Eastern California
Downtown San Bernardino, anchor of the largest metro area in East California and 12th in the United States.
Downtown San Bernardino, anchor of the largest metro area in East California and 12th in the United States.
Counties on California's Eastern Border
Counties on California's Eastern Border
CountryUnited States
Time zonePacific Standard Time
 • Summer (DST)Pacific Daylight Time
Area codes530, 442/760, 909, 951

Eastern California is a region defined as either the strip to the east of the crest of the Sierra Nevada or as the easternmost counties of California.[citation needed]


According to the 2010 census, the population of the eastern border counties of California was 5,129,384. However, 4,224,851 (82.4%) lived in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, which are very large and whose populations are concentrated near Los Angeles and Orange counties to the southwest.

Culture and history

Eastern California's history differs significantly from that of the coastal regions and the Central Valley. Northeastern California is very sparsely populated (except for the area around Lake Tahoe): the three least-populated counties of California lie in the northeast.[1] The area tends to be politically conservative, much like the rest of the rural Western United States. However, the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside form the 13th-largest metropolitan area of the United States,[2][3] and El Dorado and Placer Counties are part of the Greater Sacramento area[2] and are culturally influenced by their respective metropolitan areas. Imperial County in the Southeast, though rural and agrarian, is heavily Democratic and has ties with the Mexicali Valley to the south.

Northeastern California has had strong ties to Nevada, with the exact boundary between the two states having once been a matter of dispute.[4] Residents of an area near Susanville, California tried to break away from the state in 1856, first by declaring themselves part of the Nataqua Territory[5] and then through annexation to Nevada. The two states further squabbled over ownership of Susanville in 1863. The town of Aurora, Nevada, was temporarily the county seat of both Mono County, California, and Esmeralda County, Nevada. Finally, the line between the two states was settled by a survey in 1892.[6] Over time, droughts and wildfires have increased in frequency and become less seasonal and more year-round, further straining the region's water security.[7][8][9]

There are many unique historical aspects of Eastern California including the Manzanar internment camp and the historical Carson and Colorado Railway.[10][11]


The easternmost counties of California are (from north to south):

Cities within this region include San Bernardino, Riverside, Ontario, Corona, Rancho Cucamonga, Roseville, Victorville, Temecula, Palm Springs, Lincoln, El Centro, Barstow, South Lake Tahoe, Susanville, Truckee, Grass Valley, Placerville, and Alturas.

Cities larger than 50,000 population

The following incorporated places have a population of 50,000 or greater, according to the 2020 census:[12]

Placer County

San Bernardino County

Riverside County


Sand dunes in Death Valley

Because Eastern California is generally in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada or the Transverse Ranges, the climate is extremely dry and can be considered a desert. Indeed, the hottest and lowest area in North America lies in Death Valley, in the heart of Eastern California.

Geologically, Eastern California is mostly part of the Basin and Range Province, marked by crustal extension, with horsts and grabens. Volcanism is also evident in this region.


The majority of Eastern California experiences two seasons, a long, dry summer and a milder winter in which the rain is concentrated. Most higher elevations experience four distinct seasons. There are some areas where the weather is very diverse. The Sierra Nevada mountain range has larger amounts of snowfall, while the Imperial Valley has more arid conditions.[13] The Sierra Nevada's average temperature is around 47 °F (8 °C) and the Imperial Valley is on average 73 °F (23 °C). A record-breaking heat temperature was recorded in Death Valley, at 134 °F (57 °C) on July 10, 1913.[14] With its low and often sporadic rainfall, California is susceptible to drought, and in many parts of the state including Eastern California, there is very high fire danger and there have been several devastating wildfires.[13]


Snowy forest at Boreal Mountain Resort

The northern counties of Eastern California are heavily timbered areas. The timber industry is a major contributor to the economy from sale of timber and forest products and the number of jobs that it provides. These timbered areas not only provide valuable income, but are also the main growing sector for the economy for recreation and tourism. In the Sierra Nevada National Forests they experience 50 million recreational visitor days per year.[15] When California became a state, it was one of the leading producers of these timber and forest products. Since then, it has held the third place for the top producer of softwoods since the 1940s. In California there were five counties that contributed to 55 percent of the wood harvested for the state. One of those counties, Plumas, is located in Eastern California.[16]


Major highways

Map of El Dorado County in Northern California
View from State Route 158

Educational Institutions

Students at Deep Springs College driving cattle

Private institutions

Community Colleges

Public Institutions

National Parks

Mount Lassen


See also


  1. ^ "Data and Research". California State Association of Counties. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Revised Delineations of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Combined Statistical Areas, and Guidance on Uses of the Delineations of These Areas" (PDF). Office of Management and Budget. OMB Bulletin 20-01. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  3. ^ "Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Population Totals and Components of Change: 2010-2019". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. April 2019. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  4. ^ Bruce A. Metcalfe. "A Moving Monument". Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2006-03-28.
  5. ^ "US395:Lassen County (Susanville to Modoc County Line)". Floodgap Roadgap. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2006-04-01.
  6. ^ Brean, Henry (April 27, 2009). "Four Corners mistake recalls long border feud between Nevada, California". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on April 30, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  7. ^ "National Integrated Drought Information System". Retrieved November 20, 2021.
  8. ^ Boxall, Bettina; St. John, Paige (November 10, 2018). "California's most destructive wildfire should not have come as a surprise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "Advancing Drought Science and Preparedness across the Nation". National Integrated Drought Information System. Archived from the original on November 11, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  10. ^ "Eastern California Museum | Inyo County California". www.inyocounty.us. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  11. ^ "Carson & Colorado Railway". Carson & Colorado Railway. Retrieved 2022-05-19.
  12. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  13. ^ a b Worldmark Encyclopedia of U.S. and Canadian Environmental Issues. Ed. Susan Bevan Gall and Margaret K. Antone. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2012. p61-72.
  14. ^ "Climate - California". City-data.com. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  15. ^ "Forest Economics". Sierra Forest Legacy. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  16. ^ "California's Forest Products Industry: A Descriptive Analysis" (PDF). USDA.
  17. ^ "California (U.S. National Park Service)". NPS.gov. Retrieved 2018-10-20.

Further reading