Visalia ( vy-SAYL-ee-ə) is a city situated in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley of California, about 230 mi (370 km) southeast of San Francisco, 190 mi (310 km) north of Los Angeles, 36 mi (58 km) west of Sequoia National Park, and 43 mi (69 km) south of Fresno. The population was 134,605 as of a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimate. Visalia is the fifth-largest city in the San Joaquin Valley after Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto, the 44th-most populous in California, and 202nd in the United States.As the county seat of Tulare County, Visalia serves as the economic and governmental center to one of the most productive agricultural counties in the country.
Early growth in Visalia can be attributed in part to the gold rush along the Kern River. The gold fever brought many transient miners through Visalia along the way, and when the lure of gold failed to materialize, many returned to Visalia to live their lives and raise families. In 1859, Visalia was added to John Butterfield’s Overland Stage route from St. Louis to San Francisco. A plaque commemorating the location can be found at 116 East Main Street. Included in the early citizens were some notorious and nasty individuals who preyed upon the travelers along the Butterfield Stage route. Many saloons and hotels sprouted up around the stage stop downtown and commerce was brisk if a bit risky.
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