kids encyclopedia robot

Santa Barbara County, California facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Santa Barbara County
County of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara County Courthouse.jpg
Main Gate - Vandenberg AFB.jpg
Images, from top down, left to right: The Santa Barbara County Courthouse; Lake Cachuma; Vandenberg Space Force Base's main gate; along Foxen Canyon Road, running between the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys; Danish-styled Solvang
Flag of Santa Barbara County
Official seal of Santa Barbara County
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
Country United States
State California
Region California Central Coast
Incorporated February 18, 1850
Named for The city of Santa Barbara, which was named for Saint Barbara
County seat Santa Barbara
Largest city Santa Maria (population)
Santa Barbara (area)
 • Total 3,789 sq mi (9,810 km2)
 • Land 2,735 sq mi (7,080 km2)
 • Water 1,054 sq mi (2,730 km2)
Highest elevation
6,803 ft (2,074 m)
 • Total 448,229
 • Density 163/sq mi (63/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code(s) 805
GDP $26.135 billion (2017)
GDP per capita $51,285 (2017)

Santa Barbara County, California, officially the County of Santa Barbara, is located in Southern California. As of the 2020 census, the population was 448,229. The county seat is Santa Barbara, and the largest city is Santa Maria.

Santa Barbara County comprises the Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Most of the county is part of the California Central Coast. Mainstays of the county's economy include engineering, resource extraction (particularly petroleum extraction and diatomaceous earth mining), winemaking, agriculture, and education. The software development and tourism industries are important employers in the southern part of the county.

Southern Santa Barbara County is sometimes considered the northern cultural boundary of Southern California.


The Santa Barbara County area, including the Northern Channel Islands, was first settled by Native Americans at least 13,000 years ago. Evidence for a Paleoindian presence has been found in the form of a fluted Clovis-like point found in the 1980s along the western Santa Barbara Coast, as well as the remains of Arlington Springs Man found on Santa Rosa Island in the 1960s. For thousands of years, the area was home to the Chumash tribe of Native Americans, complex hunter-gatherers who lived along the coast and in interior valleys leaving rock art in many locations including Painted Cave.

Europeans first contacted the Chumash in AD 1542, when three Spanish ships under the command of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo explored the area. The Santa Barbara Channel received its name from Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno when he sailed along the California coast in 1602; his ships entered the channel on December 4, the day of the feast of Santa Barbara. Spanish ships associated with the Manila Galleon trade probably made emergency stops along the coast during the next 167 years, but no permanent settlements were established.

The first land expedition to explore California, led by Gaspar de Portolà explored the coastal area in 1769, on its way to Monterey Bay. The party traveled the same route on the return to San Diego in January 1770. That same year, a second expedition to Monterey again passed through the area. The DeAnza expeditions of 1774-76 followed Portola's trail.

SB Mission 20150914 (21995024668)
Mission Santa Barbara from Mission Park, Santa Barbara

The Presidio of Santa Barbara was established in 1782 (4th of 5 in California), followed by Mission Santa Barbara in 1786 – both in what is now the city of Santa Barbara. The presidio and mission kept Vizcaino's denomination, as did the later city and county – a common practice which has preserved the names of many of the 21 California Missions.

European contacts had devastating effects on the Chumash people, including a series of disease epidemics that drastically reduced Chumash population. The Chumash survived, however, and thousands of Chumash descendants still live in the Santa Barbara area or surrounding counties. A tribal homeland was established in 1901, the Santa Ynez Reservation.

Following the Mexican secularization of the missions in the 1830s, the mission pasture lands were mostly broken up into large ranchos and granted mainly to prominent local citizens who already lived in the area. 604 of these land grants were later confirmed by the state of California, with 36 in Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara County was one of the 27 original counties of California, formed in 1850 at the time of statehood. The county's territory was later divided to create Ventura County in 1873.


South Coast of Santa Barbara County, view looking northeast, showing, from left to right, Isla Vista, Goleta, Hope Ranch, Santa Barbara. All the mountains except for the most distant in the right rear are in Santa Barbara County.
Santa Barbara, CA, and rugged back country 2000 NASA
Coast of Santa Barbara and rugged back country. Courtesy: NASA Earth Explorer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,789 square miles (9,810 km2), of which 2,735 square miles (7,080 km2) is land and 1,054 square miles (2,730 km2) (27.8%) is water. Four of the Channel IslandsSan Miguel Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island and Santa Barbara Island – are in Santa Barbara County. They form the largest part of the Channel Islands National Park (which also includes Anacapa Island in Ventura County).

Santa Barbara County has a mountainous interior abutting several coastal plains on the west and south coasts of the county. The largest concentration of population is on the southern coastal plain, referred to as the "south coast" – meaning the part of the county south of the Santa Ynez Mountains. This region includes the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria, as well as the unincorporated areas of Hope Ranch, Summerland, Mission Canyon, Montecito and Isla Vista, along with stretches of unincorporated area such as Noleta/Nanta Barbara("No" to "Goleta" or "Santa Barbara"). North of the Santa Ynez range in the Santa Ynez Valley are the towns of Santa Ynez, Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc; the unincorporated towns of Los Olivos and Ballard; the unincorporated areas of Mission Hills and Vandenberg Village; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, where the Santa Ynez River flows out to the sea. North of the Santa Ynez Valley are the cities of Santa Maria and Guadalupe, and the unincorporated towns of Orcutt, Los Alamos, Casmalia, Garey, and Sisquoc. In the extreme northeastern portion of the county are the small cities of New Cuyama, Cuyama, and Ventucopa. As of January 1, 2006, Santa Maria has become the largest city in Santa Barbara County.

The principal mountain ranges of the county are the Santa Ynez Mountains in the south, and the San Rafael Mountains and Sierra Madre Mountains in the interior and northeast. Most of the mountainous area is within the Los Padres National Forest, and includes two wilderness areas: the San Rafael Wilderness and the Dick Smith Wilderness. The highest elevation in the county is 6820 feet (2079 m) at Big Pine Mountain in the San Rafaels.

North of the mountains is the arid and sparsely populated Cuyama Valley, portions of which are in San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties. Oil production, ranching, and agriculture dominate the land use in the privately owned parts of the Cuyama Valley; the Los Padres National Forest is adjacent to the south, and regions to the north and northeast are owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the Nature Conservancy.

Air quality in the county, unlike much of southern California, is generally good because of the prevailing winds off of the Pacific Ocean. The county is in attainment of federal standards for ozone and particulate matter, but exceeds state standards for these pollutants. Sometimes in late summer and early autumn there are days with higher ozone levels; usually this occurs when there is a low inversion layer under a stagnant air mass, which traps pollutants underneath. In these cases a traveler into the mountains encounters a curious paradox: the temperature rises as altitude increases. On these days the visibility from the higher summits may be more than a hundred miles, while the population on the coastal plain experiences haze and smog.

Channel Islands

The four Channel Islands in Santa Barbara County are Santa Barbara Island, San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, and the large Santa Cruz Island. All of them contain native and endemic wildlife, like the island oak and Torrey Pine. All four have the deer mouse living on them, the three latter, the island fox, and the two latter, the island spotted skunk. There used to be skunks on San Miguel Island, but due predation from marine life, birds, and foxes, the San Miguel Island skunk has gone extinct.


Santa Barbara County receives a mild climate. Along the coast, the temperature rarely goes above or at the 100s in the summer and below or even at freezing in the winter. In the interior, temperatures can soar, though, and above 2,000 feet, temperatures plummet during the winter months, often going to, or below, freezing. The climate is called the warm-summer Mediterranean climate.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Guadalupe Dunes County Park road
Transition zone (back dunes) in Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 1,185
1860 3,543 199.0%
1870 7,784 119.7%
1880 9,513 22.2%
1890 15,754 65.6%
1900 18,934 20.2%
1910 27,738 46.5%
1920 41,097 48.2%
1930 65,167 58.6%
1940 70,555 8.3%
1950 98,220 39.2%
1960 168,962 72.0%
1970 264,324 56.4%
1980 298,694 13.0%
1990 369,608 23.7%
2000 399,347 8.0%
2010 423,895 6.1%
2020 448,229 5.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 22010 2020

2020 census

Santa Barbara County, California - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 203,122 184,746 47.92% 41.22%
Black or African American alone (NH) 7,242 6,467 1.71% 1.44%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 1,843 1,731 0.43% 0.39%
Asian alone (NH) 19,591 25,378 4.62% 5.66%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 680 542 0.16% 0.12%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 790 2,378 0.19% 0.53%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 8,940 16,403 2.11% 3.66%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 181,687 210,584 40.27% 46.98%
Total 423,895 448,229 100.00% 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.


Places by population, race, and income


The 2010 United States Census reported that Santa Barbara County had a population of 423,895. The ethnic makeup of Santa Barbara County was 295,124 (69.6%) White, 8,513 (2.0%) African American, 5,485 (1.3%) Native American, 20,665 (4.9%) Asian (1.6% Filipino, 1.0% Chinese, 0.5% Japanese, 0.5% Korean, 0.3% Vietnamese, 0.4% Indian), 806 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 73,860 (17.4%) from other races, and 19,442 (4.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 181,687 persons (42.9%); 38.5% of Santa Barbara County is Mexican, 0.4% Salvadoran, 0.4% Guatemalan, and 0.3% Puerto Rican.


As of the census of 2000, there were 399,347 people, 136,622 households, and 89,487 families residing in the county. The population density was 146 people per square mile (56/km2). There were 142,901 housing units at an average density of 52 per square mile (20/km2). The ethnic makeup of the county was 72.7% White, 2.3% Black or African American, 1.2% Native American, 4.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 15.2% from other races, and 4.3% from two or more races. 34.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 9.1% were of German, 8.5% English and 6.5% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. 26.6% of the population reported speaking Spanish at home.

There were 136,622 households, out of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families. 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.8 and the average family size was 3.33.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 24.9% under the age of 18, 13.3% from 18 to 24, 29.0% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 100.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.1 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $46,677, and the median income for a family was $54,042. Males had a median income of $37,997 versus $29,593 for females. The per capita income for the county was $23,059. About 8.5% of families and 14.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.3% of those under age 18 and 6.2% of those age 65 or over.

The population of the area south of the Santa Ynez Mountain crest—the portion known as "South County"—was 201,161 according to the 2000 census; thus the population is almost exactly split between north and south. Recent years have shown slow or even negative growth for regions in the south county, while areas in the north county have continued to grow at a faster rate.


In addition to 41 vlistings of National Register of Historic Place and 16 California Historical Landmarks, the county lists 50 County of Santa Barbara Landmarks.


Major highways

Public transportation

Santa Barbara County is served by Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses. The southern portion of the county is served by the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District. In the North County, the cities of Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Buellton/Solvang have their own bus services.


  • Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, is located near Goleta, west of Santa Barbara.
  • Santa Maria Public Airport is located just southwest of Downtown Santa Maria.
  • Lompoc Airport is located on the north side of Lompoc.
  • Santa Ynez Airport is just southeast of Santa Ynez.

Commercial flights are available at Santa Barbara Airport and Santa Maria Public Airport.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Population ranking

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

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Santa Maria City 99,553
2 Santa Barbara City 88,410
3 Lompoc City 42,434
4 Goleta City 29,888
5 Orcutt CDP 28,905
6 Isla Vista CDP 23,096
7 Carpinteria City 13,040
8 Montecito CDP 8,965
9 Guadalupe City 7,080
10 Vandenberg Village CDP 6,497
11 Solvang City 5,245
12 Buellton City 4,828
13 Santa Ynez CDP 4,418
14 Mission Hills CDP 3,576
15 Vandenberg AFB CDP 3,338
16 Mission Canyon CDP 2,381
17 Los Alamos CDP 1,890
18 Toro Canyon CDP 1,508
19 Summerland CDP 1,448
20 Los Olivos CDP 1,132
21 New Cuyama CDP 517
22 Ballard CDP 467
23 Santa Ynez Reservation AIAN 271
24 Sisquoc CDP 183
25 Casmalia CDP 138
26 Garey CDP 68
27 Cuyama CDP 57


Oil production began in 1886 with drilling in Summerland. Enormous oil fields such as the Orcutt, Lompoc, Santa Maria Valley, and Cat Canyon fields provided jobs and a steady supply of oil, gas, and asphalt since the first oil discovery in the Solomon Hills in 1901. Protests have marked periodic resistance to the impact of oil drilling over the years. A protest in 1929 in Santa Barbara expressed the frustration of the wealthy who came here to get away from it all. The largest spill in California waters, credited as a spark for the modern environmental movement, coated the beaches and Santa Barbara Harbor with a thick crude in 1969. In recent years, major oil companies have left the area, turning over their oil leases to small independents, and decommissioning some leases areas that were no longer profitable. Concerns about the economy were foremost when, in 2014, Measure P was placed on the county ballot. If approve by the voters the measure would ban "high-intensity petroleum operations" in the county.

The city of Santa Barbara and other coastal communities support a significant tourism economy. White-collar jobs, previously with an emphasis in aerospace but more recently in software and other high-tech pursuits are encouraged by proximity to the University of California, Santa Barbara. Vandenberg Space Force Base has traditionally had a large economic impact in the northern portion of the county and continues to be the site of frequent satellite launches.


Agriculture is the top major producing industry as of 2016. Strawberries are the county's top crop, with $413 million in production making up more than a third of all county agricultural production. Wine grapes are number two.

Wine country

The first wine grapes in Santa Barbara County were planted by the missionaries associated with Mission Santa Barbara late in the 18th century. Since commercial viticulture rebounded in the 1960s, Santa Barbara County has become a prominent viticultural region. The 2004 Alexander Payne film, Sideways, set in the Santa Ynez Valley, brought additional attention to the county as a wine region, especially for its Pinot noir wines.

The region, also noted for its Chardonnay wines, is gaining a reputation for Rhone varietals including Syrah and Viognier. Santa Barbara wine grapes now command among the highest prices anywhere in the state.

The areas planted with wine grapes are mixed in with the rolling hills, ancient oak trees, oil fields, cattle ranches, and natural areas in the central part of the county. The county now claims more than 115 wineries cultivating 21,000 acres (8,500 ha) with the vast majority of the vineyards in the county's Central Coast American Viticultural Areas: Santa Maria Valley AVA, Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Happy Canyon AVA, Los Olivos District AVA and Ballard Canyon AVA each with its own distinct terroir. The county continues to gain AVA recognition with Alisos Canyon AVA being the recent established AVA in 2020.

The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail is situated about an hour north of Santa Barbara, and several miles from Los Olivos. Numerous events are held year-round in this area by the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail Association.

The trail is home to many wineries including Andrew Murray Vineyards, Fess Parker Winery and Firestone Vineyard. One of the wineries along the trail, Cambria Estate Winery, was featured in the 3rd episode of The Bachelor, an American reality television series, Season 15, on January 17, 2011.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are common all long the trail while the southern part also has many Rhone style wines due to the warmer climate. In the North, Burgundy styles tend to predominate more due to the cooler maritime weather.


There are 20 independent school districts in Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Barbara County Education Office serves as an intermediate agency between those districts and the California Department of Education. During the 2013 school year, 67,701 students were enrolled in Santa Barbara County schools, kindergarten through grade 12.

There are also a number of private schools in the county. The Los Angeles Archdiocese operates two Catholic high schools and several elementary schools.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Santa Bárbara para niños

kids search engine
Santa Barbara County, California Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.