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San Luis Obispo County, California facts for kids

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San Luis Obispo County

SLO County
County of San Luis Obispo
Cerro San Luis.JPG Justin vineyard.jpg
Pismo.jpg MissionSanMiguelArches.JPG
Hearst Castle pool.jpg Morro Rock 1.jpg
Images, from top down, left to right: Cerro San Luis (Mountain) in San Luis Obispo, a vineyard in Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Mission San Miguel Arcángel, Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle, Morro Rock
Official seal of San Luis Obispo County
"Not For Ourselves Alone"
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
California's location in the United States
California's location in the United States
Country  United States
State  California
Region California Central Coast
Incorporated February 18, 1850
County seat San Luis Obispo
 • Total 3,616 sq mi (9,370 km2)
 • Land 3,299 sq mi (8,540 km2)
 • Water 317 sq mi (820 km2)
Highest elevation
5,109 ft (1,557 m)
 • Total 269,637
 • Estimate 
 • Density 74.568/sq mi (28.791/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
The entrance lobby and belfry of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. A statue of Fray Junípero Serra stands outside the church.
Jack House - Front of House
Robert Jack House, built c. 1882

San Luis Obispo County, officially the County of San Luis Obispo, is a county located in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 269,637. The county seat is San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo County (locally, SLO County) comprises the San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county is located along the Pacific Ocean in Central California, between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Father Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772 and the Mission is today an active part of downtown San Luis Obispo (popularly referred to as SLO or SLO-town). The small size of the county's communities, scattered along the beaches, coastal hills, and mountains of the Santa Lucia range, provides a wide variety of coastal and inland hill ecologies to support many kinds of fishing, agriculture, and tourist activities.

The mainstays of the economy are California Polytechnic State University with its almost 20,000 students, tourism, and agriculture. San Luis Obispo County is the third largest producer of wine in California, surpassed only by Sonoma and Napa Counties. Wine grapes are the second largest agricultural crop in the county (after strawberries), and the wine production they support creates a direct economic impact and a growing wine country vacation industry.

The town of San Simeon is located at the foot of the ridge where newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst built the famed Hearst Castle. Other coastal towns (listed from North to South) include Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Los Osos -Baywood Park. These cities and villages are located northwest of San Luis Obispo city, and Avila Beach and the Five Cities to the south: Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano, Pismo Beach and Halcyon. Nipomo, just south of the Five Cities, borders northern Santa Barbara County. Inland, the cities of Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero lie along the Salinas River, near the Paso Robles wine region. San Luis Obispo lies south of Atascadero and north of the Five Cities region.


The prehistory of San Luis Obispo County is strongly influenced by the Chumash people who had significant settlement here at least as early as the Millingstone Horizon thousands of years before the present age. Important settlements existed, for example, in many coastal areas such as Morro Bay and Los Osos.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded on September 1, 1772 in the area that is now the city of San Luis Obispo. The namesake of the mission, city and county is Saint Louis of Toulouse, the young bishop of Toulouse (Obispo and Tolosa in Spanish) in 1297.

San Luis Obispo County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood.

The Salinas River Valley, a region that figures strongly in several Steinbeck novels, stretches north from San Luis Obispo County. The remote California Valley near Soda Lake is the region most untouched by modernity. Travels through this area and the hills east of highway 101 during wildflower season are very beautiful and can be incorporated with wine tasting at local vineyards.


San Luis Obispo
Sand dunes - Oceano CA
Sand dunes - Oceano CA
Morro Bay Docks
Morro Bay Docks

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,616 square miles (9,370 km2), of which 3,299 square miles (8,540 km2) is land and 317 square miles (820 km2) (8.8%) is water.

Adjacent counties

Counties and bodies of water adjacent to San Luis Obispo County, California

National protected areas

Marine Protected Areas



Places by population, race, and income


The 2010 United States Census reported that San Luis Obispo County had a population of 269,637. The racial makeup of San Luis Obispo County was 222,756 (82.6%) White, 5,550 (2.1%) African American, 2,536 (0.9%) Native American, 8,507 (3.2%) Asian (1.0% Filipino, 0.6% Chinese, 0.4% Japanese, 0.3% Indian, 0.3% Korean, 0.2% Vietnamese), 389 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 19,786 (7.3%) from other races, and 10,113 (3.8%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 55,973 persons (20.8%); 17.7% of San Luis Obispo County is Mexican, 0.3% Puerto Rican, and 0.2% Salvadoran.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 336
1860 1,782 430.4%
1870 4,772 167.8%
1880 9,142 91.6%
1890 16,072 75.8%
1900 16,637 3.5%
1910 19,383 16.5%
1920 21,893 12.9%
1930 29,613 35.3%
1940 33,246 12.3%
1950 51,417 54.7%
1960 81,044 57.6%
1970 105,690 30.4%
1980 155,435 47.1%
1990 217,162 39.7%
2000 246,681 13.6%
2010 269,637 9.3%
Est. 2015 281,401 4.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2015

As of the census of 2000, there were 246,681 residents, 92,739 households, and 58,611 families in the county. The population density was 75 people per square mile (29/km²). There were 102,275 housing units at an average density of 31 per square mile (12/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 84.6% White, 2.0% Black or African American, 1.0% Native American, 2.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.2% from other races, and 3.4% from two or more races. 16.3% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 13.9% were of German, 11.4% English, 9.7% Irish, 6.1% American and 5.7% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 85.7% spoke English and 10.7% Spanish as their first language.

There were 92,739 households out of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.40% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.8% were non-families. 26.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the county, the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 13.6% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 23.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 105.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.2 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $42,428, and the median income for a family was $52,447. Males had a median income of $40,726 versus $27,450 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,864. About 6.8% of families and 12.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.


Major highways

Public transportation

San Luis Obispo County is served by Amtrak trains and Greyhound Lines buses. The San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority provides countywide service along US 101 as well as service to Morro Bay, Los Osos, Cambria and San Simeon.

The cities of San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles operate their own local bus services; all of these connect with SLORTA routes.

Oceano County Airport 2013
Oceano County Airport in 2013

Intercity service is provided by Amtrak trains, Greyhound and Orange Belt Stages buses.


  • San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP) is located just south of the City of San Luis Obispo. Commercial flights are available.
  • Paso Robles Municipal Airport (PRB) is located north-east of the City of Paso Robles and is home to California Highway Patrol, CAL-FIRE and the Estrella Warbirds Museum.
  • Oceano County Airport (L52) is located on the coast in the 5 Cities area.



The "Five Cities" are: Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano, Pismo Beach and Shell Beach. Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach are the only incorporated cities. Oceano is a Community Service District, and Shell Beach is part of Pismo Beach.

Census-designated places

Pair of Asterina miniatas Bat stars
Pair of Bat stars near Los Osos

Unincorporated communities

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of San Luis Obispo County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 San Luis Obispo City 45,119
2 Paso Robles (El Paso de Robles) City 29,793
3 Atascadero City 28,310
4 Arroyo Grande City 17,252
5 Nipomo CDP 16,714
6 Los Osos CDP 14,276
7 Grover Beach City 13,156
8 Morro Bay City 10,234
9 Templeton CDP 7,674
10 Pismo Beach City 7,655
11 Oceano CDP 7,286
12 Cambria CDP 6,032
13 Cayucos CDP 2,592
14 Lake Nacimiento CDP 2,411
15 San Miguel CDP 2,336
16 Avila Beach CDP 1,627
17 Los Ranchos CDP 1,477
18 Shandon CDP 1,295
19 Callender CDP 1,262
20 Santa Margarita CDP 1,259
21 Blacklake CDP 930
22 Los Berros CDP 641
23 Woodlands CDP 576
24 San Simeon CDP 462
25 Garden Farms CDP 386
26 Oak Shores CDP 337
27 Whitley Gardens CDP 285
28 Edna CDP 193
29 Creston CDP 94

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