Sonora is the county seat of Tuolumne County, California. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 4,423. Sonora is the only incorporated community in Tuolumne County. Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in the heart of California’s “Gold Country,” Sonora was named after the miners from Sonora, Mexico who settled the city in 1848. Known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines”, the city still has many buildings dating back to the 1800s. Incorporated in 1851, the hastily established mining camp took on the identity of a town and, while gold mining was the driving force of the city, it quickly evolved into the commercial, government, and cultural center for the area.
Sonora is located at , around the intersection of California State Highways 49 and 108 The altitude is 1,825ft/556m. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.0 square miles (7.9 km²), all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there are 4,423 people, 2,051 households, and 1,046 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,456.2 people per square mile (561.8/km²). There are 2,197 housing units at an average density of 723.3/sq mi (279.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 91.36% White, 0.68% African American, 1.49% Native American, 1.22% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 1.99% from other races, and 3.12% from two or more races. 8.41% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 2,051 households out of which 24.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.2% are married couples living together, 14.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 49.0% are non-families. 40.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 15% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.06 and the average family size is 2.75.
In the city the population is spread out with 20.4% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 26.3% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 41 years. For every 100 females there are 82.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 77.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $28,858, and the median income for a family is $39,722. Males have a median income of $40,958 versus $26,111 for females. The per capita income for the city is $19,248. 16.9% of the population and 10.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 22.8% of those under the age of 18 and 7.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
In the state legislature Sonora is located in the 14th Senate District, represented by Republican Dave Cogdill, and in the 25th Assembly District, represented by Republican Tom Berryhill. Federally, Sonora is located in California's 19th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +10 and is represented by Republican George Radanovich.
Founded by Mexican miners during the California Gold Rush (to remind them of the state of Sonora, Mexico), Sonora still echoes some of its history through preserved architecture. The current Latino community makes up 8.41% of the population.
The journal of William Perkins offers an account of Sonora at the height of the gold rush.
Sonora's continuity today as an active city is almost entirely sustained via the tourism industry. Despite recent mill closings, small manufacturers have continued to move to Sonora from the Bay Area. Columbia College is the local institute of higher education and Sonora is with in driving distance of the new UC Merced (University of California, Merced).
Well-known people associated with Sonora: