Chowchilla, California

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Chowchilla, California
Railroad tracks passing through Chowchilla
Railroad tracks passing through Chowchilla
Location in Madera County, California
Location in Madera County, California
Chowchilla, California is located in the United States
Chowchilla, California
Chowchilla, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 37°7′N 120°16′W / 37.117°N 120.267°W / 37.117; -120.267Coordinates: 37°7′N 120°16′W / 37.117°N 120.267°W / 37.117; -120.267
Country United States of America
State California
County Madera
IncorporatedFebruary 7, 1923[1]
 • Total11.13 sq mi (28.83 km2)
 • Land11.09 sq mi (28.71 km2)
 • Water0.05 sq mi (0.12 km2)  0%
Elevation240 ft (73 m)
 • Total19,039
 • Density1,717.39/sq mi (663.07/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Code
Area code559
FIPS code06-13294
GNIS feature IDs277601, 2409459

Chowchilla is a city in Madera County, California, United States.[3] The city's population was 19,039 at the 2020 census.[4] Chowchilla is located 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Madera,[5] at an elevation of 240 feet (73 m).[3]

The city is the location of two prisons: Central California Women's Facility and Valley State Prison.


The name "Chowchilla" is derived from the indigenous American tribe of Chaushila (the spelling is inconsistent in reference guides), a Yokut Indian tribe which once lived in the area. The name evidently translates as "murderers" and is apparently a reference to the warlike nature of the Chaushila tribe. It is also to be known among the Yokuts tribes later on to be associated with "bravery". The Chaushila Indians were inadvertently responsible for the first white men "discovering" Yosemite Valley, which occurred when they were being pursued by a band of whites. References to the tribe still abound in Chowchilla, and until 2016 the town's high school used the moniker "Redskins" as their mascot.


The first post office at Chowchilla opened in 1912[5] and the city incorporated eleven years later, in 1923.[5]

1976 bus kidnapping[edit]

Chowchilla made national news on July 15, 1976, when 26 children and their school bus driver were kidnapped and held in a buried moving van at a quarry in Livermore, California. The driver and some of the children were able to escape and notify the quarry guard. All the victims returned unharmed. The quarry owner's son and two friends were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.[6]


Chowchilla is located in California's Central Valley at 37°7′N 120°16′W / 37.117°N 120.267°W / 37.117; -120.267.[3] Via California Route 99, it is 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Madera, the county seat, and 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Merced. It is 39 miles (63 km) northwest of Fresno and 256 miles (412 km) north of Downtown Los Angeles.[7]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.1 square miles (29 km2), of which 0.05 square miles (0.13 km2), or 0.41%, are water.[2] Ash Slough, a tributary of the Fresno River, runs along the northern edge of the city.


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[8]

Official population figures include inmates of two prisons.

Chowchilla is part of the Madera metropolitan statistical area.[9]


At the 2000 census there were 11,127 people in 2,562 households, including 1,908 families, in the city. The population density was 1,567.4 inhabitants per square mile (605.2/km2). There were 2,711 housing units at an average density of 381.9 per square mile (147.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 63.46% White, 10.26% Black or African American, 2.60% Native American, 1.32% Asian, 0.26% Pacific Islander, 16.16% from other races, and 5.94% from two or more races. Of the population, 28.20% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.[10] Of the 2,562 households 40.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.3% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.5% were non-families; 21.9% of households were one person and 12.6% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.94 and the average family size was 3.42.

The age distribution was 22.2% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 42.8% from 25 to 44, 16.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% 65 or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 51.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 39.8 males.

The median household income was $30,729 and the median family income was $35,741. Males had a median income of $32,306 versus $20,538 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,927. About 16.5% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.1% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.


At the 2010 census Chowchilla had a population of 18,720, including the prisons' inmates. The population density was 2,443.5 inhabitants per square mile (943.4/km2). The racial makeup of Chowchilla was 11,533 (61.6%) White, 2,358 (12.6%) African American, 376 (2.0%) Native American, 395 (2.1%) Asian, 37 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 3,313 (17.7%) from other races, and 708 (3.8%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7,073 persons (37.8%).[11]

The census reported that 11,311 people (60.4% of the population) lived in households, 6 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 7,403 (39.5%) were institutionalized.

There were 3,673 households, 1,693 (46.1%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,932 (52.6%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 586 (16.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 260 (7.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 275 (7.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 24 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 721 households (19.6%) were one person and 293 (8.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 3.08. There were 2,778 families (75.6% of households); the average family size was 3.52.

The age distribution was 3,583 people (19.1%) under the age of 18, 2,048 people (10.9%) aged 18 to 24, 7,343 people (39.2%) aged 25 to 44, 4,429 people (23.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,317 people (7.0%) who were 65 or older. The median age was 34.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 42.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 33.3 males.

There were 4,154 housing units at an average density of 542.2 per square mile, of the occupied units 1,966 (53.5%) were owner-occupied and 1,707 (46.5%) were rented. The homeowner vacancy rate was 6.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 7.9%. 5,920 people (31.6% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 5,391 people (28.8%) lived in rental housing units.


The climate of Chowchilla is Mediterranean. It receives an average of about 12 inches of precipitation per year. The wettest months are December, January, and February, with January being the wettest. Chowchilla has dry, hot summers, and mild to cool, rainy winters. Chowchilla experiences frequent fog from November to March and overcast days are common, especially in January. In 2005, Chowchilla had 20 consecutive cloudy, rainy days. There are days with moderate to heavy rain during the winter months. In January, the high temperature may drop as low as 45 °F (7 °C). During the summer, when there is usually no rain, the temperature may reach as high or higher than 110 °F (43 °C). Snow in Chowchilla is rare.

Climate data for Chowchilla 2 W, California (1981–2010) extremes 1932–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 79
Average high °F (°C) 60.7
Average low °F (°C) 41.4
Record low °F (°C) 15
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.66
Source: [12]


The city is the location of two California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities, the Central California Women's Facility and Valley State Prison.[13] Central California Women's houses the state's female death row.[14]


In the California State Legislature, Chowchilla is in the 12th Senate District, represented by Democrat Anna Caballero, and in the 5th Assembly District, represented by Republican Frank Bigelow.[15]

In the United States House of Representatives, Chowchilla is in California's 16th congressional district, represented by Democrat Jim Costa.[16]


Three public school districts serve the residents of Chowchilla and the surrounding area, as well as one private school. Chowchilla Elementary School District (Grades K to 8th) and Chowchilla Union High School District (9th to 12th grade) make up the local public school system of the city proper. Alview-Dairyland Union School District (Grades K to 8th) serves nearby rural communities including Dairyland.[17]

Chowchilla Elementary School District is made up of five school campuses and typically enrolls city residents, as well as residents from the nearby community of Fairmead. The Alview-Dairyland Union School District is composed of two rural area school campuses, and serves residents that reside outside of town. Upon completing 8th grade, students from both elementary districts are enrolled in the town's comprehensive high school, Chowchilla Union High School. The Chowchilla Union High School District also operates Gateway Continuation school and an Independent Study program.

The Chowchilla Elementary School District operates five schools,[18] with student population distributed by grade level. Stephens School [Kindergarten], Fuller School [Grades 1 and 2], Ronald Reagan School [Grades 3 and 4], and Fairmead School [Grades 5 and 6] are elementary schools, and Wilson School [Grades 7 and 8] is the middle school.

Alview-Dairyland Union School District operates Alview Elementary School [Grades K through 3] and Dairyland Elementary School [Grades 4 through 8].

There is also a private school, Chowchilla Seventh Day Adventist, serving K-8, located 4 miles (6 km) south of town.



The Chowchilla Airport, a municipal airport used for general aviation, is located southeast of the main part of the city.


Chowchilla is located along the Golden State Highway (California State Route 99 [SR 99]), which runs northwest–southeast, just northeast of the main part of the city. The community is also served by California State Route 233 (Robertson Boulevard), which runs southwest from SR 99 for nearly 4 miles (6.4 km) to end at California State Route 233 (which runs east–west about 2.5 miles [4.0 km] south of Chowchilla).


Public transportation within the city of Chowchilla is provided by Chowchilla Area Transit (CATX), which is a dial-a-ride demand-responsive service with no fixed routes. CATX operates on weekdays with the exception of selected holidays.[19] Inter-city connections are provided by the county via Madera County Connection, which operates one fixed route connecting Chowchilla with the county seat in Madera.

High-speed rail[edit]

Chowchilla Wye is planned to be the point where the California High-Speed Rail's main spine splits into two northern branches: one traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area, and the other continuing north to Sacramento.[20]

Notable people[edit]


Chowchilla commonly produces peaches and other soft fruits and vegetables.[21][22] On September 29th and/or 30th, 2020, three Peach Fruit Flies (Bactrocera zonata Saunders) were trapped here.[21][22] This presents a tremendous hazard not only to the area but to the state, and indeed the entire country.[21][22] Because the pest may spread from here to other countries, trading partners including the EU and New Zealand are also concerned.[21][22] They are considering restricting importation of fruits and vegetables from the state.[22] As a result the Secretary of CDFA, Karen Ross has declared a biosecurity emergency and eradication efforts using methyl eugenol lures are underway.[21][22] Especially an immediate concern are California's $2.10b citrus-, $875m stonefruit-, and $1.19b tomato- industries.[21][22]

The Naval Orange Worm (Amyelois transitella) is present here.[23] The Goniozus Navel Orangeworm Wasp (Goniozus legneri) is a parasitoid that was introduced to the state to control it, and is now widespread including in this area.[23] The same goes for Pentalitomastix plethoricus for the Locust Bean Moth (Ectomyelois ceratoniae), but it is also helping with NOW.[23] The combination of both wasps here is producing greater NOW mortality than with either alone.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Microsoft Word) on November 3, 2014. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "2021 U.S. Gazetteer Files: California". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 24, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Chowchilla, California
  4. ^ a b "P1. Race – Chowchilla city, California: 2020 DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved June 24, 2022.
  5. ^ 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. 758. ISBN 1-884995-14-4.
  6. ^ MacGowan, Douglas. "The Chowchilla Kidnapping". crimelibrary. Archived from the original on April 3, 2014. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  7. ^ Bartholomew, Dana. "Last woman convicted in Missy Avila murder released from prison on Monday." Last woman convicted in Missy Avila murder released from prison on Monday]." Los Angeles Daily News. December 10, 2012. Retrieved on June 20, 2013.[dead link]
  8. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  9. ^ "OMB Bulletin No. 20-01" (PDF). Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President. March 6, 2020. Retrieved June 24, 2022.
  10. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  11. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Chowchilla city". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  12. ^ "NOWData – NOAA Online Weather Data". NOAA. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  13. ^ "Chowchilla city, California Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine." United States Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 10, 2010.
  14. ^ "History of Capital Punishment in California Archived 2010-07-24 at the Wayback Machine." California Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 16, 2010. "All male prisoners on condemned status are housed at a maximum-security custody level in three units at San Quentin State Prison. Females are housed in a maximum-security unit at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla."
  15. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Archived from the original on February 1, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  16. ^ "California's 16th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC.
  17. ^ "SCHOOL DISTRICT REFERENCE MAP (2010 CENSUS): Madera County, CA" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  18. ^ Chowchilla Elementary School District Website
  19. ^ "Chowchilla Area Transit (CATX)". City of Chowchilla, California. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  20. ^ "Central Valley Wye". California High-Speed Rail Authority. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  21. ^ a b c d e f
  22. ^ a b c d e f g "Ag pest found for first time in Madera County". The Business Journal. 2020-10-02. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  23. ^ a b c d

External links[edit]