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California Counties

The state of California is divided into fifty-eight counties. On January 4, 1850, the California constitutional committee recommended the formation of 18 counties. They were Benicia, Butte, Fremont, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Monterey, Mount Diablo, Oro, Redding, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, and Sutter. The last California county to have been established is Imperial County in 1907.

Plumas County, California

Plumas County Education, Geography, and HistoryPlumas County, Califronia Courthouse

Plumas County is a county located in the Sierra Nevada of the state of California. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 20,007. The county seat is Quincy, and the only incorporated city is Portola. Plumas county was created March 18, 1854. The county is named after one of the tributaries of the Sacramento River El Rio de las Plumas or the "River of Feathers."


Etymology - Origin of Plumas County Name

The Spanish originally called one of the tributaries of the Sacramento River El Rio de las Plumas or the "River of Feathers." In creating this county, the state Legislature gave it the name Plumas because all of the numerous branches of the Feather River have their origins in its mountains.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Plumas County History

Plumas County is a county located in the Sierra Nevada of the state of California. The county gets its name from the Spanish words for the Feather River (Río de las Plumas), which flows through the county. The county seat is Quincy.

Previous to the California Gold Rush, the area now known as Plumas County was inhabited by the Mountain Maidu Indians.

Living in small groups, they gathered roots, berries, grasses, seeds and acorns, adding to these staples with large and small game and fish. Their existence was suddenly disturbed in the spring of 1850 when a flood of gold-seeking miners poured into the canyons and valleys of the region in search of a fabled "Gold" Lake. Overnight, mining camps sprang to life. Rivers were turned from their beds, ditches were dug to bring water from distant sources to the diggings and the land was turned upside down.

A substantial Chinese population took up residence here and remained until the early 1900s when, with the decline in mining, most left the area.

The North, Middle and South forks of the Feather River were named in 1820 by Captain Louis Arguello as the Rio de las Plumas (River of Feathers) after the Spanish explorer saw what looked like bird feathers floating in the water.

"Plumas," the Spanish word for "feathers," later became the name for the county.

The river and its forks were the primary sites of early mining activity, with many smaller camps located on their tributaries. Over the next five decades gold mining remained the main industry of the county.

In 1850, the famous mountain man, James P. Beckwourth, discovered the lowermost pass across the Sierra Nevada and the following year navigated a wagon trail for California-bound emigrants from western Nevada, through Plumas County to the Sacramento Valley.

In March of 1854, Plumas County was formed from the eastern and largest portion of Butte County with the town of Quincy chosen as the county seat after a heated election.

In 1864, a large part of northern Plumas County was carved off to form present day Lassen County. Following this, Plumas County annexed a small portion of Sierra County which included the town of La Porte.

In the late 1850s, Greenville came into existence as a mining and farming community at the head of Indian Valley; Chester, near Lake Almanor, was born as a result of damming Big Meadows and the lumber prospective from the timber stands covering the area.

Soon after the turn of the century, and with the construction of the Western Pacific Railroad in 1910, Portola came into existence.

With the railroad for transportation, the timber industry began to emerge as the primary economic force in the county. Until that time lumber was milled strictly for local use. Finished lumber could now be shipped nationwide from Plumas forests. The timber industry contributed enormously to the growth and prosperity of Plumas County and continues to do so to this day.

Coeval with the railroad's construction up the Feather River Canyon came some of the earliest tourists to the county. Resorts and lodges popped up at intervals along the "Feather River Route" to accommodate fishermen, hikers and sightseers.

 In 1937, the Feather River Highway, touted as an "all weather route" was completed through the Feather River Canyon from Oroville to Quincy, linking Plumas County year-round to the Sacramento Valley. The last passenger train ran in 1970, and the line is now devoted to freight traffic only.

Scott J. Lawson
Plumas County
Museum Director

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,613 square miles (6,769 km2), of which, 2,554 square miles (6,614 km2) of it is land and 60 square miles (155 km2) of it (2.29%) is water.

Plumas County has many lakes and streams which are renowned for their fishing. Outdoor activities are a major tourist draw. A small part of Lassen Volcanic National Park extends into the northwest corner of the county.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Northeast: Lassen County
  • Southeast: Sierra County
  • Southwest: Yuba County; Butte County
  • West: Tehama County
  • Northwest: Shasta County


  • Feather River College

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