As we continue our walk across America, we have arrived in Los Banos, California. Los Banos is a city in Merced County, California, near the junction of State Route 152 and Interstate 5. Los Banos is located 26 miles (42 km) southwest of Merced, at an elevation of 118 feet (36 m). The population was 35,972 at the 2010 census, up from 25,869 at the 2000 census. The city is served by Los Banos Municipal Airport for air transport access.
The Los Banos area was initially settled, according to Mexican land grant records, back in the 1840s. The first white settler in the area was Uriah Wood, who built his two room cabin in 1859. The original site of Los Banos was located several miles from the current town center, about a mile and half west of the railroad near present day Volta. The town was essentially a trading post and received its name when the Post Office was established and the Post Office Department designated the office "Los Banos" after the nearby creek. When the railroad arrived, Los Banos relocated to its present day site.
The first post office opened in 1873.
Land and water rights were important to early Los Banos residents. But those rights were recognized only when the land and deed were registered. Sometimes those rights depended on fleet footedness, as it did in the "race" between Los Banos residents Uriah Wood and Henry Miller. Wood, whose homestead resided off of Badger Flat Road, raced Miller to the land office in Stockton to insure his claim to the land would be recognized. After crossing the San Joaquin River, Wood paid the ferryman $5 to hold the boat on the east side of the river to insure he would gain sufficient distance from Miller to insure he would reach the land office first. Wood did and the seven sections that he registered cost him only .45¢ an acre.
The centerpiece of downtown Los Banos is the newly created Miller Plaza which honors early California rancher, Henry Miller. The 10-acre (40,000 m2) half-oval public plaza features a monumental scale bronze arrangement of Miller with cattle. At one time in the late nineteenth century, Miller was the largest land owner in the United States. His company, the Miller & Lux Corporation, was headquartered in Los Banos on a site currently housing the Mexican restaurant España's and the Canal Farm Inn.
Los Banos has a long history of Portuguese and Spanish immigrants, as do many of the nearby towns on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. This is reflected both in local restaurants and in several festivals and parades that take place during the year. Los Banos is locally known for its annual May Day Fair during the first week of May.
Los Banos is home to The Randall Fawcett House which is a Frank Lloyd Wright designed Usonian home.
A member of the Manson family, Susan Atkins attended Los Banos High School, before joining the family.