The name North Fork is derived from the town’s location on the North Fork of Willow Creek. Just outside of ‘town’ is the ‘suburb’ of South Fork, referring to the area just past where the bridge crosses the South Fork of Willow Creek. When asked whether they are in Northern or Southern California the residents in North Fork delight in pointing out their town is the exact geographical center of California.
North Fork began as a stopping place for provisions at Brown’s Store on the trail taking cattle across the Sierras to feed the gold miners in Mammoth. Shortly thereafter a lumber mill was built and North Fork grew up around it. The town grew to the point that in the mid 1940s there were four grocery stores, a pharmacy, two gas stations, a movie theater, a hardware store, and several motels. The elementary school supported more than 200 students. The annual payroll at the mill was over $1 Million in the mid 1960s. In 1996 the mill closed plunging the local workers into unemployment and causing many of the local stores and services to close. The town is in a cycle of rebirth helped by becoming the first stop on the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway to the High Sierras while the local residents are working to preserve its small town character. Today the estimated population is 3500 people consisting of the long time residents plus retirees looking for a peaceful village to escape from big city living.
North Fork Area Schools
The State Center Community College District operates the Oakhurst Center which offers a wide variety of courses including vocational and traditional degree programs.
The central valley city of Fresno is the home to California State University, Fresno. Fresno State, as the locals call it, is known for its strong academic programs and for its ardent sports fans. Fresno state is the home of the Bulldogs.