The Golden State!
California is located on the West Coast of the United States. The capital city is Sacramento.
California’s diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast in the west, 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).
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. California, which was admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850.
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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.
The Sierra Nevada (Spanish for “snowy range”) includes the highest peak in the contiguous forty-eight states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 ft (4421 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. 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.
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 and hottest place in North America, the Badwater Basin at −282 feet (−86.0 m). The horizontal distance from the nadir of Death Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney is less than 90 miles (140 km). The southeastern border of California with Arizona is entirely formed by the Colorado River.
California’s vast terrain is connected by an extensive system of controlled-access highways (‘freeways’), limited-access roads (‘expressways’), and highways. California is known for its car culture, giving California’s cities a reputation for severe traffic congestion. One of the state’s more visible landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937. With its orange paint and panoramic views of the bay, this highway bridge is a popular tourist attraction.
Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are major hubs for trans-Pacific and transcontinental traffic. There are about a dozen important commercial airports and many more general aviation airports throughout the state.
California also has several important seaports. The giant seaport complex formed by the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach in Southern California is the largest in the country and responsible for handling about a fourth of all container cargo traffic in the United States. The Port of Oakland, fourth largest in the nation, handles trade from the Pacific Rim and delivers most of the ocean containers passing through Northern California to the entire USA.
Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak California. Integrated subway and light rail networks are found in Los Angeles and San Francisco . Light rail systems are also found in San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, and Northern San Diego County. Furthermore, commuter rail networks serve the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles, and San Diego County.