List of counties in California

Last updated

Counties of California

California county map (labeled).svg
Location State 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, (i.e. 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]


FIPS code [8] County seat [9] Est. [9] Formed fromEtymology [10] General Law or Charter
(2023) [11]
Area [9] Map
AlamedaCounty 001 Oakland 1853Contra Costa and Santa ClaraThe oak and other trees, once abundant in the region; alameda is Spanish for "avenue shaded by trees" or "cottonwood grove".Charter1,622,188738 sq mi
(1,911 km2)
Map of California highlighting Alameda County.svg
AlpineCounty 003 Markleeville 1864Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras, Mono and TuolumneLocation high in the Sierra Nevada; alpine refers to the Alps or other mountains.General Law1,141739 sq mi
(1,914 km2)
Map of California highlighting Alpine County.svg
AmadorCounty 005 Jackson 1854Calaveras 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 1848General Law41,811606 sq mi
(1,570 km2)
Map of California highlighting Amador County.svg
ButteCounty 007 Oroville 1850original Sutter Buttes, which were mistakenly thought to be in the county at the time of its establishmentCharter207,1721,640 sq mi
(4,248 km2)
Map of California highlighting Butte County.svg
CalaverasCounty 009 San Andreas 1850original Calaveras River; calaveras is Spanish for "skulls".General Law46,5651,020 sq mi
(2,642 km2)
Map of California highlighting Calaveras County.svg
ColusaCounty 011 Colusa 1850original Rancho Colus land grant from MexicoGeneral Law22,0371,151 sq mi
(2,981 km2)
Map of California highlighting Colusa County.svg
Contra CostaCounty 013 Martinez 1850originalLocation across San Francisco Bay from San Francisco; contra costa is Spanish for "opposite coast".General Law1,155,025720 sq mi
(1,865 km2)
Map of California highlighting Contra Costa County.svg
Del NorteCounty 015 Crescent City 1857KlamathLocation along California's northern border; del norte is Spanish for "northern".General Law26,5891,008 sq mi
(2,611 km2)
Map of California highlighting Del Norte County.svg
El DoradoCounty 017 Placerville 1850original El Dorado, a mythical city of gold, owing to the area's significance in the California Gold Rush Charter192,2151,712 sq mi
(4,434 km2)
Map of California highlighting El Dorado County.svg
FresnoCounty 019 Fresno 1856Mariposa, Merced and TulareThe city of Fresno; fresno is Spanish for "ash tree".Charter1,017,1625,963 sq mi
(15,444 km2)
Map of California highlighting Fresno County.svg
GlennCounty 021 Willows 1891Colusa Hugh J. Glenn, a California businessman and politicianGeneral Law28,1291,315 sq mi
(3,406 km2)
Map of California highlighting Glenn County.svg
HumboldtCounty 023 Eureka 1853Trinity Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist and explorerGeneral Law133,9853,573 sq mi
(9,254 km2)
Map of California highlighting Humboldt County.svg
ImperialCounty 025 El Centro 1907San Diego Imperial Valley, named after the Imperial Land Company General Law179,0574,175 sq mi
(10,813 km2)
Map of California highlighting Imperial County.svg
InyoCounty 027 Independence 1866Mono and TulareExact 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 Law18,52710,192 sq mi
(26,397 km2)
Map of California highlighting Inyo County.svg
KernCounty 029 Bakersfield 1866Los Angeles and Tulare Edward Kern, cartographer for John C. Fremont's 1845 expeditionGeneral Law913,8208,142 sq mi
(21,088 km2)
Map of California highlighting Kern County.svg
KingsCounty 031 Hanford 1893Tulare Kings River; original Spanish name Rio de los Santos Reyes ("River of the Holy Kings")General Law152,6821,390 sq mi
(3,600 km2)
Map of California highlighting Kings County.svg
LakeCounty 033 Lakeport 1861Napa Clear Lake General Law67,8781,258 sq mi
(3,258 km2)
Map of California highlighting Lake County.svg
LassenCounty 035 Susanville 1864Plumas and Shasta, and now defunct Lake County, Nevada Peter Lassen, a Danish naturalist and explorerGeneral Law28,8614,558 sq mi
(11,805 km2)
Map of California highlighting Lassen County.svg
Los AngelesCounty 037 Los Angeles 1850originalThe 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")Charter9,663,3454,060 sq mi
(10,515 km2)
Map of California highlighting Los Angeles County.svg
MaderaCounty 039 Madera 1893FresnoThe city of Madera, which was named for the lumber industry it was created for; madera is Spanish for "wood" or "timber".General Law162,8582,138 sq mi
(5,537 km2)
Map of California highlighting Madera County.svg
MarinCounty 041 San Rafael 1850original Chief Marin, "great chief of the tribe Licatiut" (a branch of the Coast Miwok people)General Law254,407520 sq mi
(1,347 km2)
Map of California highlighting Marin County.svg
MariposaCounty 043 Mariposa 1850originalThe city of Mariposa; mariposa is Spanish for "butterfly".General Law16,9191,451 sq mi
(3,758 km2)
Map of California highlighting Mariposa County.svg
MendocinoCounty 045 Ukiah 1850original Antonio de Mendoza, first viceroy of New Spain General Law89,1083,509 sq mi
(9,088 km2)
Map of California highlighting Mendocino County.svg
MercedCounty 047 Merced 1855MariposaThe city of Merced, derived from the original Spanish name El Río de Nuestra Señora de la Merced ("River of Our Lady of Mercy")General Law291,9201,929 sq mi
(4,996 km2)
Map of California highlighting Merced County.svg
ModocCounty 049 Alturas 1874SiskiyouThe Modoc people General Law8,5003,944 sq mi
(10,215 km2)
Map of California highlighting Modoc County.svg
MonoCounty 051 Bridgeport 1861Calaveras, Fresno and Mariposa Mono Lake; derived from Monachi, a Yokuts name for native peoples of the Sierra Nevada General Law13,0663,044 sq mi
(7,884 km2)
Map of California highlighting Mono County.svg
MontereyCounty 053 Salinas 1850originalDerived from Monterey Bay, which was named for a Viceroy of New Spain, Gaspar de Zúñiga, 5th Count of Monterrey General Law430,7233,322 sq mi
(8,604 km2)
Map of California highlighting Monterey County.svg
NapaCounty 055 Napa 1850originalDisputed origin; possibly derived from the Patwin word napo, meaning "home"General Law133,216754 sq mi
(1,953 km2)
Map of California highlighting Napa County.svg
NevadaCounty 057 Nevada City 1851YubaThe 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 Law102,037958 sq mi
(2,481 km2)
Map of California highlighting Nevada County.svg
OrangeCounty 059 Santa Ana 1889Los Angeles Oranges, to illustrate a perception of a region with a semi-tropical atmosphere to those from the eastern parts of the United StatesCharter3,135,755948 sq mi
(2,455 km2)
Map of California highlighting Orange County.svg
PlacerCounty 061 Auburn 1851Sacramento Placer mining, a reference to the area being a center of the California Gold RushCharter423,5611,407 sq mi
(3,644 km2)
Map of California highlighting Placer County.svg
PlumasCounty 063 Quincy 1854ButteThe Feather River; plumas is Spanish for "feathers".General Law19,1312,554 sq mi
(6,615 km2)
Map of California highlighting Plumas County.svg
RiversideCounty 065 Riverside 1893San Bernardino and San DiegoThe city of Riverside, named for its location on the Santa Ana River General Law2,492,4427,208 sq mi
(18,669 km2)
Map of California highlighting Riverside County.svg
SacramentoCounty 067 Sacramento 1850originalThe city of Sacramento, named after the Santísimo Sacramento (Spanish for "Most Holy Sacrament")Charter1,584,288966 sq mi
(2,502 km2)
Map of California highlighting Sacramento County.svg
San BenitoCounty 069 Hollister 1874Monterey Saint Benedict (Benito is a Spanish diminutive of Benedict).General Law68,1751,389 sq mi
(3,597 km2)
Map of California highlighting San Benito County.svg
San BernardinoCounty 071 San Bernardino 1853Los AngelesThe city of San Bernardino, named after Saint Bernardino of Siena (Spanish for Saint Bernardine)Charter2,195,61120,062 sq mi
(51,960 km2)
Map of California highlighting San Bernardino County.svg
San DiegoCounty 073 San Diego 1850originalThe city of San Diego, from Mission San Diego (Spanish for Saint Didacus)Charter3,269,9734,204 sq mi
(10,888 km2)
Map of California highlighting San Diego County.svg
San Francisco 075 San Francisco 1850originalThe 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)Charter808,98847 sq mi
(122 km2)
Map of California highlighting San Francisco County.svg
San JoaquinCounty 077 Stockton 1850originalSpanish for Saint Joachim, father of the Virgin Mary General Law800,9651,399 sq mi
(3,623 km2)
Map of California highlighting San Joaquin County.svg
San Luis ObispoCounty 079 San Luis Obispo 1850originalThe city of San Luis Obispo, from Mission San Luis Obispo, named after Saint Louis of Toulouse (Spanish for Saint Louis, the Bishop)General Law281,6393,304 sq mi
(8,557 km2)
Map of California highlighting San Luis Obispo County.svg
San MateoCounty 081 Redwood City 1856San Francisco and Santa CruzSpanish for Saint Matthew Charter726,353449 sq mi
(1,163 km2)
Map of California highlighting San Mateo County.svg
Santa BarbaraCounty 083 Santa Barbara 1850originalThe city of Santa Barbara, from Mission Santa Barbara, (Spanish for Saint Barbara)General Law441,2572,738 sq mi
(7,091 km2)
Map of California highlighting Santa Barbara County.svg
Santa ClaraCounty 085 San Jose 1850originalCity of Santa Clara, from Mission Santa Clara de Asís, named for Saint Clare of Assisi (Spanish for Saint Clare)Charter1,877,5921,291 sq mi
(3,344 km2)
Map of California highlighting Santa Clara County.svg
Santa CruzCounty 087 Santa Cruz 1850originalThe city of Santa Cruz, from Mission Santa Cruz (Spanish for "holy cross")General Law261,547446 sq mi
(1,155 km2)
Map of California highlighting Santa Cruz County.svg
ShastaCounty 089 Redding 1850original Mount Shasta; the indigenous Shasta people General Law180,3663,786 sq mi
(9,806 km2)
Map of California highlighting Shasta County.svg
SierraCounty 091 Downieville 1852YubaSierra is Spanish for "mountain range", a reference to the area's topographyGeneral Law3,200953 sq mi
(2,468 km2)
Map of California highlighting Sierra County.svg
SiskiyouCounty 093 Yreka 1852Shasta and Klamath Siskiyou Mountains; exact etymology of Siskiyou is disputed.General Law42,9056,287 sq mi
(16,283 km2)
Map of California highlighting Siskiyou County.svg
SolanoCounty 095 Fairfield 1850original Chief Solano of the Suisunes General Law449,218828 sq mi
(2,145 km2)
Map of California highlighting Solano County.svg
SonomaCounty 097 Santa Rosa 1850originalExact etymology disputed; probably a Pomo term meaning "valley of the moon", which references a native legend about spiritual activity in the areaGeneral Law481,8121,576 sq mi
(4,082 km2)
Map of California highlighting Sonoma County.svg
StanislausCounty 099 Modesto 1854Tuolumne Stanislaus River, named after Estanislao, a native of the area when California was under Spanish and Mexican ruleGeneral Law551,4301,495 sq mi
(3,872 km2)
Map of California highlighting Stanislaus County.svg
SutterCounty 101 Yuba City 1850original John Sutter, a Swiss pioneer of California associated with the California Gold Rush General Law97,948603 sq mi
(1,562 km2)
Map of California highlighting Sutter County.svg
TehamaCounty 103 Red Bluff 1856Butte, Colusa and ShastaThe city of Tehama, probably a native term describing its locationCharter64,8962,951 sq mi
(7,643 km2)
Map of California highlighting Tehama County.svg
TrinityCounty 105 Weaverville 1850originalThe city of Trinidad, Spanish for "trinity"General Law15,6703,179 sq mi
(8,234 km2)
Map of California highlighting Trinity County.svg
TulareCounty 107 Visalia 1852Mariposa Tulare Lake, which is named after the tule rush ( Schoenoplectus acutus ) that grew in the marshes and sloughs along its shoresGeneral Law479,4684,824 sq mi
(12,494 km2)
Map of California highlighting Tulare County.svg
TuolumneCounty 109 Sonora 1850originalExact etymology disputed; probably a corruption of the native term talmalamne, which means "cluster of stone wigwams", a reference to local cave dwelling tribesGeneral Law54,2042,236 sq mi
(5,791 km2)
Map of California highlighting Tuolumne County.svg
VenturaCounty 111 Ventura 1872Santa BarbaraThe city of Ventura, derived from Mission San Buenaventura (Spanish for St. Bonaventure)General Law829,5901,846 sq mi
(4,781 km2)
Map of California highlighting Ventura County.svg
YoloCounty 113 Woodland 1850originalThe Yolan people, a local Native American tribeGeneral Law220,5441,012 sq mi
(2,621 km2)
Map of California highlighting Yolo County.svg
YubaCounty 115 Marysville 1850originalNamed 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 Law85,722630 sq mi
(1,632 km2)
Map of California highlighting Yuba County.svg

Defunct counties

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