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Mariposa County, California facts for kids

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Mariposa County, California
Mariposa County Courthouse, 5088 Bullion Street, Mariposa, California.jpg
Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View.jpg
The Mariposa County Courthouse (top) and Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View (bottom)
Flag of Mariposa County, California
Official seal of Mariposa County, California
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
Country United States
State California
Region Sierra Nevada
Incorporated February 18, 1850
Named for Spanish word for "butterfly" and Mariposa Creek
County seat Mariposa
Largest community Mariposa
 • Total 1,463 sq mi (3,790 km2)
 • Land 1,449 sq mi (3,750 km2)
 • Water 14 sq mi (40 km2)
 • Total 17,131
 • Density 11.710/sq mi (4.5211/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific Standard Time)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (Pacific Daylight Time)

Mariposa County is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 U.S. Census, the population was 17,131. The county seat is Mariposa. It is located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, north of Fresno, east of Merced, and southeast of Stockton.

The county's eastern section is the central portion of Yosemite National Park.

There are no incorporated cities in Mariposa County; however, there are communities recognized as census-designated places for statistical purposes. It also has the distinction of having no permanent traffic signals anywhere in the county.


Mariposa County was one of the original counties of California, created at the time of statehood in 1850. While it began as the state's largest county, territory that was once part of Mariposa was ceded over time to form twelve other counties: Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Mono, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare. Thus, Mariposa County is known as the "Mother of Counties".

Mariposa County's original seat was a now-nonexistent hamlet known as Agua Fria (Spanish for "cold water"), about 3 miles directly west of Mariposa proper on Agua Fria Road, which runs from Highway 140 to the south, to the community of Mt. Bullion to the northwest. Charles Fremont moved the county seat to Mariposa in 1854, resulting in the construction of the Mariposa County Courthouse, whose grounds occupies an entire block. The historic structure is fronted by Bullion Street; Jones Street is to the rear, with 9th and 10th Streets on either side. This handsome, white judicial building erected with whip-sawed wood from nearby forests is the oldest courthouse still in use in California: cases are still tried there to this day. The courthouse is so recognizable that its likeness is on the Mariposa County Seal. Also particularly noteworthy is the courthouse's clock tower and bell, which chimes every hour, on the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The county took its name from Mariposa Creek, which was so named by Spanish explorers in 1806, when they discovered a great cluster of butterflies ("mariposas" in Spanish and Portuguese) in the foothills of the Sierras. Each year, the first weekend in May, residents mark the annual arrival of migrating monarch butterflies with a "Butterfly Days" festival and parade.

Gold Rush

Mariposa County is located at the southern end of California's Mother Lode region. During the California Gold Rush, great quantities of the prized mineral were found and extracted, first in local stream-beds and later in hard rock mines. One of the most notable beneficiaries of this wealth was the famed explorer and 1856 Republican presidential candidate, John Charles Frémont, for whom the local hospital and Charles Street (more commonly known as "Highway 140") are named. (Jessie Street, in the town of Mariposa, is named for Fremont's wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, who came to Mariposa with her husband on many extended visits although they never took up permanent residence within the county.)

Many aspects of the area's mining history are depicted in exhibits at two local museums: the Mariposa History Museum, located in the town of Mariposa; and the California Mining and Mineral Museum, located at the Mariposa Fairgrounds (2 miles east of Mariposa on Highway 49).

Two small gold mines in Mariposa county, the Mockingbird and the Colorado Quartz, intermittently produce world-class (and very expensive) specimens of crystalline gold for mineral collectors. "Specimens from these occurrences commonly have bright luster and rich color, with well-developed crystals in unusual and attractive arrangements." The best-known example is "The Dragon", now on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,463 square miles (3,790 km2), of which 1,449 square miles (3,750 km2) is land and 14 square miles (36 km2) (1.0%) is water. Along the banks of the Merced River is found the sole habitat for the limestone salamander, a rare species endemic to Mariposa County.

National protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 4,379
1860 6,243 42.6%
1870 4,572 −26.8%
1880 4,339 −5.1%
1890 3,787 −12.7%
1900 4,720 24.6%
1910 3,956 −16.2%
1920 2,775 −29.9%
1930 3,233 16.5%
1940 5,605 73.4%
1950 5,145 −8.2%
1960 5,064 −1.6%
1970 6,015 18.8%
1980 11,108 84.7%
1990 14,302 28.8%
2000 17,130 19.8%
2010 18,251 6.5%
2020 17,131 −6.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010 2020

2020 census

Mariposa County, California - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 15,192 12,838 83.24% 74.94%
Black or African American alone (NH) 129 105 0.71% 0.61%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 459 410 2.51% 2.39%
Asian alone (NH) 201 287 1.10% 1.68%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 26 15 0.14% 0.09%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 22 114 0.12% 0.67%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 546 1,222 2.99% 7.13%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 1,676 2,140 9.18% 12.49%
Total 18,251 17,131 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.


The largest self-reported ancestry groups in Mariposa County were English (14.5%), German (13.7%), Irish (13.1%), Italian (4.1%), "American" (3.8%), Scottish (3.2%) and Portuguese (3.0%).


Places by population, race, and income

2010 Census

The 2010 United States Census reported that Mariposa County had a population of 18,251. The racial makeup of Mariposa County was 16,103 (88.2%) White, 138 (0.8%) African American, 527 (2.9%) Native American, 204 (1.1%) Asian, 26 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 508 (2.8%) from other races, and 745 (4.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,676 persons (9.2%).


As of the census of 2000, there were 17,130 people, 6,613 households, and 4,490 families residing in the county. The population density was 12 people per square mile (5/km2). There were 8,826 housing units at an average density of 6 per square mile (2/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 88.9% White, 0.7% Black or African American, 3.5% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.7% from other races, and 3.4% from two or more races. 7.8% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 17.8% were of German, 13.4% English, 12.7% Irish and 6.7% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 96.0% spoke English and 3.5% Spanish as their first language.

There were 6,613 households, out of which 25.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.8% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.1% were non-families. 26.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 21.6% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 29.2% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 104.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.4 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,626, and the median income for a family was $42,655. Males had a median income of $31,194 versus $25,440 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,190. About 10.5% of families and 14.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.


Major highways

  • State Route 41
  • State Route 49
  • State Route 120
  • State Route 140

Public transportation

  • Mariposa County Transit provides dial-a-ride and some fixed route service
  • Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) provides service along State Routes 120 and 140 to Yosemite National Park.


Mariposa-Yosemite Airport is a general aviation airport. The nearest airports with scheduled flights are in Fresno and Merced.


Wawona Hotel1
The historic Wawona Hotel, built in 1876

Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Mariposa County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Mariposa CDP 2,173
2 Midpines CDP 1,204
3 Lake Don Pedro CDP 1,077
4 Yosemite Valley CDP 1,035
5 Bootjack CDP 960
6 Greeley Hill CDP 915
7 Catheys Valley CDP 825
8 El Portal CDP 474
9 Coulterville CDP 201
10 Wawona CDP 169
11 Bear Valley CDP 125
12 Hornitos CDP 75
13 Fish Camp CDP 59
14 Buck Meadows CDP 31

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