Tuesday, May 24, 2011


State of California
Flag of CaliforniaState seal of California
Nickname(s): The Golden State
Motto(s): Eureka
Map of the United States with California highlighted
Official language(s)English
Spoken language(s)English 57.6%
Spanish 28.2%
Largest cityLos Angeles
Largest metro areaGreater Los Angeles Area
Area Ranked 3rd in the U.S.
 - Total163,696 sq mi
(423,970 km2)
 - Width250 miles (400 km)
 - Length770 miles (1,240 km)
 - % water4.7
 - Latitude32° 32′ N to 42° N
 - Longitude114° 8′ W to 124° 26′ W
Population Ranked 1st in the U.S.
 - Total37,253,956
- Density234.4/sq mi  (90.49/km2)
Ranked 11th in the U.S.
 - Median income US$61,021 (9th)
 - Highest pointMount Whitney
14,494 ft  (4,418 m)
 - Mean2,900 ft  (884 m)
 - Lowest pointDeath Valley
-282 ft  (-86 m)
Before statehoodCalifornia Republic
Admission to Union September 9, 1850 (31st)
GovernorJerry Brown (D)
Lieutenant GovernorGavin Newsom (D)
LegislatureCalifornia State Legislature
 - Upper houseCalifornia State Senate
 - Lower houseCalifornia State Assembly
U.S. SenatorsDianne Feinstein (D)
Barbara Boxer (D)
U.S. House delegation34 Democrats, 19 Republicans 
Time zonePacific: UTC-8/-7
AbbreviationsCA Calif. US-CA

California  is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area (after Alaska and Texas). It is home to the nation's second- and sixth-largest census statistical areas (Los Angeles Metropolitan Area and San Francisco Bay Area), and eight of the nation's 50 most populous cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach and Oakland). The capital city is Sacramento.
California's diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast at the west side, to the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east—from the Redwood–Douglas-fir forests of the northwest, to the Mojave Desert areas in the southeast. The center of the state is dominated by Central Valley, a major agricultural area. California contains both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney and Death Valley), and has the third-longest coastline of all states (after Alaska and Florida). Earthquakes are a common occurrence due to the state's location along the Pacific Ring of Fire: about 37,000 are recorded annually.
The name California once referred to a large area of North America claimed by Spain that included much of modern-day Southwestern United States and the Baja California peninsula. Beginning in the late 18th century, the area known as Alta California, comprising the California territory north of the Baja Peninsula, was colonized by the Spanish Empire as part of New Spain. In 1821, Alta California became a part of Mexico following its successful war for independence. Shortly after the beginning of the Mexican-American War in 1846, a group of American settlers in Sonoma declared an independent California Republic in Alta California. Though its existence was short-lived, its flag became the precursor for California's current state flag. American victory in the war led to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico ceded Alta California to the United States. Western areas of Alta California became the state of California, which was admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850.
The California Gold Rush beginning in 1848 led to dramatic social and demographic change, with large scale immigration from the U.S. and abroad and an accompanying economic boom. Key developments in the early 20th century included the emergence of Los Angeles as the center of the American entertainment industry, and the growth of a large, state-wide tourism sector. The late 20th century saw the development of the technology and information sectors, punctuated by the growth of Silicon Valley. In addition to California's prosperous agricultural industry, other important contributors to its economy include aerospace, education, and manufacturing. If California were a country, it would be the eighth-largest economy in the world and the 35th most populous nation.


The word California originally referred to the entire region composed of what is today the U.S. state of California, plus all or parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming, and the Baja California peninsula of Mexico.
The name California is most commonly believed to have derived from a fictional paradise peopled by Black Amazons and ruled by Queen Calafia. The story of Calafia is recorded in a 1510 work The Exploits of Esplandian, written as a sequel to Amadis de Gaula by Spanish adventure writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. The kingdom of Queen 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 called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.
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 peninsula as the island of California by a Spanish expedition led by Diego de Becerra and Fortún Ximénez, who landed there in 1533 at the behest of Hernán Cortés.


History of California
California Poppy closeup.jpg
This article is part of a series
To 1899
Gold Rush (1848)
US Civil War (1861-1865)
Since 1900
Maritime · Railroad ·
Highways · Slavery
Los Angeles · San Franicsco ·
San Diego · San Jose ·

California Portal
Settled by successive waves of arrivals during the last 10,000 years, California was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in pre-Columbian North America; The Indigenous peoples of California included more than 70 distinct groups of Native Americans. Large, settled populations lived on the coast and hunted sea mammals, fished for salmon and gathered shellfish; groups in the interior hunted terrestrial game, and gathered nuts, acorns and berries. California groups also were diverse in their political organization with bands, tribes, villages, and on the resource-rich coasts, large chiefdoms, such as the Chumash, Pomo and Salinan. Trade, intermarriage and military alliances fostered many social and economic relationships among the diverse groups.
The first European to explore the coast as far north as the Russian River was the Portuguese Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, in 1542, sailing for the Spanish Empire. Some 37 years later English explorer Francis Drake also explored and claimed an undefined portion of the California coast in 1579. Spanish traders made unintended visits with the Manila Galleons on their return trips from the Philippines beginning in 1565. Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast of California in 1602 for New Spain.
Spanish missionaries began setting up 21 California Missions along the coast of what became known as Alta California (Upper California), together with small towns and presidios. In 1821 the Mexican War of Independence gave Mexico (including California) independence from Spain; for the next 25 years, Alta California remained a remote northern province of the nation of Mexico. Cattle ranches, or ranchos, emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California. After Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government and were secularized by 1832. The ranchos developed under ownership by Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians) who had received land grants, and traded cowhides and tallow with Boston merchants.
Beginning in the 1820s, trappers and settlers from the U.S. and Canada began to arrive in Northern California, harbingers of the great changes that would later sweep the Mexican territory. These new arrivals used the Siskiyou Trail, California Trail, Oregon Trail and Old Spanish Trail to cross the rugged mountains and harsh deserts surrounding California. In this period, Imperial Russia explored the California coast and established a trading post at Fort Ross.
The Bear Flag of the Republic of California
In 1846 settlers rebelled against Mexican rule during the Bear Flag Revolt. Afterwards, rebels raised the Bear Flag (featuring a bear, a star, a red stripe and the words "California Republic") at Sonoma.
“[We] overthrow a Government which has seized upon the property of the Missions for its individual aggrandizement; which has ruined and shamefully oppressed the laboring people of California.”
—William Ide, Declaration from the Bear Flag Revolt
The Republic's first and only president was William B. Ide, who played a pivotal role during the Bear Flag Revolt. His term lasted 22 days and concluded when California was occupied by U.S. forces during the Mexican-American War.
The California Republic was short lived. The same year marked the outbreak of the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). When Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into Monterey Bay and began the military occupation of California by the United States. Northern California capitulated in less than a month to the U.S. forces. After a series of defensive battles in Southern California, including The Siege of Los Angeles, the Battle of Dominguez Rancho, the Battle of San Pasqual, the Battle of Rio San Gabriel and the Battle of La Mesa, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed by the Californios on January 13, 1847, securing American control in California. Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war, the region was divided between Mexico and the U.S.; the western territory of Alta California, was to become the U.S. state of California, and Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah became U.S. Territories, while the lower region of California, the Baja Peninsula, remained in the possession of Mexico.
San Francisco harbor c. 1850. Between 1847 and 1870, the population of San Francisco increased from 500 to 150,000.
In 1848 the non-native population of California was estimated to be no more than 15,000. But after gold was discovered, the population burgeoned with U.S. citizens, Europeans and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush. By 1854 over 300,000 settlers had come. On September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted to the United States undivided as a free state, denying the expansion of slavery to the Pacific Coast.
The seat of government for California under Spanish and later Mexican rule was located at Monterey from 1777 until 1835, when Mexican authorities abandoned California, leaving their missions and military forts behind. In 1849 the Constitutional Convention was first held there. Among the duties was the task of determining the location for the new state capital. The first legislative sessions were held in San Jose (1850–1851). Subsequent locations included Vallejo (1852–1853), and nearby Benicia (1853–1854); these locations eventually proved to be inadequate as well. The capital has been located in Sacramento since 1854 with only a short break in 1861 when legislative sessions were held in San Francisco due to flooding in Sacramento.
Hollywood film studios, 1922
Travel between California and the central and eastern parts of the U.S. was time consuming and dangerous. A more direct connection came in 1869 with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad through Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After this rail link was established, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens came west, where new Californians were discovering that land in the state, if irrigated during the dry summer months, was extremely well suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Vast expanses of wheat, other cereal crops, vegetable crops, cotton, and nut and fruit trees were grown (including oranges in Southern California), and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production in the Central Valley and elsewhere.
Migration to California accelerated during the early-20th century with the completion of major transcontinental highways like the Lincoln Highway and Route 66. In the period from 1900 to 1965, the population grew from fewer than one million to become the most populous state in the Union. In order to meet the population's needs, major engineering feats like the California and Los Angeles Aqueducts; the Oroville and Shasta Dams; and the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges were built across the state. The state government also adopted the California Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960 to develop a highly efficient system of public education.
Meanwhile, attracted to the mild Mediterranean climate, cheap land, and the state's wide variety of geography, filmmakers established the studio system in Hollywood in the 1920s. A couple of decades later, Stanford University and its Dean of Engineering Frederick Terman began encouraging faculty and graduates to stay in California instead of leaving the state, and develop a high-tech region in the area now known as Silicon Valley. As a result of these efforts, California is currently regarded as a world center of the entertainment and music industries, of technology and engineering businesses, and as the U.S. center of agricultural production.


Yosemite National Park
Lake Tahoe
Sierra Nevada
California adjoins the Pacific Ocean to the west, Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south. 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. If it were a country, California would be the 59th-largest in the world in area.
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.
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.
Topographic map of California
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.
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). 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. 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. The southeastern border of California with Arizona is entirely formed by the Colorado River, from which the southern part of the state gets about half of its water.
Along the California coast are several major metropolitan areas, including Greater Los Angeles Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the San Diego metropolitan area.
As part of the Ring of Fire, California is subject to tsunamis, floods, droughts, Santa Ana winds, wildfires, landslides on steep terrain, and has several volcanoes. It sees numerous earthquakes due to several faults, in particular the San Andreas Fault.


Coastline at Big Sur.
California's 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 °F (57 °C), was recorded there on July 10, 1913.


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.

Flora and fauna

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.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.
Because California has the greatest diversity of climate and terrain, the state has six life zones which are the lower Sonoran (desert); upper Sonoran (foothill regions and some coastal lands), transition (coastal areas and moist northeastern counties); and the Canadian, Hudsonian, and Arctic Zones, comprising the state's highest elevations.
Plant life in the dry climate of the lower Sonoran zone contains a diversity of native cactus, mesquite, and paloverde. The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is found in the Mojave Desert. Flowering plants include the dwarf desert poppy and a variety of asters. Fremont cottonwood and valley oak thrive in the Central Valley. The upper Sonoran zone includes the chaparral belt, characterized by forests of small shrubs, stunted trees, and herbaceous plants. Nemophila, mint, phacelia, viola, and the California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica)- the state flower- also flourish in this zone, along with the lupine, more species of which occur here than anywhere else in the world.
The transition zone includes most of California's forests with the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the "big tree" or giant sequoia (Sequoia gigantea), among the oldest living things on earth (some are said to have lived at least 4,000 years). Tanbark oak, California laurel, Sugar Pine, madrona, broad-leaved maple, and Douglas-fir also grow here. Forest floors are covered with swordfern, alumnroot, barrenwort, and trillium, and there are tickets of huckleberry, azalea, elder, and wild currant. Characteristic wild flowers include varieties of mariposa, tulip, and tiger and leopard lilies.
The high elevations of the Canadian zone allow the Jeffrey Pine, red fir, and Lodgepole Pine to thrive. Brushy areas are abundant with dwarf manzanita and ceanothus; the unique Sierra puffball is also found here. Right below the timeberline, in the Hudsonian zone, the whitebark, foxtail, and silver pines grow. At about 10,500 ft (3,200 m), begins the Arctic zone, a treeless region whose flora include a number of wildflowers, including Sierra primrose, yellow columbine, alpine buttercup, and alpine shooting star.
Common plants that have been introduced to the state include the eucalyptus, acacia, pepper tree, geranium, and Scotch broom. The species that are federally classified as endangered are the Contra Costa wallflower, Antioch Dunes evening primrose, Solano Grass, San Clemente Island larkspur, salt marsh bird's beak, McDonald's rock-cress, and Santa Barbara Island Liveforever. As of December 1997, eight-five plant species were listed as threatened or endangered.
In the deserts of the lower Sonoran zone, the mammals include the jackrabbit, kangaroo rat, squirrel, and opossum. Common birds include the owl, roadrunner, Cactus Wren, and various species of hawk. The area's reptilian life include the sidewinder viper, desert tortoise, and horned toad. The upper Sonoran zone boasts mammals such as the antelope, brown-footed woodrat, and Ring-tailed Cat. Birds unique to this zone are the California thrasher, bush tit, and California Condor.
In the transition zone, there are Colombian Black-tailed Deer, black bears, gray foxes, cougars, bobcats, and Roosevelt elk. Reptiles such as the garter snakes and rattlesnakes inhabit the zone. In addition, amphibians such as the water puppy and redwood salamander are common too. Birds such as the kingfisher, chickadee, towhee, and hummingbird thrive here as well.
The Canadian zone mammals include the Mountain Weasel, Snowshoe Hare, Sierra chickadee, and several species of chipmunks. Conspicuous birds include the blue-fronted jay, Sierra hermit thrush, water ouzel, and Townsend solitaire. As one ascends into the Hudsonian zone, birds become scarcer. While the Sierra rosy finch is the only bird native to the high Arctic region, other bird species such as the hummingbird and Clark's Nutcracker. Principal mammals found in this region include the Sierra coney, White-tailed Jackrabbit, and the Bighorn Sheep. As of April 2003, the Bighorn Sheep was listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The fauna found throughout several zones are the mule deer, coyote, mountain lion, Northern Flicker, and several species of hawk and sparrow.
Aquatic life in California thrives, from the state's mountain lakes and streams to the rocky Pacific coastline. Numerous trout species are found, among them rainbow, golden, and Tahoe. Migratory species of salmon are common as well. Deep-sea life forms include sea bass, yellowfin tuna, barracuda, and several types of whale. Native to the cliffs of northern California are seals, sea lions, and many types of shorebirds, including migratory species.
As of April 2003, 118 California animals were on the federal endangered list; 181 plants were listed as endangered or threatened. Endangered animals include the San Joaquin kitfox, Point Arena mountain beaver,Pacific pocket mouse, Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, Morro Bay kangaroo rat (and five other species of kangaroo rat), Amargosa vole, California Least Tern, California Condor, Loggerhead Shrike, San Clemente sage sparrow, San Francisco garter snake, five species of salamander, three species of chub, and two species of pupfish. Eleven butterflies are also endangered and two that are threatened are on the federal list. Among threatened animals are the coastal California Gnatcatcher, Paiute cutthroat trout, southern sea otter, and Northern Spotted Owl. California has a total of 290,821 acres (1,176.91 km2) of National Wildlife Refuges. As of September 2010, 123 California animals were listed as either endangered or threatened on the federal list provided by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Also, as of the same year, 178 species of California plants were listed either as endangered or threatened on this federal list.


The state's coasts, rivers, and other bodies of water are looked after by the California Coastal Commission
The two most prominent rivers within California are the Sacramento 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. Several major tributaries feed into the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, including the Pit River, the Tuolumne River, and the Feather River.
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 as it bisects Southern California.
Some other important rivers are the Klamath River and the Trinity River in the far north coast, and the Colorado River on the southeast border with Arizona.


Mount Whitney (l), the highest point in the Contiguous U.S., is less than 200 miles (322 km) away from Badwater Basin in Death Valley (r), the lowest point in North America
  • Central Valley
  • Coastal California
  • Northern California
    • Central California
    • San Francisco Bay Area
    • Sierra Nevada
    • Upstate California
  • Eastern California
    • Inland Empire (Also included in Southern California)
  • Southern California
    • South Coast
      • Greater Los Angeles Area
      • San Diego metropolitan area
    • Inland Empire
    • Imperial Valley