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Interesting and Fun Facts about California
State of California Facts
History, Geography, Climate, Culture...

If you're going to travel in the State of California FlagCalifornia it's a good idea to learn some interesting facts and, perhaps, a few fun facts about California.  For your convenience, we've put together a brief overview that includes background information and facts about California's history, geography, climate, culture, regions, entertainment, shopping, food, wine, nature, adventure and more.

Background Information

The State of California is the most populous state of the United States. Located on the Pacific coast of North America, it is bordered by Oregon, Nevada and Arizona in the United States, and Baja California in Mexico. Its capital is Sacramento. The state's four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco. California is known for its diverse climate and ethnically diverse population. The state has 58 counties.

California is the third largest state in the U.S., and if it were a country, it would be the 59th largest in the world - larger than Germany, Italy, and Japan. The state's size gives it a diverse geography, which ranges from sandy and rocky beaches of Yosemitethe Pacific coast, to the rugged snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the east, to desert areas in the southeast and the forests of the northwest. The central portion of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. The Sierra Nevada contains Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially-carved domes, and Sequoia National Park, home to the largest living organisms on Earth, the giant sequoia trees, and the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney. The tallest living things on Earth, the ancient redwood trees, dot the coastline, mainly north of San Francisco. California is also home to the second lowest and hottest place in the Western Hemisphere, Death Valley. Bristlecone pines located in the White Mountains are the oldest known trees in the world; one has an age of 4,700 years.

Rolling HillsAlta California was first colonized by the Spanish Empire in 1769, and after Mexican independence in 1821, continued as part of Mexico. Following one brief week as the independent California Republic in 1846, and the conclusion of the Mexican-American war in 1848, California was annexed by the United States and was admitted to the Union as the thirty-first state on September 9, 1850.

The California Gold Rush, beginning in 1848, dramatically changed California with an influx of population and an economic boom, and San Francisco became a financial and cultural centre. The early 20th century was marked by Los Angeles becoming the centre of the entertainment industry, in addition to the growth of a large tourism sector in the state. The Central Valley is home to California's agricultural industry, the largest of any state. Other major industries include aerospace and petroleum, computer and information technology. California's ranks among the ten largest economies in the world, and were it a separate country, it would be 35th amongst the most populous countries behind Kenya.

Geography and Environment

California borders the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican state of Baja California. With an area of 160,000 mi² (411,000 km²) it is the third largest state in the United States and is a little larger than Germany in size.

California's geography is rich, complex, and varied. In the middle of the state lies the California Central Red CanyonValley, 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 its name 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 Bay 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 Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay 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") include the highest peak in the Castaic Lakecontiguous 48 states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 ft (4,421 m), Yosemite National Park, 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 35% 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 Badwater Basin in Death Valley - Lowest point in North Americaforestland than any other state except Alaska. In the south is a large inland salt lake, the Salton Sea. Deserts in California make up about 25% of the total surface area. The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lays Death Valley, which contains the lowest, hottest point in North America, Badwater Flat. 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 south Eastern 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, wildfires, and landslides on steep terrain, and has several volcanoes.

Climate

California climate varies from Mediterranean to sub-arctic. 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, the climate has colder winters and hotter summers.

Lake IsabellaNorthern 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. North western 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.
 
This mountain is characteristic of the Mojave Desert in southern California. The east side of California's mountains has a drier rain shadow. The low deserts east of the southern California mountains have hot summers and nearly frost-less mild winters; the higher elevation deserts of eastern California have hot summers and cold winters. 
In Death Valley, the highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere 134 °F (56.6 °C) was recorded.

Overview of the 12 Regions

For "travel and tourism" purposes, California is divided into 12 different regions - each having its own distinct character and attractions. Visitors are amazed by the incredible variety and diversity that exists within the state. The San Francisco Bay area boasts a myriad of cultures, fantastic dining and world-famous wineries. San California GullsDiego County displays a scenic coast, a variety of back country and a downtown crackling with live entertainment. Orange County boasts warm beaches and lots of family entertainment, while Los Angeles County is the center of the nation's entertainment industry, a cosmopolitan lifestyle and the state's busiest harbors. The Central Coast offers small scenic towns surrounded by dramatic ocean cliffs and the Central Valley is known for its agricultural riches. The Deserts have a ruggedness that's counter-balanced by beautiful sunsets and starry nights.  The Gold Country makes history come alive, recalling the gold rush days of the mid-1800's. The High Sierra region has 3 national parks and coutless lakes. In the Inland Empire you'll find snow skiing, apple picking and hot-air ballooning. The North Coast harbors forests of the world's tallest trees. And the Shasta Cascades offers picturesque, snow-capped volcanoes, lava beds and pristine mountain lakes.

Culture and History

Mission CarmelBefore the arrival of European explorers and settlers, the indigenous peoples had developed permanent settlements, farming techniques and complex social hierarchies. Since that time the state has been in the hands of the Spanish and the Mexicans before it finally became part of America. A trail of Missions mark the coastline (along the El Camino Royal) as a memorial to the Franciscan priests and their systems that changed Native Americans history. 

California has a rich Native Americans, Mexican and Spanish heritage. When gold was discovered, prospectors, fortune-seekers, and adventurers (known as the ‘49ers) arrived by the wagon-loads.  By 1870 California emerged as the financial capital of the West Coast and the 10th largest city in the country at that time.

Entertainment and Shopping

Ranging from Disneyland to the San Diego Zoo, California has more theme parks and amusement parks than any other state in the country. And Hollywood is a major attraction to those fascinated by the film and music industries. Casinos and nightclubs with top-class entertainment add to the excitement of California. Boutiques - from the quaint to Beverly Hill’s finest - offer visitors the ultimate in shopping nirvana.

Food and Wine

California VinyardsWith California’s historic roots in farming, it's not surprising that it is a haven for fine wine and food. One of the first vineyards in California was planted at Mission San Juan Capistrano over 200 years ago. Since then, the world-famous Napa Valley, Sonoma and other wine regions have expanded to over 800 wineries, producing more than 90% of all wine in the nation. In addition, California leads the U.S. in agricultural production - with 350 different crops, including almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, pomegranates, prunes, raisins, kiwis, olives, pistachios and walnuts. 

Nature and Adventure

TidepoolsCalifornia boasts 8 National Parks that cover more than 4 million acres. The state has the largest state park system in the U.S., with more than 272 state parks. There are over 1,200 miles of coastline (most of which is protected as state park land) with over 400 public beaches.  There are also more than 400 recreational lakes and 200+ protected wildlife-viewing areas. Its mountains, deserts and coastal areas cover the spectrum geographically.

California has "something for everyone" - especially those interested in the out-of-doors: Bird watching; Rafting; Hiking; Biking; Gold-panning; All forms of water sports; Snow skiing; Mountaineering; and Caving -- to name just a few!

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