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Coalinga, California
City of Coalinga
Coalinga City Hall
Coalinga City Hall
Flag of Coalinga, California
Official seal of Coalinga, California
"The Sunny Side of the Valley"
Location in Fresno County and the U.S. state of California
Location in Fresno County and the U.S. state of California
Coalinga, California is located in the United States
Coalinga, California
Coalinga, California
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  California
County Fresno
Incorporated April 3, 1906
 • Total 6.150 sq mi (15.927 km2)
 • Land 6.119 sq mi (15.847 km2)
 • Water 0.031 sq mi (0.08 km2)  0.50%
673 ft (205 m)
 • Total 13,380
 • Density 2,175.6/sq mi (840.1/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 559
FIPS code 06-14274
GNIS feature IDs 1652687, 2409495

Coalinga is a city in Fresno County and the western San Joaquin Valley, in central California.

It was formerly known as Coaling Station A, Coalingo, and Coalinga Station.

The population was 13,380 at the 2010 census, up from 11,668 at the 2000 census. It is the site of both Pleasant Valley State Prison and Coalinga State Hospital.


19th century

Legendary bandit Joaquin Murrieta was killed in 1853 at his headquarters, Arroyo de Cantua, north of Coalinga. California Historical Landmark #344 marks the approximate site of where he was slain, near the junction of present-day State Route 33 and Route 198.

Coalinga gets its first load of Model T cars, about 1914

Before 20th century diesel locomotives, steam locomotives were used, and powered in the San Joaquin Valley by burning coal mined from the northern foothills of Mount Diablo to the north. The Southern Pacific Railroad Company established the site as a coaling station in 1888, and it was called simply Coaling Station A. Local tradition has it that an official of Southern Pacific made the name more sonorous by adding an a to it. However, it is just as likely that the small railside signs of the day, which often abbreviated names, read "COALINGA" to mean "Coaling A." [Another example is Braner's Cut north of Eureka, whose sign said "BRACUT," which has now become the name of that spot along Highway 101.] The resemblance to Nahuatl (where cōātl = "snake") is accidental.

The first post office was established in 1899. The city was incorporated in 1906.


Coalinga's water was so mineral-laden that potable water had to be brought in by railroad in tanker cars from Armona, California. For many years, "Armona Water" was the only water residents could drink. Coalinga was one of only a few towns in the United States that had three taps — one for hot water, one for cold water, and one for drinking water. Finally, in the early 1960s, Coalinga held the first practical demonstration for reverse osmosis (RO), and its Armona water was replaced by RO water.

1983 earthquake

State Theater on Elm Avenue, damaged by 1983 earthquake.

On May 2, 1983, Coalinga was struck by an earthquake with a moment magnitude of 6.5, which nearly destroyed more than 300 homes and apartment buildings; another 691 buildings suffered major damage, and hundreds more had minor damage. Damage was severe in downtown Coalinga–the eight block commercial district was almost totally destroyed. The shock was felt as far away as Los Angeles and western Nevada, and was followed by a series of aftershocks that caused additional minor damage and some injuries.


Coalinga is located 52 miles (84 km) southwest of Fresno, at an elevation of 673 feet (205 m). The topography is generally level, suitable for a number of field crops which do not require large amounts of water.


Underlying rock formations include the occurrence of Vaqueros sandstone. Surrounding the town in a semicircle from the west, around the north, and to the east are several anticlinal formations containing considerable accumulations of petroleum as the Coalinga Oil Field, from which oil has been withdrawn for more than a hundred years.

The city is located near a particularly active portion of the San Andreas Fault, and earthquakes are frequent.


Coalinga has a desert climate, with hot summers and cool winters. Its hardiness zone is 9a. The average annual precipitation is 8.25 in (210 mm), falling mainly from October to May.

Weather chart for Coalinga (1981–2010 Normals)
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches
source: Western Regional Climate Center


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 4,199
1920 2,934 −30.1%
1930 2,851 −2.8%
1940 5,026 76.3%
1950 5,539 10.2%
1960 5,965 7.7%
1970 6,161 3.3%
1980 6,593 7.0%
1990 8,212 24.6%
2000 11,668 42.1%
2010 13,380 14.7%
2015 (est.) 16,564 23.8%
U.S. Decennial Census


The 2010 United States Census reported that Coalinga had a population of 13,380. The population density was 2,175.8 people per square mile (840.1/km²). The racial makeup of Coalinga was 7,734 (57.8%) White, 549 (4.1%) African American, 171 (1.3%) Native American, 407 (3.0%) Asian, 36 (0.3%) Pacific Islander, 3,937 (29.4%) from other races, and 546 (4.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7,161 persons (53.5%).

Coalinga house
Coalinga house in 2009

The Census reported that 11,752 people (87.8% of the population) lived in households, 130 (1.0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 1,498 (11.2%) were institutionalized.

There were 3,896 households, out of which 1,809 (46.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,913 (49.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 658 (16.9%) had a female householder with no husband present, 311 (8.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 341 (8.8%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 16 (0.4%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 797 households (20.5%) were made up of individuals and 220 (5.6%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.02. There were 2,882 families (74.0% of all households); the average family size was 3.49.

The population was spread out with 3,763 people (28.1%) under the age of 18, 1,610 people (12.0%) aged 18 to 24, 3,646 people (27.2%) aged 25 to 44, 3,308 people (24.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,053 people (7.9%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.9 years. For every 100 females there were 123.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 132.1 males.

There were 4,344 housing units at an average density of 706.4 per square mile (272.7/km²), of which 1,996 (51.2%) were owner-occupied, and 1,900 (48.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.8%; the rental vacancy rate was 8.4%. 6,192 people (46.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 5,560 people (41.6%) lived in rental housing units.


At the census of 2000, there were 11,668 people, 3,515 households, and 2,632 families residing in the city. These included 805 people who were living in group homes.

The racial makeup of Coalinga under those circumstances was 57.3 percent white, 2.4 percent African American, 1.5 percent Native American, 1.7 percent Asian, 0.2 percent Pacific Islander, 32.3 percent from other races, and 4.6 percent from two or more races. About half the population was Hispanic or Latino.

The median age in 2000 was 28.6 years, younger than the 33.3 figure for California and the 35.3 figure for the United States as a whole.

The median income for a family was $41,208, about $11,000 less than for other families in California or the country at large.

The Coalinga Chamber of Commerce Web site in 2007 estimated a population of 18,061 for the city.

2000 figures Coalinga California United States
Median age 28.6 33.3 35.3
White 57.3% 59.5% 75.1%
African-American 2.4% 6.7% 12.3%
Hispanic/Latino 49.8% 32.4% 12.5%
Family income $41,208 $53,025 $50,046
Poverty families 16.4% 10.6% 9.2%
Med. home value $86,900 $211,500 $119,600
High school diploma 65.0% 76.8% 80.4%
College degree 11.8% 28.6% 24.4%

Notes: "Family income" is median family income in 1999 dollars. "Med. home value" is the median value of single-family houses. "Poverty families" is the percentage of families with incomes below the poverty level. "High school diploma" is the percentage of people 25 years and over who had graduated from high school.


The Harris Ranch is a major local cattle ranch, which also features a hotel, several restaurants, and a gift shop for travelers. It is located on Interstate 5 east of Coalinga. The Harris Ranch Airport is nearby.

The Horned Toad Derby is held in Coalinga in late May over the Memorial Day weekend annually. The three-day event is similar to the more famous Jumping Frog Jubilee held in Calaveras County, California, but utilizes locally caught horned toads (lizards) rather than frogs. The tradition began in 1935.

The WHAMOBASS Balloon Rally is hosted by Coalinga annually on the November weekend closest to Montgolfiere Day (November 21) every year. It's the longest consecutively running annual hot air balloon rally in the world. It is sponsored by the Whiskey Hill Atherton Menlo Oaks Ballooning & Sporting Society. Typically, more than 40 balloons ascend at dawn on Saturday and Sunday morning from the athletic field of West Hills College Coalinga. A small number fly on Friday and occasionally on Thursday.

The R.C. Baker Memorial Museum is housed in the former Baker Oil Tools machine shop in town. The museum displays local fossils, models of prehistoric fauna, Native American artifacts, and items from pioneer settlers. A restored 1934 Richfield Gas Station is also on the museum's property. The museum continues to collect historical items donated to the collection.

The Coalinga Rifle Club, whose 25 point, 1000 yard range facility is west of town, is host to various California State Rifle Championships. These include: California State Long Range, Mid Range, Palma Rifle, Fullbore, Service Rifle and High Power Championships. It is also the home of the California Grizzlies, Junior National Champions for the last four years. They have recreational facilities for rifle, pistol, shotgun and a 500-meter Metallic Silhouette Range.

The New Coalinga Municipal Airport is host to the annual Northern California Aerobatic contest. This early June event is typically the largest of five annual California regional aerobatic contests sanctioned by the International Aerobatic Club. It relocated to Coalinga from Paso Robles in 2013. Visitors to the airport can view upwards of 45 pilots flying a wide variety of competitive aircraft in five categories of competition over a two-day period.

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