Dusk in downtown Mariposa
Dusk in downtown Mariposa
Location in Mariposa County and the state of California
Location in Mariposa County and the state of California
Mariposa is located in California
Mariposa is located in the United States
Coordinates: 37°29′06″N 119°57′59″W / 37.48500°N 119.96639°W / 37.48500; -119.96639
Country United States
State California
County Mariposa
 • Total4.040 sq mi (10.46 km2)
 • Land4.037 sq mi (10.46 km2)
 • Water0.003 sq mi (0.008 km2)  0.07%
Elevation1,949 ft (594 m)
 • Total1,526
 • Density378.0/sq mi (145.9/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code209
FIPS code06-45932
GNIS feature IDs1659063,[4] 2408181[5]

Mariposa (/ˌmærɪˈpzə, -sə/ ;[6] Spanish for "Butterfly") is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in and the county seat of Mariposa County, California, United States.[7] The population was 1,526 at the 2020 census.[3] The community is named after the flocks of monarch butterflies seen overwintering there by early explorers.


Historic Spanish Colonial Revival style Mariposa County High School, built in 1914.

Mariposa is located at 37°29′06″N 119°57′59″W / 37.48500°N 119.96639°W / 37.48500; -119.96639,[2] at 1,949 feet (594 m) in elevation. It lies in the rugged foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Mariposa Creek flows through the town. Soils in the urban area are mostly brown to reddish brown loam of the Blasingame series. A gravelly loam is mapped as the Boomer series.[citation needed] These soils support thick grassland plus trees such as blue oak, black oak, gray pine, and ponderosa pine. To the west-northwest of town is a large area of sparse vegetation and rockland on which is found serpentine soil of the Henneke series.

California State Routes 49 and 140 cross in Mariposa, merging for 0.8 miles (1.3 km) as the town's main street. Highway 49 leads southeast 27 miles (43 km) to end at Oakhurst and northwest the same distance to Coulterville. Highway 140 leads southwest 36 miles (58 km) to Merced in the San Joaquin Valley and northeast 42 miles (68 km) to Yosemite Valley.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 4.04 square miles (10.46 km2), all but 0.07% of it land.[1] The community lies in the valley of Mariposa Creek, which flows south and then southwest into the San Joaquin Valley.

Mariposa County includes much of Yosemite National Park, and a good deal of the local economy is related to the park and to tourism. The two-story county courthouse, constructed in 1854, is the oldest in continuous use west of the Rockies.[citation needed] Tours are available.

The county lies at the southern end of the Mother Lode, and outsiders were attracted to Mariposa by gold. During the 19th century California Gold Rush, its streams were panned and deep mines worked the underground veins. At one time John C. Frémont lived here and owned claims to much of the mineral wealth of Mariposa. He later was the first United States senator from the state, and the first Republican candidate for President.


According to the Köppen climate classification system, Mariposa has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (abbreviated "Csa" on climate maps) and wet winters.[8]

Climate data for Mariposa, 1991–2020 simulated normals (2142 ft elevation)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 56.8
Daily mean °F (°C) 46.4
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 36.1
Average precipitation inches (mm) 6.23
Average dew point °F (°C) 35.4
Source: PRISM Climate Group[9]


Mariposa County Courthouse

The town was founded as a mining camp on the banks of a seasonal stream known as Agua Fría.[10] This original town site was located about 6.0 miles (9.7 km) to the west of present-day Mariposa.[10] Prior to this, Southern Sierra Miwuk people resided in the area. After a flood during the winter of 1849/50, and fires, the town was moved to the location of today's Mariposa, although mainly due to better terrain and the presence of Mariposa creek, a large producer of placer gold. The gold in small Aqua Fria creek was soon removed, and lacked water most of the year. So the populace moved on to the new boomtown. The large Mariposa mine soon opened, with a 40-foot waterwheel crushing gold ore. This provided a stable source of employment, and Mariposa soon became the supply hub for hundreds of outlying mining districts. Placer gold, that which is found in creekbeds and alluvial deposits, was soon extinguished, and the era of hard rock, deep mining began. In 1851 the "new" town of Mariposa became the county seat of the county of Mariposa, which reached nearly to Los Angeles. By 1854 Mariposa had a grand courthouse which is still in operation. Some refer to lumber being cut from an area to the east of town known as "Logtown", but no maps or certifiable sources can attest to the existence of a place by that name. Most likely the lumber for the courthouse was milled in Midpines, where there was an unusual abundance of sugar pine trees.

John C. Frémont had a Spanish land grant that gave him ownership of most of the Mariposa mining district, but the possibility of securing his property was nearly impossible due to the huge influx of gold seekers, and little or no enforcement from the few law keepers available. In book #1 of Mariposa county records, originally filed in Aqua Fria, on Page 2, there is a claim known as the Spencer quartz mine and adjacent millsite. This claim was just hundreds of feet from Fremont's grant line, and its owners were Lafayette H. Bunnell and Champlain Spencer, who became rather wealthy from the placer gold in Whitlock and Sherlocks creek. They later erected a 40-foot (12 m) waterwheel and steam mill, along with several arrastras. Bunnell later published a memoir of his time in Midpines and entry to the Yosemite Valley, which is still in print today - The Discovery of the Yosemite.[11] Spencer has never been acknowledged as having named Half Dome, a prominent feature in Yosemite Valley.[citation needed] These educated gentlemen and adventurers eventually sold "Spencers Mill" to a French and English conglomerate for a tidy sum. All is quiet now on Spencers mill, but much evidence of a series of mills and the arrastras remain.[10]

The US Army built the Mariposa Auxiliary Field (1942–1945) to train World War II pilots. After the war the airfield became the current Mariposa-Yosemite Airport.[12]

On July 18, 2017, a fast-moving wildfire, the "Detwiler Fire", forced the evacuation of the entire town.[13]



At the 2010 census Mariposa had a population of 2,173. The population density was 168.7 inhabitants per square mile (65.1/km2). The racial makeup of Mariposa was 1,895 (87.2%) White, 10 (0.5%) African American, 105 (4.8%) Native American, 30 (1.4%) Asian, 0 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 59 (2.7%) from other races, and 74 (3.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 215 people (9.9%).[14]

The census reported that 2,098 people (96.5% of the population) lived in households, 12 (0.6%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 63 (2.9%) were institutionalized.

There were 1,013 households, 237 (23.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 365 (36.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 140 (13.8%) had a female householder with no husband present, 40 (3.9%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 60 (5.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 2 (0.2%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 413 households (40.8%) were one person and 235 (23.2%) had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.07. There were 545 families (53.8% of households); the average family size was 2.77.

The age distribution was 434 people (20.0%) under the age of 18, 130 people (6.0%) aged 18 to 24, 389 people (17.9%) aged 25 to 44, 631 people (29.0%) aged 45 to 64, and 589 people (27.1%) who were 65 or older. The median age was 49.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.4 males.

There were 1,143 housing units at an average density of 88.7 per square mile, of the occupied units 529 (52.2%) were owner-occupied and 484 (47.8%) were rented. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.4%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.8%. 1,082 people (49.8% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 1,016 people (46.8%) lived in rental housing units.


At the 2000 census there were 1,373 people, 676 households, and 327 families in the CDP. The population density was 426.4 inhabitants per square mile (164.6/km2). There were 754 housing units at an average density of 234.1 per square mile (90.4/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 86.8% White, 0.6% African American, 6.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 1.8% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.8%.[15]

Of the 676 households 21.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.4% were married couples living together, 13.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 51.5% were non-families. 47.6% of households were one person and 27.1% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 1.94 and the average family size was 2.77.

The age distribution was 20.6% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 23.2% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 27.0% 65 or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 80.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.7 males.

The median household income was $18,144 and the median family income was $27,344. Males had a median income of $26,771 versus $26,635 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $22,436. About 28.0% of families and 24.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.5% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over.

Government and public safety

Government representation

In the California State Legislature, Mariposa is in the 8th Senate District, represented by Democrat Angelique Ashby, and in the 5th Assembly District, represented by Republican Joe Patterson.[16] The County is administered by its elected five member County Board of Supervisors.

In the United States House of Representatives, Mariposa is in California's 4th congressional district, represented by Democrat Mike Thompson.[17]

Policing and public safety

The policing agency for the county is the Mariposa County Sheriff and staff. Fire protection and emergency medical aid is provided by the Mariposa County Fire Department.[18]

Notable residents

Some living past and present notable residents in alphabetical order include:


  1. ^ a b "2021 U.S. Gazetteer Files: California". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Mariposa, California
  3. ^ a b "P1. Race – Mariposa CDP, California: 2020 DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  4. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Mariposa
  5. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Mariposa Census Designated Place
  6. ^ "mariposa". Unabridged (Online). n.d.
  7. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  8. ^ Climate Summary for Mariposa, California
  9. ^ "PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University". Northwest Alliance for Computational Science & Engineering (NACSE), based at Oregon State University. Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. p. 799. ISBN 1-884995-14-4.
  11. ^ Bunnell, Lafayette Houghton (1892). Discovery of the Yosemite (3 ed.). New York: Fleming H. Revell.
  12. ^ Mariposa Auxiliary Field
  13. ^ "Evacuation of Mariposa ordered due to Detwiler Fire". KFSN-TV, Fresno. ABC 30 Action News. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  14. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Mariposa CDP". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  15. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  16. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Archived from the original on February 1, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  17. ^ "California's 4th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  18. ^ website provided data for the two agencies
  19. ^ "Jon Leicester Statistics". Retrieved March 22, 2015.