- Total 4,839 sq mi (12,530 km2)
- Land 4,824 sq mi (12,490 km2)
- Water 14 sq mi (40 km2)
Highest elevation 14,501 ft (4,420 m)
Population (April 1, 2010)
- Total 442,179
- Estimate (2016) 460,437
- Density 91/sq mi (35/km2)
The land was occupied for thousands of years by varying cultures of indigenous peoples. Beginning in the eighteenth century, Spain established missions to colonize California and convert the American Indians to Christianity. Comandante Pedro Fages, while hunting for deserters in the Central Valley in 1772, discovered a great lake surrounded by marshes and filled with rushes; he named it Los Tules (the tules). It is from this lake that the county derives its name. The root of the name Tulare is found in the Nahuatl word tullin, designating cattail or similar reeds.
After Mexico achieved independence, it continued to rule California. After the Mexican Cession and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the area became part of the United States. Tulare County was soon formed from parts of Mariposa County only 4 years later in 1852. There were two early attempts to split off a new Buena Vista County in 1855, and Coso County in 1864, but both failed. Parts of the county’s territory were given to Fresno County in 1856, to Kern County and to Inyo County in 1866 and to Kings County in 1893.
The infectious disease Tularemia caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis is named after Tulare County.
In 1908 Colonel Allen Allensworth and associates founded Allensworth as a black farming community. They intended to develop a place where African Americans could thrive free of white discrimination. It was the only community in California founded, financed and governed by African Americans. While its first years were highly successful, the community encountered environmental problems from dropping water tables which eventually caused it to fail. Today the historic area is preserved as the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.