The state of California, also called the Golden State is located on the western coast of USA. It stretches from 114° 8′ W to 124° 24′ W and 32° 30′ N to 42° N. The state is bordered by Oregon in the north, Arizona and Nevada to the east, Pacific Ocean on the west and Mexico in the south. With its diverse physical features and famous icons California is one of the richest states of America. Its capital is Sacramento.
The geography of California can be described in short as follows:
- Covering an area of 163707 square miles, California is the third largest state in America. At its widest, it stretches for 560 miles from east to west and 1040 miles from north to south. It has a coastline 840 miles long.
- The California Central Valley lies in the middle of the state bounded by various mountain ranges like Tehachapi in the south, Cascade ranges in the north, Sierra Nevada in the east and Coastal mountain ranges in the west.
- The Coastal ranges contain mountains like Diablo and Santa Cruz and valleys like Napa Valley and Santa Clara. The San Andreas Fault runs through this range. The famous Californian redwood is found here.
- The Sierra Nevada runs for 430 miles and contains the highest peak of the country south of Alaska, Mt. Whitney (14494 feet). The Yosemite Valley in this range is a spectacular spot.
- The Cascade Mountains are volcanic in origin and contain Mt. Shasta which was an active volcano.
- The Central valley or the Great valley stretches for about 450 miles and is drained by San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. It is a broad fertile plain and is agriculturally the most productive region of the state.
- Other important rivers of the state include Eel, Salinas, Santa Ana, Colorado, Mojave etc.
- The Basin and Range region occupies southeastern part of California. The northern portion of this region is a lava plateau while the southern portion is covered by the famous Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. The famous Death Valley lies here where the Bad water basin lies at a height of -282 feet. It is one of the lowest and most inhospitable regions of the earth.
- Apart from these, the Los Angeles range and the San Diego ranges add diversity to the topography of California.
The general climate of California is:
- Most of the state of California is characterized by Mediterranean climate. Mild rainy winters and dry summers are common. However. Local influence causes variations in the climate of California.
- The average monthly temperature varies from the highest at 92.2°F to 14.3°F.
- Northern region is cool; southern region is hot and dry while the coastal region have mild climate.
- The cool California current gives rise to fogs in the coastal area.
Flora and fauna
The great variety of climate and topography has given rise to diverse and rich flora and fauna of the state.
- Redwood, Douglas fir, sequoia, sugar pine, azalea etc are common. Lodge pole pine, Red fir etc grow at higher elevation.
- Wildflowers include tulip, tiger lilies and leopard lilies.
- Wildlife of the state includes opossum, jackrabbit, bobcat, cougar, black bear, mountain lion, chipmunks etc.
- Rattlesnakes and garter snakes are common. The state has a number of species of birds like roadrunner, owl, blue fronted jay etc. finally, aquatic life thrives in the freshwater lakes and rivers.
California was visited by waves of settlers and the result is a highly culturally and linguistically diversified state. The long history of the state can be summarized as follows:
- More than seventy different tribes of Native American occupied various parts of California.
- In 1542, the first European explored parts of California. Since then, the Portuguese, Spanish and the British claimed parts of the state.
- In 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain and California became a part of Mexico.
- In 1846, by the Bear Flag revolt, the republic of California was created.
- The Mexican American war broke out in the same year. Finally, by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, California became a part of the United States while Mexico retained control over parts of the Baja peninsula.
- Originally, the state was sparsely populated, but when gold was discovered, the population swelled rapidly during the Great California Gold Rush.
- Today, California is the most populous state of America. Economic boom following the establishment of Hollywood studios and the Silicon Valley has contributed towards the growth of population.