In an earlier post I introduced the concept of “Porterville Island”. Here I want to introduce Porterville and the region in order to make this idea clearer.
Porterville is located in Tulare County of Calfornia, in the Central Valley. The Valley as a whole is the most fertile and productive farmland in the world. The west side is bordered by the Coastal Range that rises out of the Pacific, and the east side by the mighty Sierra Mountains. East to west the valley is generally 50 to 100 miles wide. North to South, the Valley extends 400 miles from the Angeles and Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles.
The Valley is so vast that in some regards geographically, it is actually 2 Valleys. The northern half, often called the Sacramento Valley lies north of the Sacramento Delta, which is the main drainage from the Sierras to the San Francisco Bay and a leading source of water for all of California.
The southern half, known as the San Joaquin Valley, is where you will find Porterville and Tulare County.
The two largest population centers in the San Joaquin Valley are Fresno (population 400,000) and Bakersfield (population 300,000). Both are located on California Highway 99, the easternmost of two north-south highways in the Central Valley. The cities are about 150 miles apart. Porterville is located approximately halfway along that axis, but 23 miles east of the highway.
Just for a reference, it is approximately 180 miles driving to Los Angeles, 200 miles to San Jose and 220 miles to San Francisco from Porterville.
Porterville is actually at the very eastern edge of the Valley. On the east side of town, the foothills of the Sierra begin, and the larger ranges are easily visible from anywhere in town on a clear day (which are disturbingly few due to smog problems which I will discuss in a later post).
This time of year, the mountain snowcap is quite striking and scenic. No less an authority then John Muir found the mountains above Tulare County to be at least the equal in beauty to the much better know area around what is now Yosemite National Park (about 100 miles away as the crow flies).
I believe that with Porterville’s current population estimated between 40 and 50,000, it is the largest town in California as far from a major highway as it is.
In the next post in this series, I will outline the nature of the economy of the region and return to the issue of population distirbution.