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Sierra County, California
|County of Sierra|
|Named for||Sierra Nevada|
|• Board of Supervisors|
|• Assemblymember||Megan Dahle (R)|
|• State senator||Brian Dahle (R)|
|• U.S. rep.||Doug LaMalfa (R)|
|• Total||962 sq mi (2,490 km2)|
|• Land||953 sq mi (2,470 km2)|
|• Water||9 sq mi (20 km2)|
|• Density||3.4/sq mi (1.3/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-8 (Pacific Standard Time)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-7 (Pacific Daylight Time)|
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.
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 and 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 Downieville in 1854. By 1880 the county was "crushing" 70,000 tons of quartz and had 266 miles of mining ditches.
- Nevada County, California - south
- Yuba County, California - west
- Plumas County, California - north
- Lassen County, California - northeast
- Washoe County, Nevada - east
National protected areas
Politics and government
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. The county is governed by the five-member Sierra County Board of Supervisors, consisting of the following members as of August 2021.
- District One (Downieville, Goodyears' Bar, Pike, Alleghany): Lee Adams, Chairman
- District Two (Sierra City, Bassetts, Verdi): Peter W. Huebner
- District Three (Calpine, Sattley, Sierraville): Paul Roen
- District Four (Loyalton): Terry LeBlanc
- District Five (Sierra Brooks): Sharon Dryden
Law enforcement is provided by the Sierra County Sheriff's Department, headed by current Sierra County Sheriff-Coroner Michael "Mike" Fisher. Due to the county's sparse population and geographical obstacles, the Sheriff's Department operates a substation in Loyalton in addition to their main headquarters in Downieville.
Voter registration statistics
|Population and registered voters|
|Registered voters[note 1]||2,223||67.8%|
|Peace and Freedom||4||0.2%|
|No party preference||427||19.2%|
Cities by population and voter registration
|Cities by population and voter registration|
|Democratic||Republican||D–R spread||Other||No party preference|
Sierra County at one time had favored the Democratic party in Presidential elections and was one of few counties in California to be won by George McGovern. In more recent times it is a strongly Republican county in Presidential and congressional elections. The last Democrat to win a majority in the county was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
On November 4, 2008, Sierra County voted 64.2% for Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
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%.
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.
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.
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|
|Motor vehicle theft||0||0.00|
As of 2015 the largest self-reported ancestry groups in Sierra County, California are:
|Largest ancestries (2015)||Percent|
|Population, race, and income|
|Black or African American||38||1.2%|
|American Indian or Alaska Native||11||0.3%|
|Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander||0||0.0%|
|Some other race||179||5.5%|
|Two or more races||15||0.5%|
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||247||7.5%|
|Per capita income||$26,137|
|Median household income||$50,308|
|Median family income||$56,469|
Places by population, race, and income
|Places by population and race|
|Asian||Black or African
|Hispanic or Latino|
(of any race)
|Places by population and income|
|Place||Type||Population||Per capita income||Median household income||Median family income|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
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%).
|Population reported at 2010 United States Census|
(of any race)
cities and towns
(of any race)
(of any race)
(of any race)
|All others not CDPs (combined)||614||562||2||7||3||0||18||22||49|
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.
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.
Sierra County is served by two long-running local newspapers. The Sierra Valley region, which is partially within Sierra County, is served by the Sierra Booster, based in Loyalton. This paper has been published bi-weekly since 1949, when it was established by reporter, miner and airman Hal Wright and his wife Allene. It is today run by their daughter Janice Wright Buck.
The other paper serving the county is the Mountain Messenger, based in Downieville. The Messenger has been in constant publication since 1853, and is currently the longest-running weekly newspaper in the state of California; one of its more notable former contributors was Mark Twain, at the time in hiding from Nevadan authorities and writing under his birth name of Samuel Clemens.
This paper was the center of considerable media attention in early 2020 when its future was uncertain with the retirement of Don Russell, who had owned and operated it for 30 years; it was saved by local retiree Carl Butz, who purchased the paper and runs it today. The paper is printed every Thursday for the Messenger by Feather Publishing Co., based in Quincy, and is distributed across Sierra, eastern Plumas and western Nevada counties.
† county seat
|Rank||City/Town/etc.||Municipal type||Population (2010 Census)|
- Hiking trails in Sierra County
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Sierra County, California
- Percentage of registered voters with respect to total population. Percentages of party members with respect to registered voters follow.
- The leading “other” candidate, national Progressive and statewide Republican nominee Theodore Roosevelt, received 483 votes, whilst Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs received 133 votes, Prohibition Party candidate Eugene W. Chafin received 13 votes, and various write-in candidates received 14 votes.
- Only larceny-theft cases involving property over $400 in value are reported as property crimes.
- Other = Some other race + Two or more races
- Native American = Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander + American Indian or Alaska Native
- "Board of Supervisors". County of Sierra. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
- "2020 Population and Housing State Data". Retrieved August 15, 2021.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- Sierra County History, 2008, The Online Guide to Sierra County, accessed 02 April 2013
- "Sierra County, CA - Official Website - Official Website". www.sierracounty.ws. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
- Sierra Valley, Sierra County History Archived 2012-10-28 at the Wayback Machine, 2012, East Sierra Valley Chamber of Commerce, accessed 02 April 2013
- Gilbert, Frank; Wells, Harry (1882). Illustrated History of Plumas, Lassen & Sierra Counties, with California from 1513 to 1850. San Francisco: Fariss & Smith. pp. 478–483.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
- "Sierra County Government Directory". Retrieved March 5, 2011.
- "Board of Supervisors". Sierra County, CA. Sierra County. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
- "Sheriff-Coroner". Sierra County, CA. Sierra County. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
- U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B02001. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- California Secretary of State. February 10, 2013 - Report of Registration Archived July 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
- Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- "2008 Initiative General Election Results - Sierra County, CA".
- La Ganga, Maria L. (May 22, 2009). "Sierra County (where everyone votes by mail) is serious about elections". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
- County of Sierra, Calif (April 19, 2006). "Sierra County 2005 Regional Transportation Plan" (PDF). Sierra County 2005 Regional Transportation Plan. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 18, 2006. Retrieved April 1, 2007.
- 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.
- Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". factfinder.census.gov. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
- 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
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved December 3, 2019.
- "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- "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.
- Sierra County, CA ANCESTRY & FAMILY HISTORY Archived 2011-06-09 at the Wayback Machine, 2007, accessed 02 April 2013
- "About Us - Sierra Booster". The Sierra Booster.
- "The Mountain Messenger - About Us". The Mountain Messenger.
- Blackstone, John (February 17, 2020). "Retiree saves California's oldest weekly newspaper from shutting down". CBS News. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
- Promotions, Center for New Media and. "US Census Bureau 2010 Census". www.census.gov. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
- Official website
- Sierra County Chamber of Commerce
- Sierra County Visitor Guide
- Sierra County Office of Education
- Discover Sierra County