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Bonsall is a census-designated place (CDP) in San Diego County, California. The population was 3,982 at the 2010 census, up from 3,401 at the 2000 census.
The Bonsall area was heavily affected by the Lilac Fire in December 2017, which burned 4,100 acres.
The area known as Bonsall was originally called Mount Fairview and had a post office by that name from December 28, 1871 to December 28, 1880. It received a post office in 1881 under the name Osgood, after California Southern Railroad chief engineer Joseph O. Osgood; the renaming was supposedly an unsuccessful attempt to convince Osgood to build the railroad through the San Luis Rey River Valley (the rail line eventually followed the Santa Margarita River instead). Following a contest, the town was renamed Bonsall in 1890, after local minister James A. Bonsall.
Bonsall is just east of Oceanside and Camp Pendleton, north of Vista and northwest of Hidden Meadows.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 13.6 square miles (35 km2). The 13.4 square miles (35 km2) is land whereas 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) or (1.28%) is water.
At the 2010 census Bonsall had a population of 3,982. The population density was 293.5 people per square mile (113.3/km2). The racial makeup of Bonsall was 3,194 (80.2%) White, 67 (1.7%) African American, 28 (0.7%) Native American, 138 (3.5%) Asian, 10 (0.3%) Pacific Islander, 376 (9.4%) from other races, and 169 (4.2%) from two or more races.