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Potter Valley, California facts for kids

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For the California wine region, see Potter Valley AVA.
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Potter Valley
Country  United States
State  California
County Mendocino
 • Total 4.058 sq mi (10.511 km2)
 • Land 4.030 sq mi (10.437 km2)
 • Water 0.028 sq mi (0.074 km2)  0.70%
948 ft (289 m)
 • Total 646
 • Density 159.19/sq mi (61.46/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 707
FIPS code 06-58506
GNIS feature IDs 265005; 2628779

Potter Valley is a census-designated place in Mendocino County, California, United States. It is located 18 miles (29 km) north-northeast of Ukiah, at an elevation of 948 feet (289 m). It is located at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Russian River. The CDP population was 646 at the 2010 census.


In 1852, when William and Thomas Potter and Mose Briggs first entered what would become known as Potter Valley, they were searching for the headwaters of the Russian River from their base in Sonoma County. The Pomo people called it Ba-lo Kai. They found three Pomo villages (each about 500 people strong), the Russian headwaters, and a lush valley with wild oats "stirrup high". Eventually the Potters returned to settle there, and the valley became known by the American ranchers' name.

The post office opened in 1870.

Painter Grace Hudson was born in Potter Valley in 1865.

In addition to his famous Ridgewood Ranch, Charles S. Howard, owner of the racehorse Seabiscuit, owned a ranch in Potter Valley, where he ran cattle and occasionally secluded Seabiscuit when visitors became bothersome.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the Census Designated Place (CDP) covers an area of 4.1 square miles (10.5 km²), 99.30% of it land, and 0.70% of it water.

However, the CDP does not cover the full area of the geographic Potter Valley floor. The actual valley size is closer to 12 square miles and the area served by the Potter Valley Community Unified School District is 157.21 square miles.


The 2010 United States Census reported that the Potter Valley CDP had a population of 646. The population density was 159.2 people per square mile (61.5/km²). The racial makeup of Potter Valley was 516 (79.9%) White, 2 (0.3%) African American, 13 (2.0%) Native American, 2 (0.3%) Asian, 0 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 97 (15.0%) from other races, and 16 (2.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 154 persons (23.8%).

The Census reported that 636 people (98.5% of the population) lived in households, 10 (1.5%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 241 households, out of which 73 (30.3%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 125 (51.9%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 20 (8.3%) had a female householder with no husband present, 16 (6.6%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 20 (8.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 0 (0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 61 households (25.3%) were made up of individuals and 22 (9.1%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64. There were 161 families (66.8% of all households); the average family size was 3.19.

The population was spread out with 142 people (22.0%) under the age of 18, 56 people (8.7%) aged 18 to 24, 156 people (24.1%) aged 25 to 44, 206 people (31.9%) aged 45 to 64, and 86 people (13.3%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.6 years. For every 100 females there were 105.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.6 males.

There were 267 housing units at an average density of 65.8 per square mile (25.4/km²), of which 152 (63.1%) were owner-occupied, and 89 (36.9%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 0%; the rental vacancy rate was 10.0%. 382 people (59.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 254 people (39.3%) lived in rental housing units.


Potter Valley is located just northeast of Ukiah and Lake Mendocino in Mendocino County, with the valley floor at roughly 1,000 ft (300 m) elevation. The headwaters of the East Fork of the Russian River originate in the valley. The Potter Valley Project delivers additional water from the Eel River, which flows into the Russian River here via a controversial hydroelectric plant that tunnels through the mountains to take advantage of the relative proximity of these two waterways. This diversion supplies a significant amount of water to inland Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. Potter Valley is a rich agricultural region, with excellent soils, planted mostly in irrigated pasture, wine grapes, and pears, but supporting a wide variety of farms and ranches.


Monthly Climate Averages for Potter Valley (1961–1990)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average High (°F) 57 61 64 69 78 86 94 92 88 77 63 56
Average Low (°F) 33 37 38 39 43 49 53 52 48 43 37 34
Average Precipitation (inches) 9 6.96 5.89 2.7 0.93 0.14 0.07 0.31 0.9 2.79 6.9 7.75
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