Sacramento, California
United States of America


Sacramento, capital city of California and seat of Sacramento County, located in the central part of the state in the fertile Sacramento Valley. Sacramento is situated at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River. The state’s seventh-largest city at the 2000 census, Sacramento was the gateway to the mining regions during the California gold rush of 1849 and long has been one of the West’s leading commercial and transportation centers. The city takes its name from the Sacramento River, named by early Spanish explorers in honor of the Christian sacraments.

Sacramento and Its Metropolitan Area

The city of Sacramento covers a land area of 249.4 sq km (96.3 sq mi). Old Sacramento, a collection of restored and reconstructed buildings from the mid-19th century, is along the eastern bank of the Sacramento River and has a mean elevation of 9.1 m (30.0 ft). On the north side of this historic district stands the California State Railroad Museum, which traces the history of American railroading. Three blocks south of Old Sacramento is the Crocker Art Museum, the oldest art museum in the West, whose private collection and building were donated to the public in 1885 by the museum founders. The city’s central thoroughfare is Capitol Avenue, leading from the river to the restored state capitol building (completed in 1874) and its surrounding park. On both sides of this broad boulevard are high-rise office buildings. Northeast of the capitol is the expanded Sacramento Convention Center. A dozen blocks farther east is Sutter’s Fort, marking the location of the first white settlement in the area in 1839.

The Sacramento primary metropolitan area includes Sacramento, El Dorado, and Placer counties. Much of the metropolitan area is unincorporated; cities in the region include Auburn, Folsom, Placerville, Rocklin, and Roseville. Yolo County, which is part of the larger consolidated metropolitan statistical area, also includes West Sacramento, Davis, and Woodland.


Some of the richest farmlands in the nation surround Sacramento. Sacramento serves as the region’s principal marketing, processing, and shipping center for a wide variety of agricultural products. Most of the area’s nonagricultural labor force works in manufacturing and service activities, including government and commerce. The high-technology sector is becoming increasingly important. Principal manufactures include processed foods, transportation equipment, chemicals, and electronic equipment. The largest employers are agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.

Sacramento is the transportation hub for the interior of California. The Port of Sacramento operates a 76-km (47-mi) ship channel that allows oceangoing ships to reach the city. The port handles more than 1.15 million metric tons of cargo each year and generates $54 million in annual revenues. An international airport, Sacramento International Airport, is located north of the city. Several major highways serve the Sacramento area. In addition, Amtrak provides regular passenger rail service to the city, and a light-rail system links the downtown area with several surrounding suburbs; the system was undergoing expansion in the mid-1990s.


The population of Sacramento was 407,018 in 2000. The city’s population expanded rapidly in the second half of the 20th century, increasing from 137,572 in 1950. Likewise, the Sacramento-Yolo consolidated metropolitan statistical area has also increased, rising from 1,100,000 in 1980 to 1,797,000 in 2000. Newcomers were attracted by the area’s climate, economic opportunities, and low cost of living.

According to the 2000 census, whites represent 48.3 percent of the population; Asians, 16.6 percent; blacks, 15.5 percent; Native Americans, 1.3 percent; and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, 0.9 percent. People of mixed heritage or not reporting race are 17.4 percent of the population. Hispanics, who may be of any race, make up 21.6 percent.

Education and Culture

Sacramento is one of California’s educational and cultural centers. In addition to several private colleges and universities, including the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law (founded in 1924), the city is the site of California State University at Sacramento (1947). A community college is also located in the city; two more are in the county.

Sacramento is known for its public art, which is promoted and administered by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. In addition, more than 100 galleries in the area display the works of contemporary artists, and the Crocker Art Museum has an excellent collection of 19th-century California paintings among its holdings. Performing-arts groups include the Sacramento Theater Company, Sacramento Ballet, Sacramento Symphony, Camellia Symphony, and Sacramento Opera Association. Among the annual events in Sacramento are the Martin Luther King Community Celebration (held in January), Chinese New Year Celebration (February), California Railroad Festival (June), and California State Fair (August).


The city of Sacramento has more than 120 parks. The most popular is William Land Park, site of the Sacramento Zoo. Just outside town is the American River Parkway, a county park that offers riverside trails for bicycling, walking, and jogging, and ample opportunities for fishing and rafting. ARCO Arena is home of the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association and the Sacramento Monarchs of the Women's National Basketball Association, as well as roller hockey and indoor soccer teams.


Sacramento is governed by an eight-member city council and a mayor, elected by the voters to serve four-year terms. The mayor is elected on a citywide basis, while the council members are elected by district. The council hires a city manager as the city’s chief administrative officer. The city also is the seat of government of Sacramento County, which is governed by an elected board of five county supervisors.


The Nisenan people, also known as the Southern Maidu, have lived for thousands of years in the Sacramento Valley. The first nonnative resident of the area was John A. Sutter, a Swiss immigrant who received a land grant from the Mexican government in 1839. Sutter built a fort on the site of present-day Sacramento and called his settlement New Helvetia. In 1848 James Wilson Marshall, Sutter's partner in a lumber mill, discovered gold at the mill, which was located in Coloma, northeast of New Helvetia. Despite attempts by Sutter and Marshall to keep the discovery a secret, the area was soon overrun by gold seekers.

The town of Sacramento developed as a commercial and transportation center during the California gold rush. The city incorporated in 1850 and became the state capital in 1854. Six years later Sacramento became the western terminus of the Pony Express. Construction of the first transcontinental railroad began in the city in 1863.

The city continued to grow throughout the early 20th century. Its leading industry was the processing and canning of agricultural products. During and after World War II (1939-1945), Sacramento’s economy became more diverse. The downtown area was revitalized in the 1960s and 1970s by a massive urban-renewal project.

Sacramento was hit hard by the national recession of the 1990s, which was made worse for the region by the closure of several local military bases. The gradual conversion of these facilities to peacetime use and the growth of high-technology industries helped the city recover.