Discovering Northern California
Contra Costa County

Contra Costa County Holds
Many Surprises and Insider Secrets

For one thing, while others were looking to strike it rich by digging for gold throughout California - in Contra Costa County, people were digging for black diamonds, otherwise known as coal.

Situated in the East Bay of San Francisco's Bay Area, this county is an interesting place, geologically.

In addition to the coal and sand deposits found in the north, there are fossil remains in the south, ridges that expose intact ancient seashells, and layers of volcanic ash.

Other surprises include that John Muir - famed Scottish-American naturalist, wilderness advocate, and protector of what was to become Yosemite National Park - lived on and worked a 2600 acre fruit orchard ranch in the county, near Martinez CA.

And have you heard of Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond CA? Not to be blamed if you haven't - it was just created in 2000 and is still being developed.

Top Ten Contra Costa Towns

Concord, the largest city in the county, was founded by Salvio Pacheco in 1869 as Todos Santos.

Originally named Smith's Landing by founder brothers, William and Joseph Smith, in 1850, Antioch is one of the oldest towns in California.

Richmond was founded and incorporated in 1905 and was home to no fewer than four shipyards built along the waterfront during World War II.

Founded in the mid-1800s as The Corners, the Walnut Creek Post Office was established in 1862. The little town began to grow when the Southern Pacific Railroad brought service to the area in 1891.

Pittsburg, an industrial city in eastern part of the county, was originally settled in 1839 as New York Landing.

Having started out as a farming community in the late 1800s, Brentwood is still known for the products of its farms and orchards.

Although the city of San Ramon was not incorporated until 1983, American settlers first arrived in the 1850s.

One of the wealthiest and most expensive cities in the Bay Area, Danville was named after Daniel Inman, who arrived in 1854 and - with his brother, Andrew - purchased 10,000 acres with their California Gold Rush monies.

Martinez is the county seat. Named for Ygnacio Martinez, Mexican land grant Rancho El Pinole owner, Martinez served as a way station for the California Gold Rush in 1849.

The first post office for what is now the city of Pleasant Hill was created in 1848, but the city wasn't incorporated until 1961.

Visiting Contra Costa Today

Contra Costa County Rolling Hills and Ranch CC Daniel HoherdRolling Hills and Ranch CC Daniel Hoherd

According to the county's official website, Contra Costa "was incorporated in 1850 as one of the original 27 counties of the State of California, with the City of Martinez as the County Seat. It is one of the nine counties of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area [and] is the ninth most populous county in California..."

The county played an enormous part in the war effort during World War II with its ship building and home front activities. And the post-war years played an enormous part in the growth of the county.

Still, it wasn't that long ago - within my own life-memories as an adult - that Contra Costa was a mostly rural county filled with rolling hills and dipping valleys, cattle ranches, orchards and farms, and not much else.

The county's most notable feature is and was Mount Diablo, the 3849 foot centerpiece of Mount Diablo State Park - 20,000 acres of Spring wildflowers, an extensive trail system, wildlife, rock formations, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.

There is still much open space with scenic country drives, but in the intervening years, the towns and cities have burgeoned, prospered, and developed personalities, becoming attractions in their own rights.

County attractions include Mount Diablo State Park, the Mothball Fleet Tour, Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Cowell Ranch State Park and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, John Muir National Historic Site, Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park, Sunvalley Shopping Center, the Martinez Adobe, Waterworld USA...

We'll be addressing these and other Contra Costa attractions in the coming weeks and months, so check back often for:

  • Attractions
  • Communities
  • Parks and Reserves

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Discover Contra Costa County