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California

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California on Wikipedia:

This article is about the U.S. State of California. For other uses, see California (disambiguation). State of California Flag Seal Nickname(s): The Golden State Motto(s): Eureka[1] before statehood, known as the California Republic Official language(s) English Demonym Californian Capital Sacramento

Etymology

Main article: Origin of the name California

The word California originally referred to the entire region composed of what is today the state of California, plus all or parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming, and the Mexican peninsula of Baja California.

The name California is most commonly believed to have derived from a fictional paradise peopled by Black Amazons and ruled by a Queen Califia. The myth of Califia is recorded in a 1510 work The Exploits of Esplandian, written as a sequel to Amadís de Gaula by Spanish adventure writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.[7][verification needed] The kingdom of Queen Califia or Calafia, according to Montalvo, was said to be a remote land inhabited by griffins and other strange beasts and rich in gold.

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island named California, very close to that part of the terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women, without a single man among them, and that they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body, with strong and passionate hearts and great virtues. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks. Their weapons were all made of gold. The island everywhere abounds with gold and precious stones, and upon it no other metal was found.[8][verification needed]

The name California is the fifth-oldest surviving European place-name in the U.S. and was applied to what is now the southern tip of Baja California as the island of California by a Spanish expedition led by Diego de Becerra and Fortun Ximenez, who landed there in 1533 at the behest of Hernando Cortes.[note 1]

Geography and environment

Main article: Geography of California

California adjoins the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican state of Baja California. With an area of 160,000 square miles (414,000 km2), it is the third-largest state in the United States in size, after Alaska and Texas.[10] If it were a country, California would be the 59th-largest in the world in area.

Mount Shasta overlooks the town of the same name.

In the middle of the state lies the California Central Valley, bounded by the coastal mountain ranges in the west, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Cascade Range in the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. The Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland and grows approximately one-third of the nation's food.[11][verification needed][unreliable source?] Divided in two by the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the northern portion, the Sacramento Valley serves as the watershed of the Sacramento River, while the southern portion, the San Joaquin Valley is the watershed for the San Joaquin River; both areas derive their names from the rivers that transit them. With dredging, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers have remained sufficiently deep that several inland cities are seaports. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta serves as a critical water supply hub for the state. Water is routed through an extensive network of canals and pumps out of the delta, that traverse nearly the length of the state, including the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. Water from the Delta provides drinking water for nearly 23 million people, almost two-thirds of the state's population, and provides water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The Channel Islands are located off the southern coast.

Bridalveil Fall flows from a U-shaped hanging valley that was created by a tributary glacier.

The Sierra Nevada (Spanish for ``snowy range``) includes the highest peak in the contiguous forty-eight states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 ft (4,421 m).[3] The range embraces Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially carved domes, and Sequoia National Park, home to the giant sequoia trees, the largest living organisms on Earth, and the 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 migratory bird habitat. In the western part of the state is Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake by area entirely in California. Though Lake Tahoe is larger, it is divided by the California/Nevada border. The Sierra Nevada falls to Arctic temperatures in winter and has several dozen small glaciers, including Palisade Glacier, the southernmost glacier in the United States.

About 45 percent of the state's total surface area is covered by forests, and California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Many of the trees in the California White Mountains are the oldest in the world; one Bristlecone pine has an age of 4,700 years.

In the south is a large inland salt lake, the Salton Sea. Deserts in California make up about 25 percent of the total surface area.[citation needed] The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley, which contains the lowest, hottest point in North America, Badwater Basin. The distance from the lowest point of Death Valley to the peak of Mount Whitney is less than 200 miles (322 km). Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid, hot desert, with routine extreme high temperatures during the summer.

Along the California coast are several major metropolitan areas, including Greater Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego.

California is famous for earthquakes due to a number of faults, in particular the San Andreas Fault. It is vulnerable to tsunamis, floods, droughts, Santa Ana winds, wildfires, landslides on steep terrain, and has several volcanoes.

Climate

Main article: Climate of California Coastline at Big Sur.

California climate varies from Mediterranean to subarctic.

Much of the state has a Mediterranean climate, with cool, rainy winters and dry summers. The cool California Current offshore often creates summer fog near the coast. Further inland, one encounters colder winters and hotter summers.

Northern parts of the state average higher annual rainfall than the south. California's mountain ranges influence the climate as well: some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate, and the Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate but with greater temperature extremes than the coast. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.

Snow on the mountains of Southern California.

The east side of California's mountains produce a rain shadow, creating expansive deserts. The higher elevation deserts of eastern California see hot summers and cold winters, while the low deserts east of the southern California mountains experience hot summers and nearly frostless mild winters. Death Valley, a desert with large expanses below sea level, is considered the hottest location in North America; the highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere, 134 Â°F (57 Â°C), was recorded there on July 10, 1913.

Ecology

Main article: Ecology of California

California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world, and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California is part of the Nearctic ecozone and spans a number of terrestrial ecoregions.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

California's large number of endemic species includes relict species, which have died out elsewhere, such as the Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus). Many other endemics originated through differentiation or adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species develop from a common ancestor to take advantage of diverse ecological conditions such as the California lilac (Ceanothus). Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat.

California boasts several superlatives in its collection of flora: the largest trees, the tallest trees, and the oldest trees. California's native grasses are perennial plants.[12] After European contact, these were generally replaced by invasive species of European annual grasses; and, in modern times, California's hills turn a characteristic golden-brown in summer.

Rivers

Main article: List of California rivers

The most prominent rivers within California are the Sacramento River, the Pit River and the San Joaquin River, which drain the Central Valley and the west slope of the Sierra Nevada and flow to the Pacific Ocean through San Francisco Bay. Some other important rivers are the Klamath River and the Trinity River, in the north, and the Colorado River, on the southeast border. The Owens River takes runoff from the southeastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada and flows into Owens Lake. The Eel River and Salinas River each drain portions of the California coast, north and south of San Francisco Bay, respectively. The Mojave River is the primary watercourse in the Mojave Desert and the Santa Ana River drains much of the Transverse Ranges and bisects Southern California.

Regions

Telegraph Peak in San Gabriel Mountains. Main article: List of regions of California For more, see Places in California. Central Valley Coastal California Northern California Central California San Francisco Bay Area Sierra Nevada Upstate California Southern California Eastern California Greater Los Angeles Area Inland Empire Mojave Desert Southern Border

History

History of California To 1899 Gold Rush (1848) US Civil War (1861-1865) Since 1900 Maritime Railroad