Porterville is located 19 miles (30 km) east of California SR-99 via Ave 44 (CA SR-190).
Since its incorporation in 1902, the city's population has grown as it annexed nearby unincorporated areas. The city's July 2014 population (not including East Porterville) was estimated at 55,466. Porterville serves as a gateway to Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument and Kings Canyon National Park. During California's Spanish period, the San Joaquin Valley was considered a remote region of little value. Emigrants skirted the eastern foothills in the vicinity of Porterville as early as 1826. Swamps stretched out into the Valley floor lush with tall rushes or "tulares" as the Indians called them. Gold discovered in 1848 brought a tremendous migration to California, and prairie schooners rolled through Porterville between 1849 and 1852. Starting in 1854, Peter Goodhue operated a stopping place on the Stockton - Los Angeles Road on the bank of the Tule River. Wagon trains of gold seekers passed through the village, but other travelers found the land rich and remained to establish farms.