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For alternative meanings, see California (disambiguation)

California is a state located in the western United States, bordering the Pacific Ocean. The most populous and third largest state in the U.S., California is both physically and demographically diverse. The state's official nickname is "The Golden State" (referring to the California gold rush), and its U.S. Postal abbreviation is CA.

Southern California is highly populated, while the larger northern California is less densely populated. The vast majority of the population lives within 50 miles (80 km) of the Pacific Ocean.

The name comes from Las sergas de Espladián (Adventures of Spladian), a 16th century novel, by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, where there is an island paradise called California.

State of California
Flag of California Seal of California
State nickname: The Golden State

Other U.S. States
Capital Sacramento
Largest City Los Angeles
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water
 - % water
Ranked 3rd
410,000 km²
404,298 km²
20,047 km²
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 1st
Admittance into Union
 - Order
 - Date

September 9, 1850
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7
32°30'N to 42°N
114°8'W to 124°24'W
 - Highest
 - Mean
 - Lowest
402.5 km
1,240 km
4,418 meters
884 meters
86 meters below sea level
ISO 3166-2: US-CA

Table of contents
1 History
2 Law and government
3 Geography
4 Ecology
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Education
8 Miscellaneous information
9 External links


Main article: History of California.

The first Europeans to explore the coast were Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, followed by Francis Drake in 1579. Beginning in the late 1700s, Spanish missionaries set up tiny settlements on enormous grants of land in the vast territory north of Spanish (Baja) California proper. Upon Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government, and they were quickly dissolved and abandoned.

California was the name given to the northwestern part of the Spanish Empire in North America. Following the Mexican-American War of 1847, the region was divided between Mexico and the United States. The Mexican portion, Baja (lower) California was later divided into the states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. The American portion, Alta (upper) California became the U.S. state of California in 1850.

In 1848, the Spanish-speaking population of distant upper California numbered around 4,000. But after gold was discovered, the population burgeoned with Americans and a few Europeans in the great California gold rush. A California Republic was founded and the Bear Flag was flown that featured a golden bear and a star. The Republic came to a sudden end when Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into San Francisco Bay and claimed California for the United States. In 1850, the state was admitted to the Union.

During the U.S. Civil War, popular support was divided between the North and the South, and although California officially entered on the side of the North, troops volunteered for both sides.

The connection of the far Pacific West to the eastern population centers came in the 1870s with the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Out West, residents were discovering that California was extremely well suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Citrus, oranges in particular, were widely grown, and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production of today.

In the period from 1900 to 1965 the population grew from fewer than one million to become the most populous state in the Union, sending the most electors to the Electoral College to elect the President. From 1965 to the present, this population completely changed and became one of the most diverse in the world. The state is liberal-leaning, technologically and culturally savvy, and a world center of engineering businesses, the film and television industry and, as mentioned above, American agricultural production.

Law and government

Main article: California government and politics

The Governor of California and the other state constitutional officers serve four-year terms and may be reelected only once. The California state legislature consists of a 40 member Senate and 80 member Assembly. Senators serve four year terms and Assemblymembers two. The terms of the Senators are staggered so that half the membership is elected every two years. The Senators representing the odd-numbered districts are elected in years evenly divisible by four, i.e., presidential election years. The Senators from the even-numbered districts are elected in the intervening even-numbered years, in the gubernatorial election cycle. For the 2003-2004 session, there are 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Assembly. In the Senate, there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

The state's capital is Sacramento. In California's early history, the capital was located in Monterey (1775-1849), San Jose (1849-1851), Vallejo (1852-1853), Benicia (1853-1854), and San Francisco (1862). The capital moved to Sacramento temporarily in 1852 when construction on a State House could not be completed in time in Vallejo. The capital moved to Sacramento for good on February 25, 1854, except for a four-month temporary move in 1862 to San Francisco due to severe flooding in Sacramento.

At the national level, California is represented by two senators and 53 representatives. It has 55 electoral votes in the U.S. Electoral College. California has the most Congressmen and Presidential Electors of any state.

The current Governor is Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and the two U.S. Senators are Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. 33 Democrats and 20 Republicans represent the state in the House of Representatives. Many leading members of Congress are from California. Among the Republicans representing California in the House in the 108th Congress are Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier from the 26th District, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas from the 22nd District, Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter from the 52nd District, Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo from the 11th District, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Chris Cox from the 48th District. Cox also chairs the Republican Policy Committee, making him the 4th ranking member in the House Republican leadership. Among the Democrats are Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from the 8th District, Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Democrat George Miller from the 7th District, and Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Jane Harman from the 36th District.

See also: List of California Governors, US Congressional Delegations from California, List of California counties, List of California ballot propositions


Main article: Geography of California

California borders the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican State of Baja California. The state has striking natural features, including a huge fertile central valley, high mountains, and hot dry deserts. With an area of 410,000 km² it is the third largest state in the U.S. Most major cities cling to the cool, pleasant seacoast along the Pacific, notably San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The capital, however, is Sacramento in the Central Valley.

California has many types of geography. Down the center of the state lies the Central Valley, a huge, fertile 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. Mountain-fed rivers naturally irrigate the Central Valley. With dredging, several of these rivers have become sufficiently large and deep that several inland cities, notably Stockton, California, are seaports.

In the center and east of the state are the Sierra Nevada, containing the highest peak in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4421 m). Also in the Sierra is the world famous Yosemite National Park and a deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe. To the east of the Sierra is the Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential seabird habitat.

In the south lie the Transverse Ranges and a large 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.

California is famous for its earthquakes due partly to the presence of the San Andreas Fault. While more powerful earthquakes in the United States have occurred in Alaska and along the Mississippi River, California earthquakes are notable due to their frequency and location in highly populated areas. Popular legend has it that, eventually, an earthquake known as "The Big One" will result in the splitting of coastal California from the continent, either to sink into the ocean or form a new landmass. The fact that this scenario is completely implausible from a geologic standpoint does not lessen its acceptance in public conventional wisdom.

Geography of California
Central Valley | Central Coast | Channel Islands | Coast Ranges | Gold Country | Greater Los Angeles | Imperial Valley | Inland Empire | Mojave | Napa Valley | Northern California | Owens Valley | Pomona Valley | Redwood Empire | San Fernando Valley | San Francisco Bay Area | The Peninsula | San Gabriel Valley | Santa Clara Valley | Santa Clarita Valley | Shasta Cascade | Sierra Nevada | Silicon Valley | Southern California | Wine Country


Different regions of California have very different climates, depending on their latitude, elevation, and proximity to the coast. Most of the state has a Mediterranean climate, with rainy winters and dry summers. The influence of the ocean generally moderates temperature extremes, creating cooler summers and warmer winters, and the cold oceanic California Current offshore often creates summer fog near the coast. As one moves away from the coast, the climate becomes more continental, with hotter summers and colder winters. Westerly winds from the ocean also bring moisture, and the northern parts of the state generally receive higher rainfall than the south. California's mountain ranges influence the climate as well; moisture-laden air from the west cools as it ascends the mountains, dropping moisture; some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate with rainfall of 15-40 inches (38-102 cm) per year. The Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate, but with greater temperature extremes than the coastal areas. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and moderate heat in summer.

On the east side of the mountains is a drier "rain shadow." California's desert climate regions lie east of the high Sierra Nevada and southern California's Transverse Ranges and Peninsular Ranges. The low deserts east of the southern California mountains, including the Imperial and Coachella valleys and the lower Colorado River, are part of the Sonoran Desert, with hot summers and mild winters; the higher elevation deserts of eastern California, including the Mojave Desert, Owens Valley, and the Modoc Plateau, are part of the Great Basin region, with hot summers and cold winters.


Main article: Ecology of California

Ecologically, California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world, and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California's diverse geography, geology, soils and climate have generated a tremendous diversity of plant and animal life. The state of California is part of the Nearctic ecozone, and spans a number of terrestrial ecoregions, and is perhaps the most ecologically diverse state in the United States.

California has a high percentage of endemic species. California endemics include relict species that have died out elsewhere, including the redwoods and 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. California's great abundance of species of California lilac (Ceanothus) is an example of adaptive radiation. Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat.


California is responsible for 14% of American gross domestic product, which at nearly $1.4 trillion is greater than that of every country in the world save for the United States, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

The predominant industry, more than twice as large as the next largest, is agriculture, (including fruit, vegetables, dairy, and wine). This is followed by aerospace; entertainment, primarily television by dollar volume, although many movies are still made in California; and light manufacturing including computer hardware and software, and the mining of borax.

Per capita income varies widely by geographic region and profession. The Central Valley has the most extreme contrasts of income, with migrant farm workers making less than minimum wage, contrasted with farmers who frequently manage multimillion-dollar farms. Most farm managers are highly educated, most with at least master's degrees. While cities include some of the wealthiest per-capita areas in the U.S., notably Irvine in Orange County, the non-agricultural central counties have some of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. The high-technology sectors in Orange County and Silicon Valley, in Santa Clara County are currently in a recession because of the dot.com bust, but medical systems, video games and animation are taking up the slack.

See also: California unemployment statistics


With a population of 33,871,648 as of 2000, California is the most populous state in the U.S., and contributes 12% to the total U.S. population.

According to the census, California lacks a majority ethnic group. Whites are still the largest group, but are no longer a majority of the population. Hispanicss make up almost one-third of the population; in order, other groups are Asian Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans. Because of high levels of immigration from Mexico and higher birth rates among the Hispanic population, Hispanics are predicted to become a majority around 2040.

Important cities and towns

The state of California has many cities and the majority of these cities are within one of nine total major metropolitan areas. The four largest are coastal being Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco. The other five are inland and consist of the Inland Empire (Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario), Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Palmdale.

Main articles: List of cities in California, List of cities in California (by population)


Main article:
List of colleges and universities in California

California's educational system is supported by a unique constitutional amendment that requires 40% of state revenues to be spent on education.

The preeminent state university is the 9-campus University of California, which employs more Nobel Prize winners than any other institution in the world. The campuses are in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Irvine, Riverside, and San Diego. A ninth campus, in San Francisco, teaches only health-sciences students. A tenth campus, in Merced, is scheduled to open in 2005.[1] The UC system is intended to accept students from the top 12.5% of college-bound students, and provide most graduate studies and research. The University of California also administers federal laboratories for the Federal Department of Energy: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The California State University system provides education for teachers, the trades, agriculture and industry. It is intended to accept most college-bound high-school students, while carrying out some research, especially in applied sciences. Lower-division course credits are frequently transferable to the University of California.

The community college system educates students in the trades, providing certificates, and associate-arts degrees. It also provides lower division general-education courses transferable to the State University and the University of California.

Preeminent private institutions include Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (which administers the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA).

California has hundreds of private colleges and universities, including many religious and special-purpose institutions. This leads to many unique entertainment and educational opportunities for residents. For example, Southern California, with one of the highest densities of post-secondary institutions in the world, has a very large base of classically trained vocalists that compete in large choir festivals. Near Los Angeles, there are numerous art and film institutes, including the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Art Institute.

The Golden State
State Mammal: California grizzly bear
State Bird: California Quail
State Colors: Blue and gold
State Capital: Sacramento
State Dance: West Coast Swing
State Fish: Golden trout
State Marine Fish: Garibaldi
State Reptile: Desert Tortoise
State Marine Mammal: Gray Whale
State Flower: California Poppy
State Fossil: Sabertooth cat
State Insect: California dogface butterfly
State Motto: "Eureka!"
State Song: "I Love You, California"
State Tree: California redwood
State Mineral: Gold
State Rock: Serpentine
State Soil: San Joaquin soil

Secondary education consists of high schools that teach elective courses in trades, languages and liberal arts with tracks for gifted, college-bound and industrial arts students. They accept students from roughly age 14 to 18, with mandatory education ceasing at age 16. In many districts, junior high schools teach electives with a strong skills-based curriculum, for ages from 11 to 13. Elementary schools teach pure skills, history and social studies, with optional half-day kindergartens beginning at age 5. Mandatory full-time instruction begins at age 6.

The primary schools are of varying effectiveness. The quality of the local schools depends strongly on the local tax base, and the size of the local administration. In some regions, administrative costs divert a significant amount of educational monies from instructional purposes. In poor regions, literacy rates may fall below 70%. One thing they all have in common is a state mandate to teach fourth grade students about the history of California, including the role of the early missions; most schools implement this by requiring students complete a multiple medium project.

Miscellaneous information

External links

Counties and Largest Cities in California
Cities: Anaheim | Bakersfield | Fremont | Fresno | Glendale | Huntington Beach | Long Beach | Los Angeles | Modesto | Oakland | Oxnard | Riverside | Sacramento | San Bernardino | San Diego | San Francisco | San Jose | Santa Ana | Stockton
Counties: Alameda | Alpine | Amador | Butte | Calaveras | Colusa | Contra Costa | Del Norte | El Dorado | Fresno | Glenn | Humboldt | Imperial | Inyo | Kern | Kings | Lake | Lassen | Los Angeles | Madera | Marin | Mariposa | Mendocino | Merced | Modoc | Mono | Monterey | Napa | Nevada | Orange | Placer | Plumas | Riverside | Sacramento | San Benito | San Bernardino | San Diego | San Francisco | San Joaquin | San Luis Obispo | San Mateo | Santa Barbara | Santa Clara | Santa Cruz | Shasta | Sierra | Siskiyou | Solano | Sonoma | Stanislaus | Sutter | Tehama | Trinity | Tulare | Tuolumne | Ventura | Yolo | Yuba |

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