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California Facts

Quick Facts
Official Name California
Area163,696 sq mi (423,970 km2)
Largest CityLos Angeles
Official LanguagesEnglish ( Spoken : English 57.4%, Multilingual 32.8%, Spanish 28.5%, Chinese 2.8%, Tagalog 2.2%, Vietnamese 1.43%)
Time ZoneUTC-08:00
GovernorJerry Brown
Lt. GovernorGavin Newsom
U.S. SenatorDianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer
AbbreviationCA, Calif., Cali., US-CA
Joined the UnionSeptember 9, 1850 (31st)
NicknameThe Golden State
Highest PointMount Whitney
Lowest PointDeath Valley
Official Websitewww.ca.gov

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Location and Geography:The state of California is one of the largest in the country, taking up nearly two-thirds of the West Coast of the United States. It is perhaps the most diverse state in terms of geography and climate, encompassing many extremes of temperature, biological diversity, and altitude. The highest point in the U.S., Mount Whitney, and the lowest point, Death Valley, are both located in California.

Counties and Regions:California is divided into 58 counties, as well as a number of recognizable regions. Because California is such a long state from north to south, many people will clarify between “Northern California” and “Southern California” (the latter is sometimes truncated as “So-Cal”). The general regions that are often considered to be a part of Northern California are:

  • Northern Coast
  • Sacramento Valley (part of the Central Valley)
  • San Francisco Bay Area
  • Central California
  • Sierra Nevada (Mountains)
  • Upstate California

Whereas these general regions are said to make up Southern California:

  • Southern Coast
  • San Joaquin Valley (part of the Central Valley)
  • Greater Los Angeles Area
  • San Diego Metropolitan Area
  • Inland Empire
  • Imperial Valley
  • Owens Valley
  • Channel Islands

Population:California is, without a doubt, the most populous state in the nation. Because of its welcoming climate, as well as the old notion that opportunity is always to be found there, California has traditionally been seen as an ultimate destination in American culture. It is currently home to more than 37 million people.

Major Cities:A large number of the nation’s most populated cities are located in California. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Area in Southern California is the most populated area in the U.S. outside of New York City. The San Francisco Bay Area, in Northern California, also ranks in the top ten most populated areas in the country. In addition, the San Diego and Sacramento areas have impressively sized populations of their own.

Story Behind the Name:In the sixteenth century, the California region (as well as many other territories) was known to the Spanish Crown as “Las Californias.” The name likely derived from the Latin words for “hot” and “furnace,” but there are many other theories about the origin of the name. The term “California” was first labeled on the maps of Spanish explorers, who were probably inspired by a romantic tale of a savage land called California that was ruled by Amazon women. Eventually, the name they wrote down became the official one.

History and Colonization:The same traits that make California an attractive place to live today made it popular among the Native Americans, as well. When European explorers first arrived, there were many indigenous civilizations thriving along the coast. Over time, Spanish missionaries and settlers colonized the region, and by 1821 it was considered a part of the new nation of Mexico. What is now the US state of California was then known as Alta California (Upper California), while the southern part of the territory, Baja California (Lower California), remains in Mexico to this day.

Alta California was a desirable piece of land and was vied over by various European powers in the nineteenth century. Colonists and settlers arrived from England, France, Russia, Canada, and the United States,
adding to the descendants of Spaniards and Native Americans that already lived there. In 1846, American settlers in Alta California rebelled against Mexico and formed an independent state, the California Republic, that lasted less than a month before surrendering to the U.S. Army that had come to fight the Mexican-American War (unbeknownst to most Californian citizens at the time). When the war concluded in two years, the United States took possession of Alta California as part of the peace treaty and divided it into several smaller territories, the westernmost of which would become the modern state of California.

In the same time period, gold was discovered in the territory and the famous California Gold Rush began, causing the non-native population to swell enormously over the next decade. Having a homestead in California came to symbolize the epitome of the American Dream, and hundreds of thousands of settlers pushed West. This led to major transportation innovations and eventually to the Transcontinental Railroad, which allowed for more immigrants than ever before to enter the state.

California became known for its agricultural produce, but in the twentieth century, other industries began to rise. Infrastructure and industrial projects became ubiquitous, with many famous dams and bridges (such as the Golden Gate Bridge) popping up in California’s central area. The state’s famous highway system was developed, making it more traversable and cementing America’s car-obsessed culture. Later in the century, California became even more desirable for the bright lights of Hollywood and the technological marvels of Silicon Valley. California was also home to one of the most envied public school systems in the world, although this situation has changed in recent decades as the state’s budget has collapsed. Still, whatever the state of its economy, California has retained its place in the American consciousness as a symbol of hope and opportunity.

California Facts & Trivia

1) California, the constituent part of the U.S., became the 31st state of the union on 9 September 1850.

2) In terms of area (after Alaska and Texas), it is the third biggest and also the most populous state of the United States.

3) California is situated on the western coast of the country and is bordered by Nevada to the east, Oregon to the north, Baja California to the south, and Arizona to the southeast. The capital of the state is Sacramento.

4) It is interesting to note that out of 50 most populated cities of the country, California alone is home to eight of them - Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, and Oakland.

5) There is a wide belief that the name California for the state has been derived from an early 16th century fictional work - Las sergas de Esplandián ("The Adventures of Esplandián"). It gives an account of a paradisiacal island rich with gold and valuable stones called California. Also, the state is nicknamed as The Golden State.

6) California is home to both the lowest and highest points of the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. - Death Valley and Mount Whitney. 7) Earthquakes are quite frequent here due to the location of the state along the Pacific Ring of Fire having an annual record of about 37,000, but mostly with a low-magnitude.

8) California's agricultural heartland is the Central Valley, which runs for 725 kilometers across the state's center, forming a channel between the Sierra Nevada to the east and the Coast Ranges to the west.

9) Industries that contribute chiefly to the economic growth of the state include agriculture, education, manufacturing, aerospace-defense, and biotechnology. On the other hand, significant natural resources comprise petroleum, natural gas, timber, and cement.

10) California possesses spectacular landscape and places to visit, namely Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood, Point Reyes National Seashore, San Simeon State Park, Sequoia National Park, and others.

11) To replace Gov. Gray Davis, a special recall election was held in 2003 wherein Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born bodybuilder-turned-actor was elected in his place.

12) In 1994, California government passed the initiative of Save our State (SOS), prohibiting social, educational, public, and health care services to illegal emigrants.

13) On the contrary, Gov. Jerry Brown sanctioned a bill in 2011 giving illegal emigrant college students financial aid from the state fund. The legislation was called the "Dream Act."

14) California has the world's biggest interconnected water system that manages more than 40,000,000 acre feet of water every year. It is centered on six main channels of infrastructure projects and aqueducts.

15) In road construction, California has been a pioneer. The Golden Gate Bridge, one of the more visible landmarks of the state, when it opened in 1937 was once the world's most spread out suspension bridge main span at about 4,200 feet.

16) Constructed in 1936, the Oakland Bay Bridge of San Francisco transports nearly 280,000 vehicles every day on two passages.

17) Los Angeles International Airport, the world's sixth busiest airport and San Francisco International Airport, the world's 21st busiest airport are central hubs for transcontinental and trans-Pacific traffic.

18) Since California is the most populous of the U.S. State, it is also one of the nation's largest energy users. The two chief nuclear power plants of the state are San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.

19) California is home to San Francisco Bay, which is the biggest landlocked harbor in the world.

20) The wine industry of California produces over 17 million gallons of wine every year.


Video on Facts about California

Last Updated On : February 6, 2016

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