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Community Introduction

Community Introduction

The first thing every school child learns about the town is that the name is Spanish for “butterfly.” Consequently, butterflies take center stage in Mariposa from business decorations to an annual Butterfly Days Festival!

California was originally peopled by Native American tribes, and those indigenous to the Mariposa Area are Miwoks. But, the first Europeans to explore the land came from the Spanish colony of Mexico. Those first explorers discovered a creek meandering through a gentle valley, and all around it swarmed butterflies. That intrepid explorer named the place “Arroyo de las Mariposas” which, roughly translated, means “stream of butterflies.” Eventually, after a couple of incarnations, the name of Mariposa stuck.

Mariposa lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in California at approximately a 2,000-foot elevation (1,953 feet according to the sign as you enter the town), and the town itself enjoys a modest population of about 1,769 people. (That figure is, of course, for the town itself and not the outlying areas.) The town of Mariposa is the County Seat of Mariposa County, and all of the local and most of the state and federal government offices are located there.


Mariposa County wraps around much of Yosemite National Park, and as such you can travel through Mariposa County on three of the four highways that enter the park.

Highway 140 is known as the all-season highway (because it remains open all year) It is, itself, a marvel as travelers rapidly ascend from the agricultural lands of the San Joaquin Valley, through foothills and, finally, follow the “Wild and Scenic” Merced River through a spectacular canyon.

Highway 132 is known as the John Muir Highway; the historic route John Muir traveled from San Francisco when he first headed out to explore this beautiful region.

Highway 41 is the most direct access to Yosemite when traveling from the south. An easy climb up to a 5,000-plus-foot elevation quickly puts you up in the tall pines and cool mountain air in Fish Camp, a scenic village complete with the world renowned Tenaya Lodge and the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, which are both destinations in their own right.

Though logging once flourished as an industry in Mariposa County, its prime industries now are tourism and agriculture.

Mariposa County is situated roughly in the center of California and is the southern link of the “gold chain” (the name given to the series of foothill towns that experienced the Gold Rush of the 1800s).

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