California is one of the largest states geographically, and because it stretches so far from north to south, it has a diverse range of climates and ecosystems. To the north, lie mountains and forests, including forests of sequoias, the world’s largest trees, in Yosemite National Park. Central California is prime farming country.
Rich soil, adequate rain, and a mild climate make this the perfect place for vineyards, orchards, and vegetable farms. Southern California is probably what most people think of when they consider the state: sunny weather, beaches, surfing, Hollywood, and don’t forget, Disneyland.
- Spanish and English explorers visited the California coast in the mid-1500s, but the first settlements occurred in 1769 with a mission at San Diego established to bring Christianity to native people.
- California joined the U.S. in 1847, following a war with Mexico, and in 1848, John Sutter discovered gold. His discovery triggered massive immigration to California from Americans, as well as people from as far away as China and Argentina.
- More people live in California than any other state.
- California’s economy is larger than many countries’.
- California’s climate ranges from a mild maritime climate with lots of rain to hot, dry deserts. In recent years, drought has been a problem through much of the state. Forest fires have caused horrific damage in many places.
- Marine biologists and hobbyists enjoy exploring the tide pools and waters off California’s coast. Whales, sea otters, and elephant seals are just a few of the animals living there.
Capital: Sacramento (population, 466,488)
Largest city: Los Angeles (population, 3,792,621)
State bird: California quail
State flower: golden poppy
Watch a short video about California.