Dos Palos (formerly Colony Center) is a city in Merced County, California, United States. Dos Palos is located 23 miles (37 km) south-southwest of Merced, at an elevation of 118 feet (36 m). The population was 4,950 at the 2010 census, up from 4,581 at the 2000 census.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP covers an area of 1.35 square miles (3.5 km2), all of it land.
In one of his expeditions during the 1820s along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, explorer Gabriel Moraga reported the location of two large isolated poplar trees, which he called “Dos Palos.” In 19th-century Spanish usage, “palos” was used to describe tall pole-like trees or “timbers”. 21st-century usage often translates it as “sticks.” The “Rancho Sanjon de Santa Rita” Mexican Land Grant cites “Los Dos Palos” or “The Two Trees” as a boundary marker. In 1891, former school superintendent Bernhard Marks convinced cattle ranch king Henry Miller to develop a small town nearby. They gave it the name “Dos Palos Colony” but pronounced it with their ethnic accents (Marks a Polish Jew and Miller an Alsatian German) as “Dahce Palace.” This pronunciation remained for over one hundred years until a recent Spanish pronunciation revival. Marks brought forty pioneer families west from Iowa and Nebraska to establish the community. In 1892, unable to find good water, many of the settlers left. Marks convinced Miller to establish another town two miles away on land unsuitable for farming and ranching due to swamps and unsettling soils. Some of the settlers relocated. This new town was named Colony Center, California. In 1906, Dos Palos Colony was renamed South Dos Palos and Colony Center was renamed Dos Palos. The Post Office was briefly misspelled as one word, “Dospalos” but this was changed within a year. About a dozen of the colony’s original families still reside locally. Through the years, people from many other locations joined the community. Dos Palos incorporated in 1935.