No staff members were injured in the disturbance, which erupted shortly before 11 a.m. at the California Mens Colony near San Luis Obispo, and took less than 10 minutes to bring under control, said Lieutenant Monica Ayon, the prison spokeswoman.
Nine inmates who suffered stab wounds in the melee were transported to a hospital for medical treatment, and one died there, she said. He was identified as Matthew Cook, who was serving a sentence of 13 years and eight months for burglary.
The condition of the eight others was not immediately known, but she said two of the injured were expected to be discharged and returned to the prison on Sunday evening.
At least three of the wounded inmates required trauma-level care, said Ron Yukelson, a spokesman for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where the prisoners were taken.
Ayon said the cause of the disturbance was under investigation. She said it was the largest riot, and the first such fatal incident, she could recall in her 22 years at the facility.
The California Mens Colony, opened in 1954, houses nearly 4,200 minimum- and medium-security inmates programs near San Luis Obispo, about 190 miles (305 km) north of Los Angeles.
Sundays riot occurred in a medium-security yard where some 600 inmates were present, but the disturbance involved between 160 and 170 of the prisoners, Ayon said. The entire facility was placed under special restrictions after the incident, with virtually all inmates confined to their cells as the yard was being cleared, she said.