at Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Monterey Regional Airport. Regional airline service is also available at Merced Regional Airport.

General Aviation airports exist in all ten counties. The largest are former military bases converted to civilian airports

An active military air base is at Naval Air Station Lemoore in Kings County, and the 144th Fighter Wing is stationed at Fresno Air National Guard Base in Fresno County.


Variations on significant/influential definitions of the term central California are collected in this section.

The following counties are self-described as being in central California or central within California:

  • Fresno County
    • Fresno County's intro paragraph on its web site says it is in central California.[6]
  • Madera County
    • Madera County describes itself as located "in the exact center of California."[7]
    • Madera County Economic Development Commission describes the county as "located in the geographical center of California".[8]
  • Tulare County
    • Tulare County describes itself as "centrally located within the State of California".[9]

The following are definitions by influential organizations:


  1. ^ "". Retrieved November 20, 2021.[title missing]
  2. ^ Boxall, Bettina; St. John, Paige (November 10, 2018). "California's most destructive wildfire should not have come as a surprise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  3. ^ "Advancing Drought Science and Preparedness across the Nation". National Integrated Drought Information System. Archived from the original on November 11, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  4. ^ "College Listings". California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. Archived from the original on January 21, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
  5. ^ "Oakhurst Community College Center". Oakhurst Community College Center. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  6. ^ "About the County". Fresno County, California. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  7. ^ "Madera County Statistical Information". Madera County, California. Archived from the original on January 16, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  8. ^ "Madera County Economic Development Commission". Madera County Economic Development Commission. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  9. ^ "About Tulare County". Tulare County, California. Archived from the original on January 10, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  10. ^ "Map of California". National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  11. ^ "Highway Information Area Maps". California Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  12. ^ "Contact Us". Central California Better Business Bureau. Retrieved January 24, 2010.

External links

37°N 120°W / 37°N 120°W / 37; -120

This page was last edited on 1 May 2024, at 00:02
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