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Sierra County, California
County of Sierra
Downieville, California, at Main and Commercial St., looking south.jpg
Conifer forest edit.jpg
Stampede Dam.jpeg
Images, from top down, left to right: Downieville, Conifer forest in the Tahoe National Forest, Stampede Dam
Official seal of Sierra County, California
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
Country  United States
State  California
Region Sierra Nevada
Incorporated 1852
Named for Sierra Nevada
County seat Downieville
Largest city Loyalton
 • Total 962 sq mi (2,490 km2)
 • Land 953 sq mi (2,470 km2)
 • Water 9 sq mi (20 km2)
 • Total 3,236
 • Density 3.3638/sq mi (1.2988/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific Standard Time)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code(s) 530

Sierra County is a county located in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 census, the population was 3,236, making it California's second-least populous county. The county seat is Downieville, and the only incorporated city is Loyalton. The county is in the Sierra Nevada, northeast of Sacramento on the border with Nevada.


Sierra County was formed from parts of Yuba County in 1852. The county derives its name from the Sierra Nevada.

Prior to the California Gold Rush, the area was home to both the Maidu and the Washoe peoples. They generally summered in the higher elevations to hunt and fish, and returned to lower elevations for the winter months. After the discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills sparked the California Gold Rush, more than 16,000 miners settled in Sierra County between 1848-1860. Most mining settlements in the county sprung up along the North and Middle Forks of the Yuba River, both of which had rich deposits of gold. While some of the mining boom towns faded away once gold fever died down, other settlements such as Downieville and Sierra City have remained.

Notable gold nuggets found in the county include a 26.5 pound specimen, avoirdupois, found by a group of sailors at Sailor Ravine, two miles above Downieville. A 51-pound specimen was found in 1853 by a group of Frenchmen in French Ravine. The 106 pound Monumental Nugget was found in Sept. 1869 at Sierra City.

The Bald Mountain drift mine in Forest City was founded in Aug. 1864, and was the largest of its kind in the state at the time. The Bald Mountain Extension was located in 1874 east of Forest. The Monte Cristo Mine was located in 1854. The largest quartz-mine is the Sierra Buttes Gold Mine was located in 1850 near Sierra City. The Gold Bluff Mine was located near Downnieville in 1854. By 1880 the county was "crushing" 70,000 tons of quartz and had 266 miles of mining ditches.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 962 square miles (2,490 km2), of which 953 square miles (2,470 km2) is land and 9.0 square miles (23 km2) (0.9%) is water.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


There is only one traffic signal (a flashing red light at the intersection of highways 49 and 89) in Sierra County. In the winter of 2007 it was removed after an automobile accident and was replaced in the fall of 2008.

Major highways

County roads

  • Sierra County Route A23 CA.svg County Route A23
  • Sierra County Route A24 CA.svg County Route A24
  • Henness Pass Road
  • Stampede Dam Road
  • Gold Lake Road/Highway

Public transportation

Public transportation in Sierra County is limited to vans run by senior citizen agencies in Downieville and Loyalton which the general public may ride on a space-available basis.


Sierraville-Dearwater Field Airport is a general aviation airport located near Sierraville.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 11,387
1870 5,619 −50.7%
1880 6,623 17.9%
1890 5,051 −23.7%
1900 4,017 −20.5%
1910 4,098 2.0%
1920 1,783 −56.5%
1930 2,422 35.8%
1940 3,025 24.9%
1950 2,410 −20.3%
1960 2,247 −6.8%
1970 2,365 5.3%
1980 3,073 29.9%
1990 3,318 8.0%
2000 3,555 7.1%
2010 3,240 −8.9%
2020 3,236 −0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010 2020

2020 census

Sierra County, California - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 2,855 2,615 88.12% 80.81%
Black or African American alone (NH) 5 7 0.15% 0.22%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 41 18 1.27% 0.56%
Asian alone (NH) 12 7 0.37% 0.22%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 2 1 0.06% 0.03%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 1 25 0.03% 0.77%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 55 186 1.70% 5.75%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 269 377 8.30% 11.65%
Total 3,240 3,236 100.00% 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.


As of 2015 the largest self-reported ancestry groups in Sierra County, California are:

Largest ancestries (2015) Percent
English England 19.0%
German Germany 18.2%
"American" United States 16.1%
Scottish Scotland 6.4%
Italian Italy 5.9%
Polish Poland 4.6%
Portuguese Portugal 4.0%
Swiss Switzerland 3.6%
Swedish Sweden 3.2%
French France 3.1%


Places by population, race, and income


The 2010 United States Census reported that Sierra County had a population of 3,240. The racial makeup of Sierra County was 3,022 (93.3%) White, 6 (0.2%) African American, 44 (1.4%) Native American, 12 (0.4%) Asian, 2 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 75 (2.3%) from other races, and 79 (2.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 269 persons (8.3%).


As of the census of 2000, there were 3,555 people, 1,520 households and 986 families residing in the county. The population density was 4 people per square mile (1/km2). There were 2,202 housing units at an average density of 2 per square mile (1/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 94.2% White, 0.2% Black or African American, 1.9% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.0% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Six percent of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Eighteen percent were of English ancestry, 16% were of Irish, 11% German and 8% Italian ancestry. Over ninety-five (95.3) percent spoke English and 3.4% Spanish as their first language.

There were 1,520 households, out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 7.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.1% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.83.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.3% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 24.0% from 25 to 44, 30.2% from 45 to 64, and 17.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 102.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.9 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,827, and the median income for a family was $42,756. Males had a median income of $36,121 versus $30,000 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,815. About 9.0% of families and 11.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.3% of those under age 18 and 2.2% of those age 65 or over.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Ghost towns

  • Eureka City
  • Howland Flat
  • Pine Grove
  • Poker Flat
  • Potosi
  • Shady Flat

Population ranking

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

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Loyalton City 769
2 Sierra Brooks CDP 478
3 Downieville CDP 282
4 Sierra City CDP 221
5 Calpine CDP 205
6 Sierraville CDP 200
7 Verdi CDP 162
8 Pike CDP 134
9 Goodyears Bar CDP 68
10 Alleghany CDP 58
11 Sattley CDP 49


  • Because Loyalton is Sierra County's most populous municipality and its only incorporated city, generally half of the meetings of the county's board of supervisors are held in Downieville and the other half are held in Loyalton.
  • There is only one traffic signal (a flashing red light at the intersection of highways 49 and 89) in Sierra County. In the winter of 2007 it was removed after an automobile accident and was replaced in the fall of 2008.
  • In the 2009 special statewide election, Sierra County had the highest voter turnout of any county in California, with 53.6% of registered voters participating, according to the Los Angeles Times. The election was nearly double the overall voter turnout in the state, about 23%.


  • Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified School District

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Sierra (California) para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Famous Hispanic artists
Alma López
Juana Martinez-Neal
William Villalongo
Teresita Fernández
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