California (Eng.: California; abbreviation: CA or Cal.), state of the United States of America, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, and Mexico to the south, 411,049 km2, with 29.7 million inhabitants; capital: Sacramento.
From a landscape point of view, California can be divided into the following areas: in the northwest the Klamath Mountains (up to 2600 m high); east of this the Cascade Mountains (highest peak: Mount Shasta, 4317 m, an extinct volcano); the so-called ‘Basin and Range region’: part of the Great Basin in eastern California, with the Mojave desert and Death Valley in the south; the coastal mountain ranges with valleys suitable for livestock and viticulture and slopes covered with pine trees; the Central Valley, a thriving agricultural area between the coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada; the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range with a number of very high peaks, especially in the High Sierra, including Mount Whitney (4418m), the second highest mountain in the United States; and the very narrow coastal plain in the north, wider in the south. The San Andreas Fault stretches along the coast over a length of approximately 1000 km. The largest rivers are the Sacramento and the San Joaquin; the Colorado (border with Arizona) is used for irrigation. On the coast there is a moderate maritime climate, in the interior a subtropical climate; the western sides of the mountain ranges have abundant rainfall, the eastern sides very little precipitation.
The average population density is 70 inhabitants. per km2. More than 90% of the total population lives in the cities, of which over 75% reside in the largest urban centers: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San José. See top cities in California.
The highly varied economic activities are an important pillar of the economy of the United States. Characteristic is the large scale on which automation is applied, not only in industry, but also, for example, in agriculture, which is very varied due to the great variety of climates. Apart from local concentrations of certain products, such as rice and sugar beet in the Sacramento Valley and citrus fruits in the south, the main products are cotton, poultry, vegetables, grapes, oranges and potatoes. Agriculture is highly dependent on irrigation. More than half of California’s rich forest assets are commercially exploited. By value of production, California is the most important agricultural state in the United States and, after Oregon and Washington (state), the largest timber producer.
Since the extraction of petroleum and natural gas began in the 1960s, the state has grown into one of the major oil producers in the United States. Other exploited minerals are gold, salt, copper, sulphur, chromium, iodine, manganese, soda, gypsum, silver, lead, boron salts and uranium. The main branch of the economy is industry, which has been able to develop enormously due to the presence of hydroelectricity, petroleum and natural gas. The main industrial centers are Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland; the main products aircraft and other transport equipment, food, electronics (Silicon Valley), metalware, scientific instruments, industrial machinery and weapons. The film industry (Hollywood) and the manufacture of sports equipment deserve special mention.
California is a very important trading state. The nation’s largest non-governmental bank, the Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association, is based in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco are the largest ports on the American West Coast. The main inland waterway is the lower reaches of the Sacramento River. Tourist attractions include Yosemite, Redwood, Kings Canyon, Sequoia Death Valley and Lassen National Parks as well as the Disneyland amusement park (near Anaheim), the Lake Tahoe area, Hollywood and the beaches in the south.
Since 1540, the Spaniards began to penetrate this area from Mexico (1542: Cabrillo reaches San Diego). Numerous sailors visited the coast, including Francis Drake in 1579. But it was not until 1769 that official colonization began, accompanied by an intense missionary mission by the Franciscans led by Fray Junipero Serra. Garrisons were established in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco, pueblos, ie. civilian colonizations in San José, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, while 21 Franciscan missions were established. In 1822, after the revolution in Mexico, the area became Mexican. In 1833, the Mission’s land was apportioned by the state and sold to ranchers. That’s how ranchos were born. Russia, England and the United States began to take an interest in California at this time. After the expeditions of John C. Fremont (1842-1845), the great importance of the United States led to a war with Mexico (1846-1848). At the Peace of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Feb. California became part of the United States in 1848. Just before that, on Jan 24, gold had been found and now the famous Gold Rush soon started. Between 1848 and 1852 the population increased from 15,000 to 250,000. As early as 1850, California was admitted as the 31st state of the Union, after a great debate over the issue of slavery, which was finally banned in California. The first years of the new state were very restless, but a certain order was introduced by setting up so-called ‘vigilance committees’. Communication with the east of the country was made possible by the Butterfield Overland Mail (1857) and the famous Pony Express, an organization that carried mail from east to west from 1860–1861, by horse, using intermediate stations where the mounts were changed. In 1861 the telegraph reached California. A new economic turmoil arose in 1859 with the discovery of silver, but the area’s great wealth ultimately lay in agriculture, with important oil fields being found in the south as early as before 1900.
Political power, initially in the hands of the Democratic party, rested with the Republicans after the American Civil War. The Big Four of California’s railroads became very powerful: Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins. Great turmoil brought about the immigration of the Chinese, which was finally halted in 1882, while the subsequent Japanese were barred from land ownership. In 1910, a Progressive Republican group led by Hiram Johnson won elections and introduced many reforms, breaking the power of the railways. Since then, the state has experienced a massive boom, interrupted only by the depression of 1929, which sparked all kinds of social movements. During these years, thousands of immigrants from the Midwest moved to California.
Even after the Second World War, the flow of immigrants continued. An active cultural policy of the successive governments in the state has guaranteed a special and internationally known position of the state in the field of art (San Francisco) especially since the 1960s. University of California and California State University enjoy a high reputation.
California National Parks
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. It was founded in 1890 in the eastern part of the state of California. The special thing about the park is the Yosemite Valley. There are many mountains and canyons here that present a huge challenge for most mountaineers. The heights of the mountains range from 600 meters to 3396 meters.
The park is largely accessible by car and other parts of the park with a shuttle bus. The park is home to 225 bird species and 80 mammal species. In summer, the temperature in the park can reach 38 degrees Celsius. In the summer it can be very busy because an average of 3.5 million people come to Yosemite National Park every year.
Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park are named by the US National Park Service. Kings Canyon National Park has a slightly larger area than Sequoia National Park. Kings Canyon National Park has large canyons and very steep rock faces. There are also a number of waterfalls and lakes in the park. Sequoia National Park contains the largest tree species in the world and they are really worth a look. The Sequoias used to grow all over the Northern Hemisphere, but when the Ice Age ended, the temperature on Earth rose again and they were pushed back again. The park is only accessible in the west and in the summer the two parks are connected by the Generals Highway.
In the park there are also camping areas where you can spend the night and there is running water.
Redwood National Park
The Redwood National Park is known for its redwoods that also occur in the Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park. The park was established in 1968 and is located on the northwest coast of California.
The park consists of the sequoia forest and an area that contains a coastal strip with steep cliffs and many beaches. Summers in the park are hot and very dry. In spring and autumn the weather is cool and clear, but it is still pleasant to visit the park.
In the national park there is no possibility to stay overnight except at campsites located in the state parks.
Joshua Tree National Park
This national park gets its name from the Joshua Tree. This is a tree-like plant with sword-shaped leaves and green-white flowers. This tree-like plant belongs to the Yuca genus.
The park is located 225 kilometers south of Los Angeles.
Channel Island National Park
The Channel Islands are located about 20 to 140 kilometers from the southern part of California in the Pacific Ocean. In 1980, five islands – Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Miguel and Santa Rosa – were placed under conservation and are now part of the Channel Islands National Park. The park has many rock cliffs and different plateaus and those plateaus are actually peaks of mountains that lie under the sea. The island of San Miguel is uninhabited and has suffered a lot from erosion. Sea lions and elephant seals can be found on this island. The islands are all accessible by boat from Ventura.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
This park was established in 1961 and consists of cone volcanoes with lava beds, vapor holes and hot springs. Lassen Peak is a very large truncated volcano with a height of 3187 meters located on the edge of the Cascade Range. In the park there are hiking trails of more than 150 miles that lead to a variety of lakes, streams, waterfalls, mountain meadows, volcanic areas, hot springs and lava beds. The park is home to conifers, pines, pines, spruces and cedars.
Death Valley National Park
This park is located 215 kilometers north of Baker and covers an area of 7,770 km². Death Valley National Park is home to a vast desert area that is one of the most inhospitable and hottest areas in the world. The rest of the area consists of salt flats, rock formations, canyons, sand dunes and mountains. Badwater is the lowest point in Death Valley National Park and also in all of North America at 86 meters below sea level.
Almost every day the sky over Death Valley is very clear and beautiful blue and therefore the temperature can rise to 45-50 degrees Celsius in the summer. In Furnace Creek, a temperature of 56.7 degrees Celsius was once measured in the shade, which is the second highest shade temperature ever. That is why it is not recommended to sunbathe in this park, because the temperature is too high.