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California is the largest US state in population (39 million), and the third largest in the area (158,402 square miles - 410,000 kmē). California covers the southern half of the West Coast of the contiguous United States and has the economy among some of the largest in the world. California is a diverse agricultural, industrial and cultural center, rich in natural beauty and resources. Some call California "The Golden State".

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Long before the Europeans came the region was inhabited by Native Americans. California had the highest density, and greatest diversity of indigenous peoples in what is now the United States. Most anthropologists believe that the aboriginal population of California descended from ancient people who crossed into North America from Asia over the land bridge connecting the two continents thousands of years ago.

No one knows when those first people reached California, but it is likely that Native Americans were living here, hunting, fishing, and roaming the land for fifteen thousand years before first European explorers sailed along the California coast in the sixteenth century.

According to the most reliable contemporary estimates, the indigenous population of California was at least 300,000 and spoke perhaps as many as one hundred different languages. No area of comparable size in the world contained a greater variety of Native languages and cultures than did aboriginal California.

The first to explore the entire coast of California, and claim possession of it, was the Englishman Sir Francis Drake. His ship entered one of the bays somewhere near San Francisco on June 17, 1579. There, for the first time, Drake and his crew interacted with the local Indians and observed their customs and culture.

Spain colonized the coastal areas of the territory starting in 1769 when Spanish missionaries set up California Missions along the California coast. Missions were frontier institutions, established to advance and consolidate the Spanish empire, as well as to convert Indians to Catholicism, with the goal of transforming the Native people into useful, productive members of the Spanish empire.

Name "California" probably came from "caliente fornalia", Spanish for hot furnace, or from "calida fornax", Latin for hot climate. Some argue it came from word "Califa", legendary figure in the indigenous settlement.

Beginning in the 1820's, trappers and settlers from the United States and Canada began to arrive. Explorers were coming from as far as Russia to make claims for the new land.

As a result of the Mexican War of Independence, California became a part of the Mexican Republic in 1821. For a quarter century after the achievement of Mexican independence California was a remote northern province of Mexico.

Huge cattle ranches, or "ranchos", emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California dependent upon the labor of Native Americans. The Indian workers were nominally free, but in reality, they were bound to the service of the ranchero, in a state which was essentially a feudal society.


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On June 14, 1846, historic Bear Flag was raised at Sonoma by a group of American settlers in revolt against Mexican rule. The star imitated the lone star of Texas and a grizzly bear represented the many bears seen in the state.


California was subsequently captured by the United States in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), which was concluded with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the cession of vast lands from Mexico to the United States. The war was fueled in part by feelings of Manifest Destiny, a popular sentiment in the United States that viewed the expansion of the nation as an inevitability.

The California "Gold Rush" began on January 24, 1848, when James Wilson Marshall found a glittering particle in the waters of the American River, and a gold fever soon swept the nation and the world.

Following the stories of gold nuggets, some as large as hens' eggs, hundreds of thousands of newcomers rushed to California from everywhere. Gold seekers flooded into San Francisco and hundreds of other boom towns which sprang to life in California during the "Gold Rush".

The California "Gold Rush" of 1848-1849 brought about 90,000 additional US immigrants into the state and California became the 31st state of the Union in 1850.

The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 was a major event in California history. The railroad linked California with the rest of the nation and ushered in an era of economic consolidation and growth.

California was hit hard by the economic collapse of the 1930s. Businesses failed, workers lost their jobs, and families fell into poverty. In spite of the general gloom of the decade, Californians continued to build and celebrate their "Golden State".

Today California is one of the largest agricultural, scientific and technological, cultural and entertainment centers of the world. Moving into the future with confidence, California is one of the leaders on issues like preserving the environment, finding alternative energy sources, medical and aerospace research.



California borders Oregon in the north, Nevada, and Arizona in the east. The Mexican state of Baja California in the south, and the Pacific Ocean in the west. California state has beautiful natural features, including an expansive central valley, tall mountains, deserts, forests and hundreds of miles of scenic coastline.

Central Coast

California state width is 250 miles (400 km) and the length is 770 miles (1,240 km) - Latitude 32°30'N to 42°N - Longitude 114°8'W to 124°24'W.

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California's geography is rich, complex, and varied. In the middle of the state lies the California Central Valley, a huge, fertile valley bounded by the mountain ranges. The Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland and grows a large portion of America's food.

The Central Valley lies between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada. More than 400 miles long and about 50 miles wide, the Central Valley is the most productive agricultural area in California. It is really two valleys in one: San Joaquin Valley the south, and the Sacramento Valley in the north. Irrigated cropland today covers most of Central Valley and produces more agricultural products than any comparable region in the world.

Almost 90% of all American wine comes from California's 1,200 wineries, and it's the world's fourth-largest wine producer.

The coastline of California stretches for 1,264 miles, from the Oregon border in the north to Mexico in the south. Some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of the California lies along the Pacific coast. Standing alone on this spectacular coast is a scenic and rugged area of grandeur proportions called Big Sur.

In the center and east of the state are the Sierra Nevada (The Snowy Range in Spanish), which include the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4,421 m). Also located in the Sierra are the world-famous Yosemite National Park and a deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe, the largest lake in the state by volume.

To the east of the Sierra Nevada are Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential seabird habitat. To the west is Clear Lake, California's largest freshwater lake by area. The Sierra Nevada reaches Arctic temperatures in the winter and has several dozen small glaciers, including the most southern glacier in the United States (Palisade Glacier).

About 35% of the California's total surface area is covered by forests. Among them are Coastal Redwood and Giant Sequoia, trees living for up to 2,000 years, and commonly considered the tallest in the world, reaching up to 112 m (367 ft) in height. California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska.

Deserts in California make up about 25% of the total surface area. The Colorado Desert stretches over 4,000 square miles in southeastern California. The Colorado Desert includes the Coachella and Imperial valleys with the man-made Salton Sea between.

Almost all of southeastern California is hot desert, with the Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley routinely experiencing extremely high temperatures during the summer. The Coachella Valley in Riverside County is famous for its popular tourist destination Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park.

The south-central desert is called the Mojave covering some 25,000 square miles. To the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley which is about 130 miles long, and 6 to 14 miles wide. In the center of the valley is Badwater, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. The lowest point of Death Valley and the peak of Mount Whitney (the highest point) are less than 200 miles apart.

California is famous for earthquakes due to the presence of a number of faults, in particular, the San Andreas Fault. California's earthquakes are frequent (one every eight minutes) and have a tendency to strike in highly populated areas. A few are damaging, even deadly, but most are not even felt.California is also home to several volcanoes, some active such as Mammoth Mountain. Other volcanoes include Lassen Peak and the magnificent Mount Shasta.

Most of the state of California has a Mediterranean climate, with rainy winters and dry summers. Winds from the ocean bring moisture, and the northern parts of the state generally receive higher annual rainfall amounts than the south.

California Coast

On the coast the influence of the Pacific ocean generally moderates temperature extremes, creating warmer winters and substantially cooler summers, with often summer fog (called "June Gloom") near the coast. Further inland, the climate becomes more continental with colder winters and markedly hotter summers.

The Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate but with greater temperature extremes than the coastal areas: parts of the valley are often filled with thick fog, similar to that found in the coastal valleys.

The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.

California's desert climate regions lie east of the high Sierra Nevada and Southern California's Ranges. The low deserts east of the Southern California mountains, including the Imperial and Coachella valleys and the lower Colorado River, are part of the Sonoran Desert, with hot summers and mild winters.

The higher elevation deserts of Eastern California, including the Mojave Desert and Owens Valley, are part of the Great Basin region, with hot summers and cold winters.

The Santa Ana winds are warm, dry winds that characteristically appear in Southern California weather during autumn and early winter. As the Santa Ana winds are channeled through the mountain passes they can approach hurricane force. The combination of wind, heat, and dryness turns the chaparral into explosive fuel for the infamous wildfires that burn thousands of acres every year.

During the summer months, the region is affected by the Mexican Monsoon which drives moisture from the tropical Pacific, Gulf of California and Gulf of Mexico into the deserts, setting off often, brief thunderstorms, particularly over mountainous terrain.


Major Cities:
Most major cities are at or near the Pacific coastline, notably Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach and San Diego. The capital, Sacramento, is in the Central Valley. California is the home of several significant economic regions, such as Hollywood (entertainment), the California Central Valley (agriculture), Silicon Valley (computers and high tech), and the Wine Country.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the largest city in the state and 2nd largest in the country. A sprawling metropolis LA is a patchwork of distinct neighborhoods adorned by the beach, mountains, and the hills. Considered an entertainment Mecca, Los Angeles encompasses the city of Hollywood, home to the most powerful cinema industry in the world.

Further down the coast, San Diego, hi-tech center and one of the fastest growing cities in the US.

In the north, California is dominated by San Francisco Bay area. The region between San Francisco and San Jose, known as "Silicon Valley", is headquarters to some of the largest software and computer companies in the world, as well as home to Stanford University and NASA.



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