Nevada County (// (listen)) is a county in the Sierra Nevada of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 census, the population was 102,241. The county seat is Nevada City. Nevada County comprises the Truckee-Grass Valley, CA Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Sacramento-Roseville, CA Combined Statistical Area, part of the Mother Lode Country.
Created in 1851, from portions of Yuba County, Nevada County was named after the mining town of Nevada City, a name derived from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The word nevada is Spanish for "snowy" or "snow-covered."
Nevada City was the first to use the word "Nevada" in its name. In 1851 the newly formed Nevada County used the same name as the county seat. The bordering state of Nevada used the same name in 1864. The region came to life in the Gold Rush of 1849. Many historical sites remain to mark the birth of this important region in California's formative years. Among them are the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City, the oldest theater built in California in 1865. It operates to this day and once hosted Mark Twain among other historical figures. The Old 5 Mile House stagecoach stop built in 1890, also operates to this day as a provider of hospitality spanning three centuries. This historical site still features "The stagecoach safe" that is on display outside the present day restaurant and is the source of many legends of stagecoach robbers and notorious highwaymen in the California gold rush era. The gold industry in Nevada County thrived into the post-WWII days.
The county had many firsts and historic technological moments. The first long-distance telephone in the world, built in 1877 by the Ridge Telephone Company, connected French Corral with French Lake, 58 miles (93 km) away. It was operated by the Milton Mining Company from a building on this site that had been erected about 1853. The Pelton wheel, designed to power gold mines, still drives hydro-electric generators today. Nevada City and Grass Valley were among the first California towns with electric lights. The Olympics, NASA, and virtually every television station around the country utilizes video/broadcasting equipment designed and manufactured by Grass Valley Group, founded in Grass Valley.
The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad was built in 1876 and was the only railroad in the West that was never robbed, even though its primary freight was gold. (Builder-owner John Flint Kidder's reputation made it clear that he would personally hunt down and kill anyone who tried.) The rail line closed in 1942 and was torn up for scrap.
Nevada County is home to the Empire Mine State Historic Park, which is the site of one of the oldest, deepest, and richest gold mines in California. The park is in Grass Valley at 10791 East Empire Street. In operation for more than 100 years, the mine extracted 5.8 million ounces of gold before it closed in 1956.
The 2001 Nevada County shootings occurred on January 10, 2001, in which Scott Harlan Thorpe murdered three people in a shooting spree. Two of the victims were murdered in Nevada City and a third victim was killed in Grass Valley. Thorpe was arrested and declared not guilty by reason of insanity. He currently resides in Napa State Hospital.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 974 square miles (2,520 km2), of which 958 square miles (2,480 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (1.6%) is water. The county is drained by Middle and South Yuba rivers.
The western part of the county is defined by the course of several rivers and the irregular boundaries of adjoining counties. When the county was created, the founders wanted to include access to the transcontinental railroad, so a rectangular section was added that includes the railroad town of Truckee. What is remarkable about this is that the final shape of the county closely resembles the Deringer pocket pistol, a favorite at the time of the more urbane residents of this gold rush county.
Nevada County is one of four counties in the United States to border a state with which it shares the same name (the other three counties are Texas County, Oklahoma; Delaware County, Pennsylvania; and Ohio County, West Virginia).
The county has substantial areas of forest, grassland, savanna, riparian area and other ecosystems. Forests include both coniferous- and oak-dominated woodland types. There are also numerous understory forbs and wildflowers including the yellow mariposa lily (Calochortus luteus).
National protected areas
|U.S. Decennial Census|
1990–2000 2010 2020
|Race / Ethnicity||Pop 2010||Pop 2020||% 2010||% 2020|
|White alone (NH)||85,477||82,810||86.55%||80.99%|
|Black or African American alone (NH)||341||416||0.35%||0.41%|
|Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH)||793||695||0.80%||0.68%|
|Asian alone (NH)||1,124||1,371||1.14%||1.34%|
|Pacific Islander alone (NH)||96||119||0.10%||0.12%|
|Some Other Race alone (NH)||122||617||0.12%||0.60%|
|Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH)||2,372||5,797||2.40%||5.67%|
|Hispanic or Latino (any race)||8,439||10,416||8.54%||10.19%|
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.
|Population, race, and income|
|Black or African American||522||0.5%|
|American Indian or Alaska Native||1,184||1.2%|
|Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander||188||0.2%|
|Some other race||1,785||1.8%|
|Two or more races||2,447||2.5%|
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||8,185||8.3%|
|Per capita income||$31,607|
|Median household income||$58,077|
|Median family income||$69,807|
Places by population, race, and income
|Places by population and race|
|Asian||Black or African
|Hispanic or Latino|
(of any race)
|Lake of the Pines||CDP||3,684||92.3%||5.0%||1.8%||0.4%||0.4%||6.4%|
|North San Juan||CDP||158||60.8%||39.2%||0.0%||0.0%||0.0%||0.0%|
|Rough and Ready||CDP||891||98.0%||1.0%||1.0%||0.0%||0.0%||0.0%|
|‡ Data for Nevada County area of this CDP|
|Places by population and income|
|Place||Type||Population||Per capita income||Median household income||Median family income|
|Lake of the Pines||CDP||3,684||$38,503||$76,816||$96,984|
|North San Juan||CDP||158||$20,051||$47,692||$24,167|
|Rough and Ready||CDP||891||$23,579||$39,037||$46,875|
|‡ Data for Nevada County area of this CDP|
The 2010 United States Census reported that Nevada County had a population of 98,764. The racial makeup of Nevada County was 90,233 (91.4%) White, 389 (0.4%) African American, 1,044 (1.1%) Native American, 1,187 (1.2%) Asian, 110 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 2,678 (2.7%) from other races, and 3,123 (3.2%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8,439 persons (8.5%).
|Population reported at 2010 United States Census|
|Lake of the Pines||3,917||3,669||5||20||65||7||24||127||246|
|North San Juan||269||224||1||12||11||0||0||21||9|
|Rough and Ready||963||886||3||6||16||6||11||35||56|
|All others not CDPs (combined)||47,493||44,080||202||529||468||53||562||1,599||2,639|
|‡ Note: these numbers reflect only the portion of this CDP in Nevada County|
As of the census of 2000, there were 92,033 people, 36,894 households, and 25,936 families residing in the county. The population density was 96 inhabitants per square mile (37/km2). There were 44,282 housing units at an average density of 46 per square mile (18/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 93.4% White, 0.3% Black or African American, 0.9% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.9% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. 5.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 16.4% were of German, 16.3% English, 11.1% Irish, 6.8% Italian and 6.6% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 94.0% spoke English and 4.2% Spanish as their first language.
There were 36,894 households, out of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.6% were married couples living together, 8.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.7% were non-families. 22.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 2.88.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.1% under the age of 18, 6.1% from 18 to 24, 24.1% from 25 to 44, 29.3% from 45 to 64, and 17.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.7 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $45,864, and the median income for a family was $52,697. Males had a median income of $40,742 versus $27,173 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,007. About 5.5% of families and 8.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.5% of those under age 18 and 4.9% of those age 65 or over.
|Population and registered voters|
|Registered voters[note 3]||61,557||62.6%|
|Peace and Freedom||140||0.2%|
|No party preference||13,449||21.8%|
Cities by population and voter registration
|Cities by population and voter registration|
|Democratic||Republican||D–R spread||Other||No party preference|
|Unincorporated Nevada County||66,509||67.0%||30.6%||41.8%||-11.2%||5.8%||20.3%|
According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, Nevada County has 78,736 registered voters. Of those, 24,677 (36%) are registered Democrats, 22,252 (32.3%) are registered Republicans, 9,426 (13.76%) are registered to another party and 7,845 (11.5%) have declined to state a political party. In both 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush won a majority of the votes in the county. In 2008, Barack Obama carried the county with a 51.5%–46.2% margin. 2008 marked the first time Nevada County went for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. In 2012, Obama lost by a narrow margin to Mitt Romney, turning the county red once again, only for Hillary Clinton to win it back in 2016 over Donald Trump. Joe Biden won the county in 2020 with the largest share of votes for a presidential candidate in recent elections, continuing its Democratic shift.
In the state legislature, Nevada County is in the 1st Assembly District, represented by Republican Megan Dahle and in the State Senate, the county is in the 1st Senate District, represented by Republican Brian Dahle.
The following table includes the number of incidents reported and the rate per 1,000 persons for each type of offense.
|Population and crime rates (2009)|
|Motor vehicle theft||100||1.02|
Cities by population and crime rates
|Cities by population and crime rates|
|City||Population||Violent crimes||Violent crime rate
per 1,000 persons
|Property crimes||Property crime rate|
per 1,000 persons
- Gold Country Stage, operated by Nevada County, runs fixed route bus service in Grass Valley, Nevada City, Penn Valley, Alta Sierra and Lake of the Pines. A connection is available between Grass Valley and Auburn (Placer County).
- Tahoe Area Rapid Transit, operated by Placer County, has a route connecting Truckee with Lake Tahoe and the state of Nevada. Truckee also has its own local bus service.
- Greyhound buses and Amtrak's California Zephyr stop in Truckee and Colfax.
- YubaBus offers Charter and Shuttle Bus service in and around Western Nevada County.
Gold Country Lift is the paratransit bus company providing door to door service for seniors and persons with disabilities in Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Penn Valley.
Nevada County Air Park is a general aviation airport located just east of Grass Valley.
Other unincorporated communities
- Anthony House – Nisenan Indian territory
- Blue Tent
- Cedar Ridge
- Cherokee Township
- Chicago Park
- French Corral
- Lake City
- Malakoff Diggings
- Moores Flat
- Nevada City Rancheria – Nisenan Indian government settlement area
- North Bloomfield
- North Columbia
- Ophir Hill
- Ready Springs
- Sunset District
- You Bet
- Meadow Lake (previously: Excelsior; Summit City)
† county seat
|Rank||City/Town/etc.||Municipal type||Population (2010 Census)|
|5||Lake of the Pines||CDP||3,917|
|6||† Nevada City||City||3,068|
|8||Rough and Ready||CDP||963|
|9||North San Juan||CDP||269|
|11||Kingvale (partially in Placer County)||CDP||143|
- Jennie Carter, 19th Century writer and journalist
- Lyman Gilmore, a contemporary of the Wright Brothers who developed early powered aircraft and operated the world's first commercial air field in Grass Valley. There is also evidence he may have flown before the Wright brothers, though this claim is doubted.
- Alice Maud Hartley, killed Nevada Nevada State Senator Murray D. Foley by gunshot in 1894
- Founding member of the British rock band Supertramp, Roger Hodgson lives in Nevada County.
- Herbert Hoover, President of the United States. Hoover lived in Nevada City as a young mining engineer after graduating from Stanford University.
- Former Troubled Assets Relief Program head Neel Kashkari lives in the county as part of his "Washington detox."
- Charles Litton Sr., a resident and entrepreneur of Nevada County who assisted Raytheon in the development of the magnetron tube.
- Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots and founder of Citizens for Self-Governance
- Gertrude Penhall (1846–1929), civic leader, clubwoman, early settler
- Folk singer Utah Phillips lived in Nevada County until his death in 2008.
- Former actor and television announcer Edwin W. Reimers resided in Nevada City at the time of his death in 1986.
- Beat Poet Gary Snyder currently resides in San Juan Ridge in Nevada County.
- Clint Walker, actor.
- National Football League star Ricky Williams lives in the county.
- Chuck Yeager, pilot and first man to break the sound barrier
- John Christopher Stevens, American career diplomat and lawyer who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya from May 22, 2012, to September 11, 2012. Stevens was killed when the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked in 2012 by radical Islamic terrorists. He was born in Grass Valley and is buried in the local cemetery. A memorial to him was created in Grass Valley's downtown area.
- Joanna Newsom, an American multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and actress. Born and raised in Northern California, Newsom was classically trained on the harp in her youth, and began her musical career as a keyboardist in the San Francisco-based indie band The Pleased.
- List of school districts in Nevada County, California
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Nevada County, California
- Other = Some other race + Two or more races
- Native American = Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander + American Indian or Alaska Native
- Percentage of registered voters with respect to total population. Percentages of party members with respect to registered voters follow.
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- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B02001. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B03003. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B19301. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B19013. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B19113. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B01003. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- Data unavailable
- "2010 Census P.L. 94-171 Summary File Data". United States Census Bureau.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- California Secretary of State. February 10, 2013 – Report of Registration Archived July 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
- CA Secretary of State – Report of Registration – February 10, 2019
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- Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice, State of California. Table 11: Crimes – 2009 Archived 2013-12-02 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2013-11-14.
- Only larceny-theft cases involving property over $400 in value are reported as property crimes.
- United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States, 2012, Table 8 (California). Retrieved 2013-11-14.
- CNMP, US Census Bureau. "This site has been redesigned and relocated. - U.S. Census Bureau". www.census.gov.
- Renda, Matthew (April 25, 2014). "Lyman Gilmore: an aviation pioneer that history almost forgot". The Union. Grass Valley, CA. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
- ""Alice Maud Hartley," Online Nevada, undated".
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- Bean, E. F. (1867). Bean's History and directory of Nevada county, California ... With sketches of the various towns and mining camps ... Also full statistics of mining and all other industrial resources. Nevada, Cal.: Printed at the Daily Gazette Book and Job Office.
- Comstock, D. A. (1998). Catalog of historical landmarks and dedicated sites in Nevada County, California. NCHS books. Nevada City, Calif: Nevada County Historical Society.
- Comstock, D. A. (2004). News and advertising in the early gold camps of Nevada County, California: Volume one – 1850 through 1852. Grass Valley, Calif: Comstock Bonanza Press.
- Comstock, D. A., & Comstock, A. H. (1999). Nevada County vital statistics, 1850–1869 (and up to 1876 for divorces): births, marriages, separations, divorces, naturalizations, and deaths in Nevada County, California, as compiled from county records, cemeteries, newspapers, letters, diaries, and family records, plus a list of clergymen who served in Nevada County during those same years. Nevada County pioneers series, v. 1. Grass Valley, Calif: Comstock Bonanza Press.
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- True, G. H. (1973). The ferns and seed plants of Nevada County, California. San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences.
- Wells, H. L. (1880). History of Nevada County, California with illustrations descriptive of its scenery, residences, public buildings, fine blocks, and manufactories. Oakland, CA: Thompson & West.
- Wyckoff, R. M. (1962). Hydraulicking: a brief history of hydraulic mining in Nevada County, California. Nevada City, Calif: Osborn/Woods.