Salinas is the county seat and the largest municipality of Monterey County, California. Salinas is located 10 miles (16 km) east-southeast of the mouth of the Salinas River, at an elevation of about 52 feet (16 m) above sea level. The population was 150,441 at the 2010 census. The mostly suburban city is located at the mouth of the Salinas Valley roughly eight miles from the Pacific Ocean and has a mild climate. The city consists mostly of late 20th century single family homes, some low-level apartments, ranging from modest bungalows to spacious luxury homes. The climate is also ideal for the floral industry and grape vineyards planted by world-famous vintners. Salinas is known for being an agricultural center and also for being the hometown of the noted writer and Nobel Prize in Literature laureate John Steinbeck, who based several of his novels here.
The land currently occupied the City of Salinas is thought to have been settled by native Americans known as the Esselen prior to 200 AD. Between 200 and 500 AD, they were displaced by the Rumsen group of Ohlone speaking people, who were the inhabitants at contact with the Spanish. Large Spanish land grants for the Catholic Missions and as bonuses to soldiers gave way to Mexican land grants for smaller ranchos where mostly cattle were grazed, and a thriving trade in cattle hide came through the Port of Monterey.
California officially became part of the United States of America in 1850, following several years of battles in the Salinas area with John Fremont flying the American flag on the highest peak of the Gabilan Mountains and claiming California for the United States. Before this time Monterey was the capital of California and had been under military rule after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American war.