Imperial County, California
|Imperial County, California|
|— County —|
|Imperial Valley, Salton Sea, CA (2008)|
|Incorporated||August 7, 1907|
|County seat||El Centro|
|Largest city||El Centro|
|• Total||4,481.73 sq mi (11,607.6 km2)|
|• Land||4,174.73 sq mi (10,812.5 km2)|
|• Water||307.00 sq mi (795.1 km2)|
|Population (2010 Census)|
|• Density||39/sq mi ( 15/km2)|
|Time zone||Pacific Standard Time (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7)|
Imperial County is a county located in the Imperial Valley, in the far southeast of the U.S. state of California, bordering both Arizona and Mexico. It is part of the El Centro Metropolitan Area, which encompasses all of Imperial County. The population as of 2010 was 174,528. The county seat is the city of El Centro. Established in 1907, it was the last county to be established in California. Imperial County is also part of the Southern California border region, also referred to as San Diego-Imperial, the smallest but most economically diverse region in the state.
Although this region is a desert, with high temperatures and low average rainfall of three inches (seventy-five mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to irrigation, supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal.
The Imperial Valley is a melting pot of European American and Hispanic cultures. On the American side, the majority of residents are of Mexican American heritage, while the Mexican side was greatly influenced by American culture for many decades. The entire valley is a multi-racial mixture of European Americans, East Asian Americans, South Asian Americans, some African Americans and Native Americans.
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2009)|
Spanish explorer Melchor Díaz was one of the first Europeans to visit the area around Imperial Valley in 1540. The explorer Juan Bautista de Anza also explored the area in 1776. Years later, after the Mexican-American War, the northern half of the valley was annexed by the U.S., while the southern half remained under Mexican rule. Small scale settlement in natural aquifer areas occurred in the early 19th century (the present-day site of Mexicali), but most permanent settlement (Anglo Americans in the U.S. side, Mexicans in the other side) was after 1900.
In 1905, torrential rainfall in the American Southwest caused the Colorado River (the only drainage for the region) to flood, including canals that had been built to irrigate the Imperial Valley. Since the valley is partially below sea level, the waters never fully receded, but collected in the Salton Sink in what is now called the Salton Sea, the world's only artificial inland sea.
Imperial County was formed in 1907 from the eastern portion of San Diego County. The county took its name from Imperial Valley, itself named for the Imperial Land Company, a subsidiary of the California Development Company, which at the turn of the 19th to 20th century had claimed the southern portion of the Colorado desert for agriculture. Much of the Imperial Land Company's land also existed in Mexico (Baja California). The objective of the company was commercial crop farming development.
By 1910, the land company had managed to settle and develop thousands of farms on both sides of the border. The Mexican Revolution soon after severely disrupted the company's plans. Nearly 10,000 farmers and their families in Mexico were ethnically cleansed by the rival Mexican armies. Not until the 1920s was the other side of California in America sufficiently peaceful and prosperous for the company to earn a return for a large percentage of Mexicans, but some chose to stay and lay down roots in newly sprouted communities in the valley.
The county experienced a period of migration of "Okies" from drought-trodden dust bowl farms by the need of migrant labor, and prosperous job-seekers alike from across the U.S. arrived in the 1930s and 1940s, especially in World War II and after the completion of the All American Canal from its source, the Colorado River, from 1948 to 1951. By the 1950 census, over 50,000 residents lived in Imperial County alone, about 40 times that of 1910. Most of the population was year-round but would increase every winter by migrant laborers from Mexico. Until the 1960s, the farms in Imperial County provided substantial economic returns to the company and the valley.
In the 2000s, the real estate boom and bust impacted Imperial County. Currently, El Centro has one of the U.S' highest unemployment rates (above 30-34%) and ranks one of the state's poorest counties or have a lower than state and national average annual household income.
Sites of interest 
Fort Yuma 
Fort Yuma is located on the banks of the Colorado River in Winterhaven, California. First established after the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, it was originally located in the bottoms near the Colorado River, less than 1-mile (1.6 km) below the mouth of the Gila River. It was to defend the newly settled community of Yuma, Arizona on the other side of the Colorado River and the nearby Mexican border. In March 1851 the post was moved to a small elevation on the Colorado's west bank, opposite the present city of Yuma, Arizona, on the site of the former Mission Puerto de Purísima Concepción. This site had been occupied by Camp Calhoun, named for John C. Calhoun, established in 1849. Fort Yuma was established to protect the southern emigrant travel route to California and to attempt control of the Yuma Indians in the surrounding 100-mile (160 km) area.
Blue Angels 
NAF El Centro is the winter home of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, The Blue Angels. NAF El Centro historically kicks off the Blue Angels' season with their first air show, traditionally held in March.
Imperial Valley Expo & fairgrounds 
Home to the California Mid-Winter Fair and Fiesta which is the local county fair, held in late February to early March and known throughout North America. It is also home to the Imperial Valley Speedway, a race track of 3⁄8 miles (600 m).
Algodones Sand Dunes 
The name Algodones Dunes refers to the entire geographic feature, while the administrative designation for that portion managed by the Bureau of Land Management is the "Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area" (sometimes called the "Glamis Dunes"). The Algodones Sand Dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in California. This dune system extends for more than 40 miles (60 km) along the eastern edge of the Imperial Valley agricultural region in a band averaging 5 miles (8 km) in width. A major east-west route of the Union Pacific railroad skirts the eastern edge.The dune system is divided into 3 areas. The northern most area is known as Mammoth Wash. South of Mammoth Wash is the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness established by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act. This area is closed to motorized use and access is by hiking and horseback. The largest and most heavily used area begins at Highway 78 and continues south just past Interstate 8. The expansive dune formations offer picturesque scenery, a chance to view rare plants and animals, and a playground for ATV and off-roading enthusiasts. The dunes are also popular in film making and have been the site for movies such as Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
Colorado River 
The Colorado River is a river in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, approximately 2,330 kilometres (1,450 mi) long, draining a part of the arid regions on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. The natural course of the river flows from north of Grand Lake, Colorado into the Gulf of California. For many months out of the year, however, no water actually flows from the United States to the gulf, due to human consumption. The river is a popular destination for water sports including fishing, boating, water-skiing, and jet-skiing.
Salvation Mountain 
Salvation Mountain (location ) is a colorful artificial mountain north of Calipatria, California, near Slab City. It is made from adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of paint. It was created by Leonard Knight to convey the message that "God Loves Everyone". Knight refused substantial donations of money and labor from supporters who wished to modify his message of universal love to favor or disfavor particular groups.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, portions of which are located in Imperial County, is the largest state park in California. 500 miles (800 km) of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the Colorado Desert. The park is named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish name borrego, or bighorn sheep. The park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti and sweeping vistas. Visitors may also have the chance to see roadrunner, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer and bighorn sheep as well as iguanas, chuckwallas and the red diamond rattlesnake.
Fossil Canyon and Painted Gorge 
Located near Ocotillo, California in the Coyote Mountains, Fossil Canyon and the surrounding area is a great place for rock hounding and fossil hunting. The fossils here are not dinosaurs, but ancient shells, coral, and oysters from the Miocene epoch when the area was underwater.
The Painted Gorge, located on the eastern side of the Coyote Mountains, consists of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks. Heat and movement over time has created fantastic shapes and colors. Oranges, reds, purples, and mauves mixed with browns and blacks create a palette of color as the sun illuminates and plays shadows upon this geologic wonder.
Imperial NWR 
The Imperial National Wildlife Refuge protects wildlife habitat along 30 miles (50 km) of the lower Colorado River in Arizona and California, including the last un-channeled section before the river enters Mexico. The river and its associated backwater lakes and wetlands are a green oasis, contrasting with the surrounding desert mountains. It is a refuge and breeding area for migratory birds and local desert wildlife.
Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR 
The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is located 40 miles (60 km) north of the Mexican border at the southern end of the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley. Situated along the Pacific Flyway, the refuge is the only one of its kind, located 227 feet below sea level. Because of its southern latitude, elevation and location in the Colorado Desert, the refuge experiences some of the highest temperatures in the nation. Daily temperatures from May to October generally exceed 100°F with temperatures of 116°-120°F recorded yearly.
Mexico (the border city of Mexicali, Baja California) offers big city amenities like museums, a zoo, a sports convention center, and an international airport. Visitors cross by foot or car from Calexico in the United States every day. Restaurants and taco stands, pharmacies, bars and dance clubs are part of the draw for the city's tourists. Many shops and stalls selling Mexican crafts and souvenirs are also located in walking distance from the border. Also many residents from California, Arizona and Nevada look for medical and dental services in Mexicali, because they tend to be less expensive than those in the United States. Mexico's drinking age of 18 (vs. 21 in the United States) makes it a common weekend destination for many high school and college aged Southern Californians.
According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 4,481.73 square miles (11,607.6 km2), of which 4,174.73 square miles (10,812.5 km2) (or 93.15%) is land and 307.00 square miles (795.1 km2) (or 6.85%) is water. Much of Imperial County is below sea level.
The Colorado River forms the county's eastern boundary. Two notable geographic features are found in the county, the Salton Sea, at 235 feet (72 m) below sea level, and the Algodones Dunes, one of the largest dune fields in America.
In this region, the geology is dominated by the transition of the tectonic plate boundary from rift to fault. The southernmost strands of the San Andreas Fault connect the northern-most extensions of the East Pacific Rise. Consequently, the region is subject to earthquakes, and the crust is being stretched, resulting in a sinking of the terrain over time.
Towns over 5,000 population 
Towns over 1,000 population 
Towns under 1,000 population 
Adjacent counties and municipios 
- Riverside County, California, north
- Yuma County, Arizona, southeast
- La Paz County, Arizona, northeast
- San Diego County, California, west
- Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico – south
- Tecate, Baja California, Mexico – southwest
National protected areas 
- Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (part)
- Imperial National Wildlife Refuge (part)
- Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge
Codes for Imperial 
Area codes 
760 – Covers all of the El Centro metropolitan area as well as Palm Springs, Oceanside, Bishop, Ridgecrest, Barstow, Needles; northern San Diego County, and southeastern California, including much of the Mojave Desert and the Owens Valley. (Split from 619 on March 22, 1997, overlayed by area code 442 in 2009).
Zip codes 
- 92243 in El Centro, CA • 43,744
- 92231 in Calexico, CA • 27,792
- 92227 in Brawley, CA • 23,419
- 92251 in Imperial, CA • 14,469
- 92250 in Holtville, CA • 8,038
- 92233 in Calipatria, CA • 7,854
- 92283 in Winterhaven, CA • 3,622
- 92249 in Heber, CA • 3,558
- 92257 in Bombay Beach, CA • 2,710
- 92281 in Westmorland, CA • 2,362
- 92273 in Seeley, CA • 1,588
- 92275 in Salton City, CA • 803
- 92259 in Ocotillo, CA • 500
- 92266 in Palo Verde, CA • 340
Thousands of acres of prime farmland have transformed the desert into one of the most productive farming regions in California with an annual crop production of over $1 billion. Agriculture is the largest industry in Imperial County and accounts for 48% of all employment. Although this region is a desert, with high temperatures and low average rainfall of three inches (seventy-five mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to irrigation, which is supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. A vast system of canals, check dams, and pipelines carry the water all over the valley, a system which forms the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID. The water distribution system includes over 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canal and with 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of pipeline. The number of canal and pipeline branches number roughly over a hundred. Imported water and a long growing season allow two crop cycles each year, and the Imperial Valley is a major source of winter fruits and vegetables, cotton, and grain for U.S. and international markets. Alfalfa is another major crop produced in the Imperial Valley. The agricultural lands are served by a constructed agricultural drain system, which conveys surface runoff and subsurface drainage from fields to the Salton Sea, which is a designated repository for agricultural runoff.
A recent growth in the interest of Imperial County as a filming location, has spurred growth in servicing this industry. Because of the county's desert environment and proximity to Los Angeles, California, movies are sometimes filmed in the sand dunes outside the agricultural portions of the county. These have included Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Stargate, The Scorpion King, and Into the Wild. Additionally, portions of the 2005 film Jarhead were filmed here because of its similarity to the desert terrain of Iraq.
Renewable energy source 
Imperial Valley has become a hotbed of renewable energy projects, both solar and geothermal. This is driven in part by California's mandate to generate 20% of its power from renewable sources by the end of 2010, the valley's excellent sun resources, the high unemployment, its proximity to large population centers on the coast, and large tracts of otherwise unusable desert land. Much of the land suitable for green energy is owned by the federal government (Bureau of Land Management). As of April 2008, the BLM has received 163 applications to build renewable energy projects on 1,600,000 acres (6,500 km2) in California, "almost all of them are planned for the Imperial Valley and the desert region north of the valley." Stirling Energy is currently building one of the world's largest solar thermal plants, 10 square miles (26 km2) with 38,000 "sun catchers," it will power up to 600,000 homes once it is fully operational by around 2015. CalEnergy currently runs a geothermal plant that generates enough power for 300,000 homes and could tap into more for up to 2.5 million homes.
Transportation infrastructure 
Major highways 
- Interstate 8
- State Route 7
- State Route 78
- State Route 86
- State Route 98
- State Route 111
- State Route 115
- State Route 186
Imperial County is at the junction of one interstate, and three state highways. Radiating to the east and west are connections to the Arizona Sun Corridor and San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan area via Interstate 8, Blythe, and northern San Diego County via State Route 78, the Mexicali Valley via State Route 111, and the Coachella Valley, Inland Empire, and Los Angeles metropolitan area via State Route 86.
Public transportation 
County owned 
- Imperial County Airport, the county's main airport, is primarily a general aviation facility. It is located just north of El Centro, and has limited commercial flight service subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.
- Holtville Airport is a public use general aviation airport, owned by the county and located roughly 5 miles (8 km) east of Holtville.
Municipal ownership 
- Brawley Municipal Airport is a public use general aviation airport, owned by and located in Brawley.
- Calexico Airport is a public use general aviation field, owned by and located in Calexico. It is located 15 miles (24 km) south of Interstate 8 on State Route 111. It used in part to service maquiladora factories in nearby Mexicali.
- Cliff Hatfield Memorial Airport is a public use general aviation airport, owned by and located in Calipatria.
Privately owned 
- Salton Sea Airport is a public use general aviation airport located in Salton City.
- Douthitt Strip Airport is a private use facility in El Centro. It was formerly a military airfield.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Imperial County had a population of 174,528. The racial makeup of Imperial County was 102,553 (58.8%) White, 5,773 (3.3%) African American, 3,059 (1.8%) Native American, 2,843 (1.6%) Asian, 165 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 52,413 (30.0%) from other races, and 7,722 (4.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 140,271 persons (80.4%).
|Population reported at 2010 United States Census|
(of any race)
(of any race)
(of any race)
|Salton Sea Beach||422||309||6||4||2||2||82||17||229|
(of any race)
|All others not CDPs (combined)||24,343||15,683||1,849||1,546||355||26||4,059||825||14,877|
As of the census of 2000, there were 142,361 people, 39,384 households, and 31,467 families residing in the county. The population density was 34 people per square mile (13/km²). There were 43,891 housing units at an average density of 10 per square mile (4/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 49.4% White, 4.0% Black or African American, 1.9% Native American, 2.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 39.1% from other races, and 3.7% from two or more races. 72.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 65.7% spoke Spanish as their first language and 32.3% English.
There were 39,384 households out of which 46.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.7% were married couples living together, 17.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.1% were non-families. 17.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.33 and the average family size was 3.77.
In the county the population was spread out with 31.4% under the age of 18, 9.9% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 10.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 109.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 111.4 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $31,870, and the median income for a family was $35,226. Males had a median income of $32,775 versus $23,974 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,239. About 19.4% of families and 22.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.7% of those under age 18 and 13.6% of those age 65 or over.
Imperial County has the lowest per capita income of any county in Southern California and among the bottom five counties in the state.
By 2006 the population had risen to 160,201, the population growth rate since the year 2000 was 30%, the highest in California and fifth highest in the United States in the time period. High levels of immigration, new residents search for affordable homes, and a search for retirement homes can explain the population increase.
|2008||36.1% 14,008||62.3% 24,162||2.4% 4,208|
|2004||46.4% 15,890||52.4% 17,964||1.2% 420|
|2000||43.3% 12,524||53.5% 15,489||3.2% 924|
|1996||36.8% 9,705||55.3% 14,591||8.0% 2,104|
|1992||38.6% 9,759||43.9% 11,109||17.6% 4,450|
|1988||55.2% 12,889||43.8% 10,243||1.0% 233|
|1984||62.0% 13,829||36.9% 8,237||1.1% 235|
|1980||55.9% 12,068||36.9% 7,961||7.2% 1,550|
|1976||49.9% 10,618||48.2% 10,244||1.9% 400|
|1972||62.1% 14,178||34.9% 7,982||3.0% 689|
|1968||52.9% 10,818||36.6% 7,481||10.5% 2,147|
|1964||48.1% 10,330||51.9% 11,143||0.1% 19|
|1960||53.6% 10,606||46.0% 9,119||0.4% 81|
|1956||56.1% 10,526||43.7% 8,197||0.3% 58|
|1952||62.1% 11,044||37.2% 6,619||0.6% 112|
|1948||52.6% 6,217||44.9% 5,301||2.5% 292|
|1944||53.8% 5,979||45.8% 5,085||0.4% 48|
|1940||46.6% 6,854||52.5% 7,728||0.9% 130|
|1936||38.3% 4,771||60.8% 7,560||0.9% 113|
|1932||29.0% 3,783||67.3% 8,772||3.7% 484|
|1928||67.6% 5,417||31.0% 2,486||1.4% 109|
|1924||50.3% 3,455||11.0% 759||38.7% 2,658|
|1920||64.5% 4,699||27.8% 2,022||7.7% 563|
|Election results from statewide races|
|2010||Governor||Brown 59.7 – 33.9%|
|Lieutenant Governor||Newsom 46.1 – 39.2%|
|Secretary of State||Bowen 56.1 – 32.8%|
|Controller||Chiang 57.5 – 30.5%|
|Treasurer||Lockyer 57.6 – 33.0%|
|Attorney General||Harris 48.9 – 41.4%|
|Insurance Commissioner||Jones 52.0 – 33.2%|
Previously strongly Republican, Imperial County is now a Democratic stronghold in presidential, congressional and local elections. The last Republican to win a majority in the county was George H. W. Bush in 1988.
On November 4, 2008, Imperial County voted 69.7% for Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriages, showing more support for the proposition than any other strongly Democratic county. After being declared unconstitutional by a lower federal court, Imperial County continues to defend Proposition 8 in the federal judicial system.
Imperial County is in California's 51st congressional district, represented by Democrat Juan Vargas. In the state legislature, the county is in the 56th Assembly District, represented by Democrat V. Manuel Perez, and the 40th Senate District, represented by Democrat Ben Hueso.
In popular culture 
- Scenes for the 2006 film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan were filmed in Imperial County, but were not used in the finished film.
- The majority of Jarhead and the Salton Sea was filmed in the Imperial Valley.
- Scenes from Star Wars were filmed in the Imperial Valley sand dunes, Top Gun were also filmed in the El Centro Naval Air Station and Independence Day was located in the Imperial Valley.
- Rock en Espanol group Calexico glean their name from the Imperial Valley border town that adjoins Mexicali, Baja California of Mexico.
- Imperial, by William T. Vollmann, published July 30, 2009, documents the history and culture of Imperial County, California. A companion volume of photographs was published August 18, 2009.
See also 
- El Centro Metropolitan Area
- Category: Geography of Imperial County, California
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Imperial County, California
- Southern Border region of California
- Source California.gov
- "De Anza Trail". Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- "Fort Yuma". Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "Blue Angels Official Website". Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "Imperial Valley Expo". Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "Algodones Sand Dunes". Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "Things to Do in Yuma". Retrieved 2009-08-05.[dead link]
- "Fossil Canyon and Painted Gorge". Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "Imperial NWR". Retrieved 2009-08-04.[dead link]
- "Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge". Retrieved 2009-08-04.
- "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- "Imperial County". Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- "El Centro Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- "IID". Retrieved 2009-08-03.[dead link]
- "Calif. Desert Becomes Home For Renewable Energy", Rob Schmitz, Morning Edition, April 3, 2009, NPR
- "2010 Census P.L. 94-171 Summary File Data". United States Census Bureau.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Proposition 8 Map – November 4, 2008, General Election – California Secretary of State:". Retrieved 2009-08-17.
- "Registration by County". Retrieved 2009-08-17.
- Fagan, Kevin (2010-08-26). "Imperial County steps up to defend Prop. 8". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- "California's 51st Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
- "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
- "Senators". State of California. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
- Official website
- Imperial Irrigation District
- Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation
- Imperial Valley Living
- Statistical profile of Imperial County, California
||Riverside County||La Paz County, Arizona|
|San Diego County|
|Tecate, Baja California, Mexico||Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico||Yuma County, Arizona|