San Bernardino County, California

San Bernardino County, officially the County of San Bernardino, is a county located in the southern portion of the U.S. state of California, and is located within the Inland Empire area. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 2,035,210, making it the fifth-most populous county in California and the 14th-most populous in the United States. The county seat is San Bernardino.

While included within the Greater Los Angeles area, San Bernardino County is included in the RiversideSan BernardinoOntario metropolitan statistical area, as well as the Los AngelesLong Beach combined statistical area.

With an area of 20,105 square miles (52,070 km2), San Bernardino County is the largest county in the contiguous United States by area, although some of Alaska's boroughs and census areas are larger. The county is close to the size of West Virginia.

This vast county stretches from where the bulk of the county population resides in three Census County Divisions (Fontana, San Bernardino, & Victorville-Hesperia), counting 1,793,186 people as of the 2010 Census, covering the 1,730 square miles (4,480 km2), across the thinly populated deserts and mountains. It spans an area from south of the San Bernardino Mountains in San Bernardino Valley, to the Nevada border and the Colorado River.


San Bernardino County horticulture exhibit at World Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893.

Spanish Missionaries from Mission San Gabriel Arcángel established a church at the village of Politania in 1810. Father Francisco Dumetz named the church San Bernardino on May 20, 1810, after the feast day of St. Bernardino of Siena. The Franciscans also gave the name San Bernardino to the snowcapped peak in Southern California, in honor of the saint and it is from him that the county derives its name. In 1819, they established the San Bernardino de Sena Estancia, a mission farm in what is now Redlands.

Following Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, Mexican citizens were granted land grants to establish ranchos in the area of the county. Rancho Jurupa in 1838, Rancho Cucamonga and El Rincon in 1839, Rancho Santa Ana del Chino in 1841, Rancho San Bernardino in 1842 and Rancho Muscupiabe in 1844.

Agua Mansa was the first town in what became San Bernardino County, settled by immigrants from New Mexico on land donated from the Rancho Jurupa in 1841.

Following the purchase of Rancho San Bernardino, and the establishment of the town of San Bernardino in 1851 by Mormon colonists, San Bernardino County was formed in 1853 from parts of Los Angeles County. Some of the southern parts of the county's territory were given to Riverside County in 1893.


The Arrowhead natural feature is the source of many local names and icons, such as Lake Arrowhead and the county's seal.
Central Joshua Tree with the mountains of Joshua Tree National Park on the horizon.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 20,105 square miles (52,070 km2), of which 20,057 square miles (51,950 km2) is land and 48 square miles (120 km2) (0.2%) is water. It is the largest county by area in California and the largest in the United States (excluding boroughs in Alaska). It is slightly larger than the states of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and is also slightly larger than Switzerland in square miles. It borders both Nevada and Arizona.

The bulk of the population, nearly two million, live in the roughly 480 square miles south of the San Bernardino Mountains adjacent to Riverside and in the San Bernardino Valley in the southwestern portion of the county. About 390,000 residents live just north of the San Bernardino Mountains, in and around the roughly 280 square-mile area that includes the Victor Valley. Roughly another 100,000 people live scattered across the rest of the sprawling county.

The Mojave National Preserve covers some of the eastern desert, especially between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. The desert portion also includes the cities of Needles next to the Colorado River and Barstow at the junction of Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. Trona is at the northwestern part of the county, west of Death Valley. This national park, mostly within Inyo County, also has a small portion of land within San Bernardino County. The largest metropolitan area in the Mojave Desert part of the county is the Victor Valley, with the incorporated localities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia, and Victorville. Further south, a portion of Joshua Tree National Park overlaps the county near the High Desert area, in the vicinity of Twentynine Palms. The remaining towns make up the remainder of the High Desert: Pioneertown, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, Landers, and Morongo Valley.

The mountains are home to the San Bernardino National Forest, and include the communities of Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs, Big Bear City, Forest Falls, and Big Bear Lake.

The San Bernardino Valley is at the eastern end of the San Gabriel Valley. The San Bernardino Valley includes the cities of Ontario, Chino, Chino Hills, Upland, Fontana, Rialto, Colton, Grand Terrace, Montclair, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Loma Linda, Highland, Redlands, and Yucaipa.

Adjacent counties

Counties adjacent to San Bernardino County, California

National protected areas

Cadiz Dunes Wilderness

More than 80% of the county's land is owned by the federal government. There are at least 35 official wilderness areas in the county that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. This is the largest number of any county in the United States (although not the largest in total area). The majority are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, but some are integral components of the above listed national protected areas. Most of these wilderness areas lie entirely within the county, but a few are shared with neighboring counties (and two of these are shared with the neighboring states of Arizona and Nevada).

Except as noted, these wilderness areas are managed solely by the Bureau of Land Management and lie within San Bernardino County:



Places by population, race, and income


Historical population
2019 (est.)2,180,0857.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2018

The 2010 United States Census reported that San Bernardino County had a population of 2,035,210. The racial makeup of San Bernardino County was 1,153,161 (56.7%) White, 181,862 (8.9%) African American, 22,689 (1.1%) Native American, 128,603 (6.3%) Asian, 6,870 (0.3%) Pacific Islander, 439,661 (21.6%) from other races, and 102,364 (5.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,001,145 persons (49.2%).


As of the census of 2000, there were 1,709,434 people, 528,594 households, and 404,374 families residing in the county. The population density was 85 people per square mile (33/km2). There were 601,369 housing units at an average density of 30 per square mile (12/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 58.9% White, 9.1% African American, 1.2% Native American, 4.7% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 20.8% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. 39.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 8.3% were of German, 5.5% English and 5.1% Irish ancestry. 66.1% spoke English, 27.7% Spanish and 1.1% Tagalog as their first language.

There were 528,594 households, out of which 43.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.8% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.5% were non-families. 18.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.6% had someone 65 years of age or older living alone. The average household size was 3.2 people, and the average family size was 3.6 people.

The number of homeless in San Bernardino County grew from 5,270 in 2002 to 7,331 in 2007, a 39% increase.

In the county, the population was spread out—with 32.3% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 30.2% from 25 to 44, 18.7% from 45 to 64, and 8.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.2 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $42,066, and the median income for a family was $46,574. Males had a median income of $37,025 versus $27,993 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,856. About 12.6% of families and 15.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.6% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.

Government and policing

County government

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has 5 members elected from their districts:

  • Paul Cook (First District),
  • Janice Rutherford (Second District),
  • Dawn Rowe (Third District),
  • Chairman Curt Hagman (Fourth District), and
  • Vice Chair Josie Gonzales (Fifth District).

Other County of San Bernardino Elected Officials

State and federal representation

In the United States House of Representatives, San Bernardino County is split between 5 congressional districts:

In the California State Assembly, San Bernardino County is split between 8 assembly districts:

In the California State Senate, San Bernardino County is split between 6 districts:



The San Bernardino County Sheriff provides court protection, jail administration, and coroner services for all of San Bernardino County. It provides police patrol, detective, and marshal services for the unincorporated areas of the county.

Municipal police

Municipal police departments in the county are: Fontana, San Bernardino, Rialto, Ontario, Upland, Montclair, Chino, Redlands, Colton, and Barstow. The San Bernardino County Sheriff provides contract law enforcement services to 14 incorporated cities and towns: Adelanto, Apple Valley, Big Bear, Chino Hills, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Highland, Loma Linda, Needles, Rancho Cucamonga, Twentynine Palms, Victorville, Yucaipa, and Yucca Valley. Also for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The Sheriff's Commanders assigned to these stations acts as each municipality's Chief of Police.


Voter registration

Cities by population and voter registration


San Bernardino County vote
by party in presidential elections
202043.5% 366,25754.2% 455,8592.2% 19,014
201641.5% 271,24052.1% 340,8336.4% 41,910
201245.0% 262,35852.3% 305,1092.7% 15,463
200845.8% 277,40852.1% 315,7202.2% 13,206
200455.3% 289,30643.5% 227,7891.2% 6,181
200048.8% 221,75747.2% 214,7494.0% 18,387
199643.6% 180,13544.4% 183,37212.1% 49,848
199237.2% 176,56338.7% 183,63424.0% 113,873
198860.0% 235,16738.6% 151,1181.5% 5,723
198464.8% 222,07134.0% 116,4541.2% 4,180
198059.7% 172,95731.7% 91,7908.7% 25,065
197649.5% 113,26547.9% 109,6362.6% 5,984
197259.7% 144,68935.5% 85,9864.8% 11,581
196850.1% 111,97440.0% 89,4189.9% 22,224
196442.8% 92,14557.1% 123,0120.1% 243
196052.0% 99,48147.5% 90,8880.5% 944
195656.9% 86,26342.8% 64,9460.3% 443
195257.3% 77,71841.8% 56,6630.9% 1,153
194848.6% 46,57047.7% 45,6913.7% 3,577
194446.5% 34,08452.6% 38,5300.9% 646
194044.3% 30,51154.5% 37,5201.2% 847
193639.0% 22,21959.6% 33,9551.5% 842
193244.6% 22,09450.2% 24,8895.2% 2,565
192874.7% 29,22924.1% 9,4361.1% 447
192456.9% 15,9749.4% 2,63433.7% 9,453
192062.8% 12,51828.2% 5,6209.0% 1,783
191650.7% 11,93239.9% 9,3989.4% 2,215
19121.1% 17238.0% 5,83560.9% 9,336
190852.9% 4,72930.0% 2,68517.0% 1,526
190458.2% 3,88423.6% 1,57318.1% 1,213
190052.2% 3,13539.1% 2,3478.8% 529
189648.5% 2,81847.2% 2,7404.3% 247
189248.7% 3,68633.7% 2,54617.6% 1,335
188853.5% 3,05941.7% 2,3884.7% 271
188454.3% 1,61743.3% 1,2882.3% 69
188049.0% 73047.8% 7113.0% 46

San Bernardino County is a county in which candidates from both major political parties have won in recent elections. Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the county by a majority and by double digits in 2016. The Democratic Party also carried the county in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama won majorities of the county's votes, and in 1992 and 1996, when Bill Clinton won pluralities. Republican George W. Bush took the county in 2000 by a plurality and in 2004 by a majority. The county is split between heavily Latino, middle-class, and Democratic areas and more wealthy conservative areas. The heavily Latino cities of Ontario and San Bernardino went for John Kerry in 2004, but with a relatively low voter turnout. In 2006, San Bernardino's population exceeded 201,000, and in 2004, only 42,520 votes were cast in the city; in 2006, strongly Republican Rancho Cucamonga had over 145,000 residents, of whom 53,054 voted.

According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 2020, there were 1,016,190 registered voters in San Bernardino County. Of those, 410,197 (40.37%) were registered Democrats, 298,234 (29.35%) were registered Republicans, with the remainder belonging to minor political parties or declining to state.

On November 4, 2008, San Bernardino County voted 67% for Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Public safety

Law enforcement

SBC Sheriff's department operates a sizable fleet of helicopters. Shown here are a Bell 212 (foreground) and a Sikorsky S-61 at the air unit's Rialto Airport headquarters.

The current district attorney is Jason Anderson, who was elected in March 2018 and took office on January 1, 2019.

The county's primary law enforcement agency is the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. The department provides law enforcement services in the unincorporated areas of the county and in 14 contract cities, operates the county jail system, provides marshal services in the county superior courts, and has numerous other divisions to serve the residents of the county.

Fire rescue

The county operates the San Bernardino County Consolidated Fire District (commonly known as the San Bernardino County Fire Department). The department provides "all-risk" fire, rescue, and emergency medical services to all unincorporated areas in the county except for several areas served by independent fire protection districts, and several cities that chose to contract with the department.


The following table includes the number of incidents reported and the rate per 1,000 persons for each type of offense.

Cities by population and crime rates


Colleges and universities


The San Bernardino County Library System consists of 33 branches across the county. The library system also has inter-library loan partnerships with libraries in College of the Desert, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, and Victorville. Library services offered vary from branch to branch, but include internet access, children's story times, adult literacy services, book clubs, classes, and special events. The library system also offers e-books, digital music and movie downloads, free access to online learning through, and many other digital services.

City-sponsored public libraries also exist in San Bernardino County, including A. K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands, California, which was built in 1898. Other public libraries in the County include: The San Bernardino City Public Library System, Rancho Cucamonga Public Library, Upland Public Library, Colton City Library, and the Ontario City Library. These libraries are separate from the county system and do not share circulation privileges.


Major highways

Public transportation

  • Morongo Basin Transit Authority provides bus service in Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms (including the Marine base). Limited service is also provided to Palm Springs.
  • Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority (MARTA) covers the Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear regions. Limited service is also provided to Downtown San Bernardino.
  • Needles Area Transit serves Needles and the surrounding county area.
  • Omnitrans provides transit service in the urbanized portion of San Bernardino County, serving the City of San Bernardino, as well as the area between Montclair and Yucaipa.
  • Victor Valley Transit Authority operates buses in Victorville, Hesperia, Adelanto, Apple Valley and the surrounding county area.
  • Foothill Transit connects the Inland Empire area to the San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles.
  • RTA connects Montclair, and Anaheim to Riverside County.
  • San Bernardino County is also served by Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains. Metrolink commuter trains connect the urbanized portion of the county with Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.


Environmental quality

California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued the county in April 2007 under the state's environmental quality act for failing to account for the impact of global warming in the county's 25-year growth plan, approved in March. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society also sued in a separate case. According to Brendan Cummings, a senior attorney for the plaintiffs: "San Bernardino has never seen a project it didn't like. They rubber-stamp development. It's very much of a frontier mentality." The plaintiffs want the county to rewrite its growth plan's environmental impact statement to include methods to measure greenhouse gases and take steps to reduce them.

According to county spokesman David Wert, only 15% of the county is controlled by the county[clarification needed]; the rest is cities and federal and state land. However, the county says it will make sure employment centers and housing are near transportation corridors to reduce traffic and do more to promote compact development and mass transit. The county budgeted $325,000 to fight the lawsuit.

The state and the county reached a settlement in August 2007. The county agreed to amend its general plan to include a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan, including an emission inventory and reduction targets.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Indian Reservations

Ghost towns

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of San Bernardino County.

county seat

Places of interest

See also

Newspapers, past and present

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article San Bernardino County, California, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.