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Tulare, California
Location in Tulare County and the state of California
Location in Tulare County and the state of California
Country United States of America
State California
County Tulare
Region San Joaquin Valley
Incorporated April 5, 1888
 • Total 21.016 sq mi (54.433 km2)
 • Land 20.931 sq mi (54.212 km2)
 • Water 0.085 sq mi (0.221 km2)  0.41%
289 ft (88 m)
 • Total 59,278
 • Estimate 
 • Density 2,820.61/sq mi (1,089.009/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
93274, 93275
Area code(s) 559
FIPS code 06-80644
GNIS feature IDs 1652803, 2412107

Tulare (/tᵿˈlɛəri/ too-LAIR-ee) is a city in Tulare County, California. The population was 59,278 at the 2010 census.

Tulare is located in the heart of the Central Valley, eight miles south of Visalia and sixty miles north of Bakersfield. The city is named for the currently dry Tulare Lake, once the largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes. The city's mission statement is: "To promote a quality of life making Tulare the most desirable community in which to live, learn, play, work, worship and prosper." The Stockton seaport is 170 miles (270 km) away, and the Sacramento port is 207 miles (333 km) away. The Los Angeles and San Francisco ports are each approximately 200 miles (320 km) away, making Tulare a hub or central location for product movement.


The English name Tulare derives ultimately from Classical Nahuatl tōllin, "sedge" or "reeds", by way of Spanish tule, which also exists in English as a loanword. The name is cognate with Tula, Tultepec, and Tultitlán de Mariano Escobedo.


Schoenoplectus acutus FWS-1
The tule rush

The Yokuts people built reed boats and fished in what was later to be called Tulare Lake in their homeland for centuries, until the invasion and settlement by the Spanish and American pioneers. When California became a state in 1850, Tulare did not yet exist as a town. Tulare was founded in 1872, by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The town was named for Lake Tulare. The lake had been named for the tule rush plant (Schoenoplectus acutus) (pictured left), a species of bulrush that predominantly lined the marshes and sloughs of its shore.

Transportation was the first impetus behind the establishment of the town. Tulare flourished as the headquarters of the railroad in the area. The town suffered through many difficult challenges, but despite burning down and being rebuilt three times in its first fourteen years of existence, it was eventually incorporated in 1888.

In 1891, the railroad moved its headquarters to Bakersfield, decimating the community. Although the railroad was gone, the community of Tulare struggled to become an agricultural center for California, which it is today. Due to the inadequate 10 inches (250 mm) of rainfall per year, water resources had to be found. In order to bring water to Tulare, citizens established the Tulare Irrigation District and issued $500,000 in bonds to build an extensive canal system carrying water from the Sierra Nevada. In 1903, when the bonds were paid off early, they celebrated by having a bond-burning celebration. Once the water system was established, Tulare burgeoned, becoming a center for farming and agriculture because of its central location.

In 1912, Hulett C. Merritt founded Tagus Ranch, which at 7,000 acres (2,800 ha) was the largest fruit ranch in the world. Until its close, Tagus Ranch produce was known the world over, and was served in the finest restaurants throughout America. At the end of World War II, a portion of Tagus Ranch served as a German POW camp.

In 1940, famed aerobatic stunt pilot J.G. "Tex" Rankin secured a U.S. War Department contract to open and operate a civilian flying school to train United States Army Air Corps flight cadets. Rankin opened the Rankin Aeronautical Academy in Tulare in February 1941, where it operated throughout the duration of World War II. During its heyday Rankin Field, as it was otherwise known, trained 10,000 pilots in primary flight training, including twelve future Army Air Corps Aces and two Medal of Honor recipients.

During World War II, in response to West Coast wartime hysteria, the U.S. Army temporarily assumed control of the Tulare County Fairgrounds, converting it to the Tulare Assembly Center, a temporary detention center for Japanese Americans. The Assembly Center was administered by the Wartime Civil Control Administration, under the Western Defense Command and the U.S. 4th Army. The first internee was inducted on April 27, 1942, and the last internee departed on September 4, 1942. The top population numbered 4,978 residents, many of whom were citizens born in the United States. In the latter part of 1942, internees began being moved to the ten more permanent "War Relocation Camps". The majority of internees from the Tulare Assembly Center were sent to the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. These temporary sites were largely located on fairgrounds or race tracks in completely public and visible locations.

Tulare was the site of the National Championships for the Decathlon in Track and Field in 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1962, as well as the Olympic Trials for the Decathlon in 1952.


The climate of this agricultural community is varied, with cool and damp winters with a mean temperature of 45 degrees, but very hot dry summers, with a mean temperatures of 95 to 110 degrees. The mean average rainfall was 10 inches prior to the drought that began in 2012 and remains ongoing as of May 2016. Average rainfall now hovers at about 2 inches annually. Tulare consistently suffers from year round air pollution and air quality that is among the worst in the United States because of both geographic conditions (hemmed in valley, weak winds) and the prevalence of diesel fuel exhaust from farming and truck traffic on Highway 99. Farming also exacerbates this because it kicks up tremendous amounts of dust, especially in the late summer and autumn months.


Tulare is located at 36°12′24″N 119°20′33″W / 36.20667°N 119.3425°W / 36.20667; -119.3425 (36.206601, −119.342404). Located directly between Fresno and Bakersfield, Tulare is in the heart of the Central Valley. Although the foothills of the Sierra Nevada are only about 20 miles east of town, they are seldom visible due to the chronically poor air quality and very high levels of airborne particulate matter, soot, and other pollution.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.0 square miles (54 km2), of which 20.9 square miles (54 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (0.41%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 447
1890 2,697 503.4%
1900 2,216 −17.8%
1910 2,758 24.5%
1920 3,539 28.3%
1930 6,207 75.4%
1940 8,259 33.1%
1950 12,445 50.7%
1960 13,824 11.1%
1970 16,235 17.4%
1980 22,530 38.8%
1990 33,249 47.6%
2000 43,994 32.3%
2010 59,278 34.7%
Est. 2015 62,315 5.1%
U.S. Decennial Census


The 2010 United States Census reported that Tulare had a population of 59,278. The population density was 2,820.5 people per square mile (1,089.0/km²). The racial makeup of Tulare was 36,347 (61.3%) White, 2,328 (3.9%) African American, 694 (1.2%) Native American, 1,276 (2.2%) Asian, 80 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 15,713 (26.5%) from other races, and 2,840 (4.8%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 34,062 persons (57.5%).

The Census reported that 59,000 people (99.5% of the population) lived in households, 62 (0.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 216 (0.4%) were institutionalized.

There were 17,720 households, out of which 8,991 (50.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 9,373 (52.9%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 3,190 (18.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 1,507 (8.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,543 (8.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 120 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,862 households (16.2%) were made up of individuals and 1,249 (7.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.33. There were 14,070 families (79.4% of all households); the average family size was 3.68.

The population was spread out with 19,757 people (33.3%) under the age of 18, 6,229 people (10.5%) aged 18 to 24, 16,247 people (27.4%) aged 25 to 44, 11,707 people (19.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 5,338 people (9.0%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29.1 years. For every 100 females there were 96.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.9 males.

There were 18,863 housing units at an average density of 897.5 per square mile (346.5/km²), of which 10,389 (58.6%) were owner-occupied, and 7,331 (41.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.8%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.5%. 33,367 people (56.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 25,633 people (43.2%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census of 2000, there were 43,994 people, 13,543 households, and 10,753 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,648.2 people per square mile (1,022.6/km²). There were 14,253 housing units at an average density of 858.0 per square mile (331.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 56.38% White, 5.02% African American, 1.40% Native American, 2.02% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 29.09% from other races, and 5.96% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 65.59% of the population.

There were 13,543 households out of which 46.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.9% were married couples living together, 17.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.6% were non-families. 16.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.22 and the average family size was 3.57.

In the city, the population was spread out with 34.6% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 16.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 94.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,637, and the median income for a family was $36,935. Males had a median income of $31,467 versus $23,775 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,655. About 16.9% of families and 20.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.1% of those under age 18 and 14.0% of those age 65 or over.


Tulare is located on California’s central corridor Highway 99; Interstate 5 (40 min west) is California’s longest freeway, nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) north and South.


The City of Tulare owns and operates their own municipal airport, Mefford Field. Mefford Field has an asphalt runway of 3,914 feet. Sixty private planes are currently based there. National/International commercial air service is available from: Fresno, (1 hr), Bakersfield, (1 hr. 15 min.), as well as limited commercial service available from Visalia (15 min) and Porterville (40mins)


Tulare is located on the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad.


Tulare's Greyhound bus depot offers frequent packages and personnel service to all points in the west. The local Tulare InterModal Express offers a "fixed route" schedule in the city, as well as a Dial-A-Ride service. Tulare County Area Transit connects Tulare and Delano.

Points of interest

Adohr Cow Statue -the Adohr Milkmaid and Cow was a series of statues commissioned to advertise Adohr Farms Creameries. Tulare's statue, located on the grounds of Saputo Cheese, is the only remaining sculpture of its kind in the United States.

Bob Mathias Stadium – located at Tulare Union High School and named after TUHS graduate Olympian Bob Mathias, Bob Mathias Stadium was the site of the 1952 Olympic Trials for Decathlon, as well as host to the 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1962 U.S. Decathlon Championships for Track and Field. Bob Mathias Stadium also was the athletic birthplace of Olympians Bob Mathias and Sim Iness.

Historical Murals – a dozen historical murals are scattered throughout the city, depicting historical scenes relevant to Tulare and the state.

International Agri-Center -formed to help promote California's agricultural industry, the International Agri-Center complex is home to the World Ag Expo, California Antique Farm Equipment Show, the Antique Farm Equipment Museum, and AgVentures! Learning Center and Museum.

Mefford Field Airplane Display – next to State Highway 99 and adjacent to Mefford Field, Tulare's city-owned airport, stands an historical display of two vintage military airplanes. A World War II B-17 Bomber, named for Tulare's General Maurice Preston, serves as a WWII dedication, and a Vietnam era F-4 Phantom serves as a memorial for Tulare County residents killed in action during the Vietnam War.

Olympic Cauldron – located at Bob Mathias Stadium, Tulare's 1960 Winter Olympics Cauldron was reproduced and placed at its original location. Tulare was part of the 1960 Winter Olympic Torch Run and housed the Olympic flame during its travels.

Rankin Field – Rankin Field Weapons Range, owned and operated by the Tulare County Deputy Sheriff's Association, is located at the original site of Rankin Field, Tulare's WWII primary flight training school for military cadets. Several structures from the original Rankin Field still exist and are visible to passers-by, to include a large granite historical marker.

Santa Fe Trail – Cross-town pedestrian, cycle and equestrian trail, along the original rail line for the Santa Fe Railroad. The trail stretches five miles through the city.

Sequoia National Park – The entrances to Sequoia National Park and National Forests are about 45 minutes from Tulare. Sequoia Park is home to the biggest tree in the world, General Sherman.

Tower Square Clock and Bell Tower – Located in the heart of Downtown Tulare, the 75-foot Angra do Heroísmo clock and bell tower honors Tulare's rich Azorean/Portuguese heritage in the community.

Tulare City Historical Museum – Has been noted as one of the best small town museums in California, showcasing the history and triumphs of the city. Spotlights local heroes such as Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Bob Mathias, and Sim Iness, and also contains the extensive Military History Wing with the Manuel Toledo Military Collection.

The Tulare County Fair – The Tulare County Fairgrounds is site of the Tulare County Fair, held each September.

Tulare Union High School Auditorium and Administration Building – Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Tulare Community Auditorium as it is also referred to, serves as the main administration and auditorium for Tulare Union High School, built in 1890. The auditorium was constructed in 1937.

Tulare Water Tower – Modified to resemble a glass of milk complete with a striped red straw rising from the top and emblazoned with the confident declaration, "We've Got It." This pays homage to the town's prominent position as one of the leading dairy producers in California. Located at the campus of Tulare Union High School, the water tower has become a local favorite and focal point.

The World Ag Expo – Held annually each winter in February at the International Agri-Center complex, it is the world's largest farming and agricultural equipment show and attracts guests and representatives from all over the globe. During the week of the show, the town's population nearly doubles in size and hotels are booked months in advance.


In December 2010 the City of Tulare was recognized with an honorable mention by the California Sustainability Alliance's Sustainability Showcase Awards. The honor commends the City for its commitment to sustainability through extensive building retrofits, residential solar programs and forthcoming citywide Climate Action Plan.

In April 2011 the City of Tulare received the Climate Change Award for the city's Energy Efficient Strategy at the 2011 Green California Summit and Exposition.

In September 2011, the city of Tulare's Redevelopment Agency received a total of two awards for a single redevelopment project. The Tule Vista Housing Development received the first place American Planning Association 2011 Central Section Outstanding Planning Project award, as well as the 2011 Award of Excellence from the California State Chapter of the American Planning Association. The two awards also went to Pacific West Communities and Tulare County Housing Authority, who worked in conjunction with the Tulare Redevelopment Agency on the project.

Twin towns — Sister cities

Tulare's sister cities are:

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