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List of counties in California

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Counties of California

LocationState of California
  • 1850 (27 original counties)
Number58 counties
PopulationsMinimum: Alpine, 1,141
Maximum: Los Angeles, 9,663,345
AreasMinimum: San Francisco, 47 square miles (120 km2)
Maximum: San Bernardino, 20,062 square miles (51,960 km2)

The U.S. state of California is divided into 58 counties.[1] The state was first divided into 27 counties on February 18, 1850. These were further sub-divided to form sixteen additional counties by 1860. Another fourteen counties were formed through further subdivision from 1861 to 1893. The most recent county to form was Imperial County, in 1907. California is home to San Bernardino County, the largest county in the contiguous United States, as well as Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States.

The counties of California are local arms of the State of California, described by the Supreme Court of California as agents ("the county is merely a political subdivision of state government, exercising only the powers of the state, granted by the state…'") and the property they hold is held on behalf of all the people of the state.[2][3] As such, the State Legislature may delegate any of the functions of the State to the counties but likewise can reassume any delegated duties.[4]

California counties are general law counties by default. Still, they may be chartered as provided in Article XI, Section 3 of the California Constitution.[5] A charter county is granted limited home rule powers. Of the 58 counties in California, 14 are governed under a charter. They are Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Tehama.[6]

Nine counties in California are named for saints, tied with Louisiana for the largest number. This count omits Santa Cruz ("Holy Cross") County, not named for a saint; Merced County and Los Angeles County, both of whose names refer to Saint Mary (Our Lady of Mercy (Merced) and Our Lady Queen of The Angels (Los Angeles)); and Ventura County, whose name is a shortening of the name of St. Bonaventure, the namesake of the local mission.[7]

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FIPS code[8] County seat[9] Est.[9] Formed from Etymology[10] General Law or Charter
Area[9] Map
Alameda County 001 Oakland 1853 Contra Costa and Santa Clara The oak and other trees, once abundant in the region; alameda is Spanish for "avenue shaded by trees" or "cottonwood grove". Charter 1,622,188 738 sq mi
(1,911 km2)
State map highlighting Alameda County

Alpine County 003 Markleeville 1864 Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras, Mono and Tuolumne Location high in the Sierra Nevada; alpine refers to the Alps or other mountains. General Law 1,141 739 sq mi
(1,914 km2)
State map highlighting Alpine County

Amador County 005 Jackson 1854 Calaveras Jose Maria Amador (1794–1883), a soldier, rancher, and miner who, along with several Native Americans, established a successful gold mining camp near present-day Amador City in 1848 General Law 41,811 606 sq mi
(1,570 km2)
State map highlighting Amador County

Butte County 007 Oroville 1850 original Sutter Buttes, which were mistakenly thought to be in the county at the time of its establishment Charter 207,172 1,640 sq mi
(4,248 km2)
State map highlighting Butte County

Calaveras County 009 San Andreas 1850 original Calaveras River; calaveras is Spanish for "skulls". General Law 46,565 1,020 sq mi
(2,642 km2)
State map highlighting Calaveras County

Colusa County 011 Colusa 1850 original Rancho Colus land grant from Mexico General Law 22,037 1,151 sq mi
(2,981 km2)
State map highlighting Colusa County

Contra Costa County 013 Martinez 1850 original Location across San Francisco Bay from San Francisco; contra costa is Spanish for "opposite coast". General Law 1,155,025 720 sq mi
(1,865 km2)
State map highlighting Contra Costa County

Del Norte County 015 Crescent City 1857 Klamath Location along California's northern border; del norte is Spanish for "northern". General Law 26,589 1,008 sq mi
(2,611 km2)
State map highlighting Del Norte County

El Dorado County 017 Placerville 1850 original El Dorado, a mythical city of gold, owing to the area's significance in the California Gold Rush Charter 192,215 1,712 sq mi
(4,434 km2)
State map highlighting El Dorado County

Fresno County 019 Fresno 1856 Mariposa, Merced and Tulare The city of Fresno; fresno is Spanish for "ash tree". Charter 1,017,162 5,963 sq mi
(15,444 km2)
State map highlighting Fresno County

Glenn County 021 Willows 1891 Colusa Hugh J. Glenn, a California businessman and politician General Law 28,129 1,315 sq mi
(3,406 km2)
State map highlighting Glenn County

Humboldt County 023 Eureka 1853 Trinity Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist and explorer General Law 133,985 3,573 sq mi
(9,254 km2)
State map highlighting Humboldt County

Imperial County 025 El Centro 1907 San Diego Imperial Valley, named after the Imperial Land Company General Law 179,057 4,175 sq mi
(10,813 km2)
State map highlighting Imperial County

Inyo County 027 Independence 1866 Mono and Tulare Exact etymology disputed; early settlers believed Inyo to be the native name for area mountains, but it may be the name of a Mono Indian leader. General Law 18,527 10,192 sq mi
(26,397 km2)
State map highlighting Inyo County

Kern County 029 Bakersfield 1866 Los Angeles and Tulare Edward Kern, cartographer for John C. Fremont's 1845 expedition General Law 913,820 8,142 sq mi
(21,088 km2)
State map highlighting Kern County

Kings County 031 Hanford 1893 Tulare Kings River; original Spanish name Rio de los Santos Reyes ("River of the Holy Kings") General Law 152,682 1,390 sq mi
(3,600 km2)
State map highlighting Kings County

Lake County 033 Lakeport 1861 Napa Clear Lake General Law 67,878 1,258 sq mi
(3,258 km2)
State map highlighting Lake County

Lassen County 035 Susanville 1864 Plumas and Shasta, and now defunct Lake County, Nevada Peter Lassen, a Danish naturalist and explorer General Law 28,861 4,558 sq mi
(11,805 km2)
State map highlighting Lassen County

Los Angeles County 037 Los Angeles 1850 original The city of Los Angeles, derived from the original Spanish name El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula ("The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the River of Porziuncola") Charter 9,663,345 4,060 sq mi
(10,515 km2)
State map highlighting Los Angeles County

Madera County 039 Madera 1893 Fresno The city of Madera, which was named for the lumber industry it was created for; madera is Spanish for "wood" or "timber". General Law 162,858 2,138 sq mi
(5,537 km2)
State map highlighting Madera County

Marin County 041 San Rafael 1850 original Chief Marin, "great chief of the tribe Licatiut" (a branch of the Coast Miwok people) General Law 254,407 520 sq mi
(1,347 km2)
State map highlighting Marin County

Mariposa County 043 Mariposa 1850 original The city of Mariposa; mariposa is Spanish for "butterfly". General Law 16,919 1,451 sq mi
(3,758 km2)
State map highlighting Mariposa County

Mendocino County 045 Ukiah 1850 original Antonio de Mendoza, first viceroy of New Spain General Law 89,108 3,509 sq mi
(9,088 km2)
State map highlighting Mendocino County

Merced County 047 Merced 1855 Mariposa The city of Merced, derived from the original Spanish name El Río de Nuestra Señora de la Merced ("River of Our Lady of Mercy") General Law 291,920 1,929 sq mi
(4,996 km2)
State map highlighting Merced County

Modoc County 049 Alturas 1874 Siskiyou The Modoc people General Law 8,500 3,944 sq mi
(10,215 km2)
State map highlighting Modoc County

Mono County 051 Bridgeport 1861 Calaveras, Fresno and Mariposa Mono Lake; derived from Monachi, a Yokuts name for native peoples of the Sierra Nevada General Law 13,066 3,044 sq mi
(7,884 km2)
State map highlighting Mono County

Monterey County 053 Salinas 1850 original Derived from Monterey Bay, which was named for a Viceroy of New Spain, Gaspar de Zúñiga, 5th Count of Monterrey General Law 430,723 3,322 sq mi
(8,604 km2)
State map highlighting Monterey County

Napa County 055 Napa 1850 original Disputed origin; possibly derived from the Patwin word napo, meaning "home" General Law 133,216 754 sq mi
(1,953 km2)
State map highlighting Napa County

Nevada County 057 Nevada City 1851 Yuba The phrase Sierra Nevada; nevada is Spanish for "snow-covered", referencing the area's high elevation. The neighboring state was named after the county, which was named after Nevada City.[citation needed] General Law 102,037 958 sq mi
(2,481 km2)
State map highlighting Nevada County

Orange County 059 Santa Ana 1889 Los Angeles Oranges, to illustrate a perception of a region with a semi-tropical atmosphere to those from the eastern parts of the United States Charter 3,135,755 948 sq mi
(2,455 km2)
State map highlighting Orange County

Placer County 061 Auburn 1851 Sacramento Placer mining, a reference to the area being a center of the California Gold Rush Charter 423,561 1,407 sq mi
(3,644 km2)
State map highlighting Placer County

Plumas County 063 Quincy 1854 Butte The Feather River; plumas is Spanish for "feathers". General Law 19,131 2,554 sq mi
(6,615 km2)
State map highlighting Plumas County

Riverside County 065 Riverside 1893 San Bernardino and San Diego The city of Riverside, named for its location on the Santa Ana River General Law 2,492,442 7,208 sq mi
(18,669 km2)
State map highlighting Riverside County

Sacramento County 067 Sacramento 1850 original The city of Sacramento, named after the Santísimo Sacramento (Spanish for "Most Holy Sacrament") Charter 1,584,288 966 sq mi
(2,502 km2)
State map highlighting Sacramento County

San Benito County 069 Hollister 1874 Monterey Saint Benedict (Benito is a Spanish diminutive of Benedict). General Law 68,175 1,389 sq mi
(3,597 km2)
State map highlighting San Benito County

San Bernardino County 071 San Bernardino 1853 Los Angeles The city of San Bernardino, named after Saint Bernardino of Siena (Spanish for Saint Bernardine) Charter 2,195,611 20,062 sq mi
(51,960 km2)
State map highlighting San Bernardino County

San Diego County 073 San Diego 1850 original The city of San Diego, from Mission San Diego (Spanish for Saint Didacus) Charter 3,269,973 4,204 sq mi
(10,888 km2)
State map highlighting San Diego County

City and County of San Francisco 075 San Francisco 1850 original The city of San Francisco, from Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asís, named after Saint Francis of Assisi (Spanish for Saint Francis) Charter 808,988 47 sq mi
(122 km2)
State map highlighting City and County of San Francisco

San Joaquin County 077 Stockton 1850 original Spanish for Saint Joachim, father of the Virgin Mary General Law 800,965 1,399 sq mi
(3,623 km2)
State map highlighting San Joaquin County

San Luis Obispo County 079 San Luis Obispo 1850 original The city of San Luis Obispo, from Mission San Luis Obispo, named after Saint Louis of Toulouse (Spanish for Saint Louis, the Bishop) General Law 281,639 3,304 sq mi
(8,557 km2)
State map highlighting San Luis Obispo County

San Mateo County 081 Redwood City 1856 San Francisco and Santa Cruz Spanish for Saint Matthew Charter 726,353 449 sq mi
(1,163 km2)
State map highlighting San Mateo County

Santa Barbara County 083 Santa Barbara 1850 original The city of Santa Barbara, from Mission Santa Barbara, (Spanish for Saint Barbara) General Law 441,257 2,738 sq mi
(7,091 km2)
State map highlighting Santa Barbara County

Santa Clara County 085 San Jose 1850 original City of Santa Clara, from Mission Santa Clara de Asís, named for Saint Clare of Assisi (Spanish for Saint Clare) Charter 1,877,592 1,291 sq mi
(3,344 km2)
State map highlighting Santa Clara County

Santa Cruz County 087 Santa Cruz 1850 original The city of Santa Cruz, from Mission Santa Cruz (Spanish for "holy cross") General Law 261,547 446 sq mi
(1,155 km2)
State map highlighting Santa Cruz County

Shasta County 089 Redding 1850 original Mount Shasta; the indigenous Shasta people General Law 180,366 3,786 sq mi
(9,806 km2)
State map highlighting Shasta County

Sierra County 091 Downieville 1852 Yuba Sierra is Spanish for "mountain range", a reference to the area's topography General Law 3,200 953 sq mi
(2,468 km2)
State map highlighting Sierra County

Siskiyou County 093 Yreka 1852 Shasta and Klamath Siskiyou Mountains; exact etymology of Siskiyou is disputed. General Law 42,905 6,287 sq mi
(16,283 km2)
State map highlighting Siskiyou County

Solano County 095 Fairfield 1850 original Chief Solano of the Suisunes General Law 449,218 828 sq mi
(2,145 km2)
State map highlighting Solano County

Sonoma County 097 Santa Rosa 1850 original Exact etymology disputed; probably a Pomo term meaning "valley of the moon", which references a native legend about spiritual activity in the area General Law 481,812 1,576 sq mi
(4,082 km2)
State map highlighting Sonoma County

Stanislaus County 099 Modesto 1854 Tuolumne Stanislaus River, named after Estanislao, a native of the area when California was under Spanish and Mexican rule General Law 551,430 1,495 sq mi
(3,872 km2)
State map highlighting Stanislaus County

Sutter County 101 Yuba City 1850 original John Sutter, a Swiss pioneer of California associated with the California Gold Rush General Law 97,948 603 sq mi
(1,562 km2)
State map highlighting Sutter County

Tehama County 103 Red Bluff 1856 Butte, Colusa and Shasta The city of Tehama, probably a native term describing its location Charter 64,896 2,951 sq mi
(7,643 km2)
State map highlighting Tehama County

Trinity County 105 Weaverville 1850 original The city of Trinidad, Spanish for "trinity" General Law 15,670 3,179 sq mi
(8,234 km2)
State map highlighting Trinity County

Tulare County 107 Visalia 1852 Mariposa Tulare Lake, which is named after the tule rush (Schoenoplectus acutus) that grew in the marshes and sloughs along its shores General Law 479,468 4,824 sq mi
(12,494 km2)
State map highlighting Tulare County

Tuolumne County 109 Sonora 1850 original Exact etymology disputed; probably a corruption of the native term talmalamne, which means "cluster of stone wigwams", a reference to local cave dwelling tribes General Law 54,204 2,236 sq mi
(5,791 km2)
State map highlighting Tuolumne County

Ventura County 111 Ventura 1872 Santa Barbara The city of Ventura, derived from Mission San Buenaventura (Spanish for St. Bonaventure) General Law 829,590 1,846 sq mi
(4,781 km2)
State map highlighting Ventura County

Yolo County 113 Woodland 1850 original The Yolan people, a local Native American tribe General Law 220,544 1,012 sq mi
(2,621 km2)
State map highlighting Yolo County

Yuba County 115 Marysville 1850 original Named either by the Maidu people, a local Native American tribe who live on the banks of the Feather and Yuba Rivers, for one of their villages, or by Gabriel Moraga for the wild grapes (Vitis californica) that grow abundantly at the edge of the rivers (uva being Spanish for "grape") General Law 85,722 630 sq mi
(1,632 km2)
State map highlighting Yuba County

Defunct counties

  • Branciforte County was the original name of Santa Cruz County in 1850. The reference was to the 1797 town of Branciforte.
  • Klamath County was created in 1851 from the northern half of Trinity County. Part of the county's territory went to Del Norte County in 1857, and in 1874 the remainder was divided between Humboldt and Siskiyou counties.
  • Pautah County, California was created in 1852 out of territory which, the state of California assumed, was to be ceded to it by the United States Congress from territory in what is now the state of Nevada. When the cession never occurred, the California State Legislature officially abolished the never-organized county in 1859.[4]
  • Buena Vista County was created in 1855 by the California State Legislature out of the southeastern territory of Tulare County on the west of the Sierra Nevada but was never officially organized. The south of Tulare County was later organized as Kern County in 1866, with additions from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
  • Coso County was created in 1864 by the California State Legislature out of territory of Mono County and Tulare County on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada but was never officially organized. The region was later organized in 1866 as Inyo County with additions from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
  • Roop County, Nevada encompassed much of Lassen County, including the Honey Lake Valley and the community of Susanville, California; ambiguous organic legislation of Nevada Territory led to confusion about the geographic extent of Nevada's western border. This was later clarified, with the portions of Roop County in California being assigned to Lassen County; the remaining, sparsely portions of Roop County were eventually combined with Washoe County, Nevada.


  1. ^ "Regions | CA Census".
  2. ^ Eigerman, Jared (January 1, 1999). "California Counties: Second-Rate Localities or Ready-Made Regional Governments?" (PDF). Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly. 26 (3): 8. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  3. ^ Supreme Court of California (February 16, 1960). County of Marin v. Superior Court (Report). Vol. 53 Cal.2d 633. 22592. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "An Introduction to California Counties" (PDF). California State Association of Counties. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  5. ^ "California Constitution, Article XI Local Government [sec. 1 – Sec. 15] Sec. 3". California Legislative Information. State of California. June 2, 1970. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "County Structure & Powers". California State Association of Counties. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  7. ^ Kane, Joseph Nathan; Aiken, Charles Curry (2005). The American Counties: Origins of County Names, Dates of Creation, and Population Data, 1950–2000. Scarecrow Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-8108-5036-1.
  8. ^ "EPA County FIPS Code Listing". U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c National Association of Counties. "NACo – Find a county". Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2008.
  10. ^ Sanchez, Nellie Van de Grift (1914). Spanish and Indian Place Names of California: Their Meaning and Their Romance. San Francisco: A. M. Robertson. ISBN 9781404750845. OCLC 4268886.
  11. ^ "US Census Bureau". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. March 2024.

External links

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