Amador County, officially the County of Amador, is a county in the U.S. state of California, in the Sierra Nevada. As of the 2010 census, the population was 38,091. The county seat is Jackson.
Amador County bills itself as "The Heart of the Mother Lode" and lies within the Gold Country. There is a substantial viticultural industry in the county.
Amador County was created by the California Legislature on May 11, 1854. The county later split into Amador, Calaveras, and El Dorado Counties. It was organized on July 3, 1854. In 1864, part of the county's territory was given to Alpine County.
The county is named for José María Amador, a soldier, rancher, and miner, born in San Francisco in 1794, the son of Sergeant Pedro Amador (a Spanish soldier who settled in California in 1771) and younger brother to Sinforosa Amador.
In 1848, Jose Maria Amador, with several Native Americans, established a successful gold mining camp near the present town of Amador City. In Spanish, the word amador means "one who loves". Some of the Mother Lode's most successful gold mines were located in Amador County, including the Kennedy, Argonaut, and Keystone.
"The Luck of Roaring Camp" is a short story by American author Bret Harte. It was first published in the August 1868 issue of the Overland Monthly and helped push Harte to international prominence. Harte lived in this area during his "Gold Rush" period, and possibly based the story in a mining camp on the Mokelumne River.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 606 square miles (1,570 km2), of which 595 square miles (1,540 km2) is land and 11.4 square miles (30 km2) (1.9%) is water. It is the fifth-smallest county in California by land area and second-smallest by total area. Water bodies in the county include Lake Amador, Lake Camanche, Pardee Reservoir, Bear River Reservoir, Silver Lake, Sutter Creek, Cosumnes River, Mokelumne River, and Tabeaud Lake.
Amador County is located approximately 45 miles (72 km) southeast of Sacramento in the part of California known as the Mother Lode, or Gold Country in the Sierra Nevada.
Amador County ranges in elevation from approximately 250 feet (76 m) in the western portion of the county to over 9,000 feet (2,700 m) in the eastern portion of the county. The county is bordered on the north by the Cosumnes River and El Dorado County and on the south by the Mokelumne River and Calaveras County, on the west by Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties, and the east by Alpine County.
Though not as well known as the Napa Valley AVA or Sonoma Valley AVA viticultural regions of California, the Shenandoah Valley was once the principal viticultural region of California. With the discovery of gold, the area quickly became a mecca for those trying to make their fortune. In the process numerous wineries sprouted up, many of whose vineyards are still in use by wineries today. The decline of the California Gold Rush coupled with the onset of Prohibition devastated the wine-making region of Amador County. Today this area has been resurrected and is now home to over 40 different wineries. Amador County is renowned for its Zinfandel, but many other varietals are produced as well. Amador County has a high percentage of old Zinfandel vines. Some of the Zinfandel vineyards in this county are more than 125 years old, including the original Grandpère vineyard, planted with Zinfandel before 1869 and believed to be the oldest Zinfandel vineyard in America. This 10-acre (40,000 m2) vineyard is home to some of the oldest Zinfandel vines on Earth, with proof of their existence dating to 1869 when it was listed as a descriptor on a deed from the U.S. Geological Survey. A grant deed in Amador County records further proves their existence in 1869. These old vines produce intense flavors allowing winemakers to make outstanding Zinfandels.
There are numerous gold mines in Amador County including the Argonaut Mine, the Kennedy Mine, the Central Eureka, and the Lincoln. The Kennedy Mine in Jackson was the deepest gold mine of its time. The federal government closed all of the Mother Lode's mines in 1942 because they were considered non-essential to the war effort. Recently the Sutter Gold Mining Company has attempted to re-open the Lincoln Mine just north of Sutter Creek. If the mine successfully reaches the operation phase, it will be the first corporately funded, large scale underground gold mine in the area in over 70 years.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Amador County had a population of 38,091. The racial makeup of Amador County was 33,149 (87.0%) White, 962 (2.5%) African American, 678 (1.8%) Native American, 419 (1.1%) Asian, 77 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 1,450 (3.8%) from other races, and 1,356 (3.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4,756 persons (12.5%).
As of the census of 2000, there were 35,100 people, 12,759 households, and 9,071 families residing in the county. The population density was 59 people per square mile (23/km²). There were 15,035 housing units at an average density of 25 per square mile (10/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 85.8% White, 3.9% Black or African American, 1.8% Native American, 1.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.0% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. 8.9% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14.9% were of German, 12.6% English, 11.7% Irish, 8.8% Italian and 7.3% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 93.1% spoke English and 5.1% Spanish as their first language.
There were 12,759 households out of which 26.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.9% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.9% were non-families. 23.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the county, the population was spread out with 20.6% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 28.3% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 122.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 123.4 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $42,280, and the median income for a family was $51,226. Males had a median income of $39,697 versus $28,850 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,412. About 6.1% of families and 9.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.1% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.
Historically Amador was a Democratic-leaning county that voted Republican only in landslide victories. Between 1876 and 1976, Amador voted Republican only in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1920, 1952 and 1972 – and even in George McGovern’s landslide loss it voted more Democratic than the nation. Currently Amador is a strongly Republican county in Presidential and congressional elections. The last Democrat to win a majority in the county was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Amador County is in California's 4th congressional district, represented by Republican Tom McClintock. In the State Assembly, the county is in the 5th Assembly District, represented by Republican Frank Bigelow. In the California State Senate, the county is in the 8th Senate District, represented by Republican Tom Berryhill.
The following table includes the number of incidents reported and the rate per 1,000 persons for each type of offense.
Amador Regional Transit System (ARTS) provides service in Jackson and nearby communities. Connections to Calaveras County and Sacramento are additionally provided.
Amador County Airport is a general aviation airport located near Jackson.
Amador County is home of the California Gold Rush, and many century-old gold-mining sites in the county are now popular tourist destinations, as are other attractions such as:
The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Amador County.
† county seat
Coordinates: 38°26′N 120°40′W / 38.44°N 120.66°W / 38.44; -120.66