Living in Riverside gives residents a dense suburban feel, and most residents own their homes. Riverside has plenty of cafes and parks, and many families and young professionals live in the area. Residents tend to lean towards liberals, and the county is included in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario Metropolitan Statistical Area, also known as the Inland Empire. It is also included in the Los Angeles-Long Beach Combined Statistical Area. Roughly rectangular, Riverside County covers 7,208 square miles (18,670 km) in Southern California, stretching from the Los Angeles metropolitan area to the Arizona border.
Geographically, the county is mostly desert in the central and eastern parts, but has a Mediterranean climate in the western part. Most of Joshua Tree National Park is located in the county. The resort towns of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage and Desert Hot Springs are located in the Coachella Valley region, in the center of Riverside County. When Riverside County was formed in 1893, it was named after the city of Riverside, which was founded in 1870 and received its name because of its location next to the Santa Ana River. The indigenous peoples of what is now Riverside County are the Luiseño, Cupeño and Cahuilla Indians. The Luiseño territory includes the Aguanga and Temecula basins, the Elsinore Depression and the eastern Santa Ana Mountains and south to San Diego County.
The territory of Cahuilla is located east and north of Luiseño, in the interior valleys, in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains and the Salton Sink Desert. The first European settlement in the county was a ranch or farm of the Saint Louis King Mission of France in the Luiseño village of Temescal. In 1819, the Mission granted Leandro Serrano permission to occupy the land for grazing and agriculture purposes, and Serrano established Rancho Temescal. Serrano was butler of San Antonio de Pala Assistance for the San Luis Rey Mission. The new county was created out of parts of San Bernardino County and San Diego County. In 1893, seventy percent of voters approved the formation of Riverside County.
Voters chose the city of Riverside as the county seat by a wide margin. Riverside County was officially formed on May 9th 1894 when the Board of Commissioners presented the final ballot count. Riverside County was an important focal point of civil rights movements in the United States, especially for African-Americans living in Riverside and for heavily Mexican-American communities of Coachella Valley visited by Cesar Chavez during his agricultural union struggle. There is a diversity of flora and fauna within Riverside County. Vegetative plant associations have a lot of desert flora, but there are also wooded areas within the county. California's endemic blue oak, Quercus douglasii, is found in its southernmost part within Riverside County. In 2010, according to census data from that year, there were 2,189,641 people living in Riverside County.
The population was dispersed with 30.3 per cent under 18 years old; 9.2 per cent from 18 to 24; 28.9 per cent from 25 to 44; 18.9 per cent from 45 to 64; and 12.7 per cent aged 65 or over. The median age was 33 years old. For every 100 women there were 99.1 men; for every 100 females age 18 or over there were 96.8 men. The municipal departments within Riverside County include Banning, Beaumont, Blythe, Calimesa, Cathedral City, Corona, Desert Hot Springs, Hemet, Indio, Menifee Murrieta Palm Springs Riverside and Riverside Community College. The table below includes reported incidents and rates per 1 000 people for each type of crime:
- Violent crime: 441 incidents per 1 000 people
- Property crime: 2 845 incidents per 1 000 people