|State of California|
|Spoken language(s)||English (only) 57.6%
Spanish 28.2% 
|Largest city||Los Angeles|
|Largest metro area||Greater Los Angeles Area|
|- Total||163,696 sq mi
|- Width||250 miles (400 km)|
|- Length||770 miles (1,240 km)|
|- % water||4.7|
|- Latitude||32° 32′ N to 42° N|
|- Longitude||114° 8′ W to 124° 26′ W|
|Population||Ranked 1st in the U.S.|
|- Total||37,691,912 (2011 est) .|
|- Density||242/sq mi (93.3/km2)
Ranked 11th in the U.S.
|- Median income||US$61,021 (9th)|
|- Highest point||Mount Whitney
14,505 ft (4421.0 m)
|- Mean||2,900 ft (880 m)|
|- Lowest point||Badwater Basin in Death Valley 
−282  ft (-86.0 m)
|Admission to Union||September 9, 1850 (31st)|
|Governor||Jerry Brown (D)|
|U.S. Senators||Dianne Feinstein (D)
Barbara Boxer (D)
|Time zone||Pacific: UTC-8/-7|
|Abbreviations||CA Calif. US-CA|
California is a state on the West Coast of the United States, along the Pacific Ocean. It is the most populous state in the nation. The four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. More than three fourths of California's population resides in the metropolitan areas of the three largest cities. The state is known for its varied climate and geography as well as its diverse population. Approximately half its land is federally owned, with National parks and nature reserves scattered throughout the state. Remarkable physical contrasts define the state. Both the highest (Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada range) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the 48 coterminous states are located here. The center of the state is dominated by Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.
California is rich in natural resources. The California Gold Rush (1848-1855) dramatically changed California, sparking a large influx of people and a sustained economic boom. The early twentieth century was marked by Los Angeles becoming the center of the entertainment industry, in addition to the growth of a large tourism sector in the state. Along with agriculture, other industries include aerospace, petroleum, computer and information technology. California's economy ranks among the ten largest worldwide.
California has long attracted the non-conventional and innovative, and has given birth to many aspects of modern American culture.
The name California is most commonly believed to have derived from a storied paradise peopled by black Amazons and ruled by Queen Califia. The myth of Califia is recorded in a 1510 work The Exploits of Esplandian, written by Spanish adventure writer García Ordóñez Rodríguez de Montalvo. The kingdom of Queen Califia, according to Montalvo, was said to be a remote land inhabited by griffins and other strange beasts and rich in gold.
California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and to the south the Mexican state of Baja California. With an area of 160,000 square miles (414,000 km²) it is the third largest state in the United States in size, after Alaska and Texas.
In the middle of the state lies the Central 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. The Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland and grows approximately one-third of the nation's food. Divided in two by the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the northern portion, the Sacramento Valley, serves as the watershed of the Sacramento River, while the southern portion, the San Joaquin Valley, is the watershed for the San Joaquin River. With dredging, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers have remained sufficiently deep that several inland cities are seaports.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta serves as a critical water supply hub for the state. Water is routed through an extensive network of canals and pumps that traverse nearly the length of the state. Water from the delta provides drinking water for nearly 23 million people, almost two-thirds of the state's population, and provides water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The Channel Islands are located off the southern coast.
The Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "snowy range") include the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4,421 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. California is also home to the second lowest and hottest place in the Western Hemisphere, Death Valley.
To the east of the Sierra Nevada are Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential migratory bird habitat. 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.
About 35 percent of the state's total surface area is covered by forests, and California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Many of the trees in the White Mountains are the oldest in the world; one Bristlecone pine has an age of 4,700 years. In the south is a large inland salt lake, the Salton Sea.
Deserts in California make up about 25 percent of the total surface area. The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley. The distance from the lowest point of Death Valley to the peak of Mount Whitney is less than 200 miles (322 km). Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid desert, with extremely high temperatures during the summer.
California is famous for earthquakes due to a number of faults, in particular the San Andreas Fault. It is vulnerable to tsunamis, floods, droughts, Santa Ana winds, wildfires, and landslides on steep terrain, and has several volcanoes, one of which, Lassen Peak, the southern-most volcano in the Cascade Range, last erupted in 1915.
California's climate varies widely. 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. Farther inland, one encounters colder winters and hotter summers.
Northern parts of the state average higher annual rainfall than the south. California's mountain ranges influence the climate as well: some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate, and the Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate but with greater temperature extremes than the coast. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.
The east side of California's mountains has a drier rain shadow. The low deserts east of the Southern California mountains experience hot summers and nearly frostless mild winters; the higher-elevation deserts of eastern California see hot summers and cold winters. In Death Valley, the highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere, 134 °F (57 °C), was recorded July 10, 1913.
Ecologically, California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California boasts several superlatives in its collection of flora: the largest trees, the tallest trees, and the oldest trees.
California's large number of endemic species includes relict species that have died out elsewhere. Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat.
The two most prominent rivers within California are the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River, which drain the Central Valley and flow to the Pacific Ocean through San Francisco Bay. Two other important rivers are the Klamath River, in the north, and the Colorado River, on the southeast border.
Settled by successive waves of arrivals during the last 10,000 years, California was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in pre-Columbian North America; the area was inhabited by more than 70 distinct groups of Native Americans. Large, settled populations lived on the coast and hunted sea mammals, fished for salmon, and gathered shellfish, while groups in the interior hunted terrestrial game and gathered nuts, acorns, and berries. California groups also were diverse in their political organization with bands, tribes, villages, and on the resource-rich coasts, large chiefdoms, such as the Chumash, Pomo and Salinan. Trade, intermarriage, and military alliances fostered many social and economic relationships among the diverse groups.
The first European to explore the coast as far north as the Russian River was the Portuguese João Rodrigues Cabrilho, in 1542, sailing for Spain. The English explorer Francis Drake also explored and claimed an undefined portion of the California coast in 1579. Spanish traders made unintended visits on their return trips from the Philippines beginning in 1565. Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast of California in 1602 for New Spain.
Spanish missionaries began setting up twenty-one California Missions along the coast of what became known as Alta California (Upper California), together with small towns and presidios. The first mission in Alta California was established at San Diego in 1769. (The first successful mission in Baja California had been established at Loreto, Baja California Sur in 1697.) In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence gave Mexico (including California), independence from Spain; for the next twenty-five years, Alta California remained a remote northern province of the nation of Mexico. Cattle ranches, or ranchos, emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California. After Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government and were secularized by 1832. The ranchos developed under ownership by Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians) who had received land grants and traded cowhides and tallow with Boston merchants.
Beginning in the 1820s, trappers and settlers from the United States and Canada began to arrive in Northern California, harbingers of the great changes that would later sweep the Mexican territory. In this period, Russia explored the California coast and established a trading post at Fort Ross.
In 1846, settlers rebelled against Mexican rule during the Bear Flag Revolt. Afterward, rebels raised the Bear Flag (featuring a bear, a star, a red stripe, and the words "California Republic") at Sonoma. The California Republic was short lived. The same year marked the outbreak of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). The United States Navy sailed into Monterey Bay and began the military occupation of California by the United States. Northern California capitulated in less than a month to the U.S. forces. After a series of defensive battles in Southern California, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed by the Californios on January 13, 1847, securing American control in California. Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war, the region was divided between Mexico and the United States; the western territory of Alta California, was to become the U.S. state of California, and Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah became U.S. Territories, while the lower region of California, Baja California, remained in the possession of Mexico.
In 1848, the non-native population of California has been estimated to be no more than 15,000. But after gold was discovered, the population burgeoned with U.S. citizens, Europeans, and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush. On September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted to the United States as a free state (one in which slavery was prohibited). The capital has been located in Sacramento since 1854.
Travel between California and the central and eastern parts of the United States was time-consuming and dangerous. A more direct connection came in 1869 with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. After this rail link was established, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens came west, where new Californians were discovering that land in the state, if irrigated during the dry summer months, was extremely well suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Vast expanses of wheat and other cereal crops, vegetables, cotton, and nut and fruit trees were grown (including oranges in Southern California), and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production in the Central Valley and elsewhere.
During the early twentieth century, migration to California accelerated with the completion of major transcontinental highways. In the period from 1900 to 1965, the population grew from fewer than one million to become the most populous state. Since 1965, the population has became one of the most diverse in the world. But tensions have occasionally flared up in relations between the races. During World War II, Japanese-Americans living in California were forced into internment camps. Los Angeles experienced riots in its predominantly African American districts in 1965 and 1992.
|California State symbols|
The California State Legislature, with the support of Governor John Bigler, moved to Sacramento in 1854. The Capital of California before 1846 was located in Monterey where in 1849 the first Constitutional Convention and state elections were held. In 1849 the State Legislature voted to sit the State Capitol in San Jose. After 1850, when California was ratified as a state, the Capitol was also located in Vallejo, and Benicia before moving to Sacramento. In the 1879 Constitutional Convention, Sacramento was named to be the permanent State Capital.
California is governed as a republic. The executive branch consists of the governor and the other independently elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consists of the Assembly and Senate. The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court of California and lower courts. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification. The state's capital is Sacramento.
The governor and the other state constitutional officers serve four-year terms and may be re-elected only once. The state legislature consists of a 40-member Senate and 80-member Assembly. Senators serve four year terms and Assembly members two. Members of the Assembly are subject to term limits of three terms, and members of the Senate are limited to two terms.
California's judiciary is the largest in the United States (with a total of 1,600 judges). Justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the governor but are subject to retention by the electorate every 12 years.
California was the second state to legalize abortion and the second state to legalize marriage for gay couples. It was also the first state where voters decided that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized. In November 2008, voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, overriding a California Supreme Court ruling in May that had allowed same-sex marriages.
Since 1990, California has generally elected Democratic candidates; however, the state has had little hesitance in electing Republican governors, though many of its Republican governors, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, tend to be considered "moderate" Republicans and more liberal than the party itself.
Democratic strength is centered in coastal regions of Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Democrats also hold a majority in Sacramento. Republican strength is greatest in the San Joaquin Valley and Orange County. The districts in California are usually dominated by one or the other party with very few districts that could be considered competitive.
The state is divided into 58 counties. California has 479 incorporated cities and towns, of which 457 are cities and 22 are towns. The majority of these cities and towns are within one of five metropolitan areas. Sixty-eight percent of California's population lives in its three largest metropolitan areas, Greater Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Riverside-San Bernardino Area.
As of 2007, the gross state product (GSP) was about $1.812 trillion, the largest in the United States. California is responsible for 13 percent of the United States gross domestic product (GDP). As of 2006, California's GDP was larger than all but eight countries in the world (and all but eleven countries by Purchasing Power Parity). California was facing a $16 billion budget deficit for the 2008-09 budget year.
California is also the home of several significant economic regions, such as Hollywood (entertainment), Southern California (aerospace), the Central Valley (agriculture), the Silicon Valley and Tech Coast (computers and high tech), and wine-producing regions such as the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
In terms of jobs, the five largest sectors in California are trade, transportation, and utilities; government; professional and business services; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality. In terms of output, the five largest sectors are financial services, followed by trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; government; and manufacturing.
California's economy is very dependent on trade, and international-related commerce accounts for approximately one-quarter of the state’s economy. In 2007 California exported $134 billion worth of goods, up from $127 billion in 2006 and $117 billion in 2005, surpassing the 2000 peak of $125 billion for two consecutive years. Computers and electronic products are California's top export, accounting for 36 percent of the state's total exports in 2007.
Although agriculture contributes the least toward employment and output, it remains a very important sector in California's economy. Farming-related sales have more than quadrupled over the past three decades, from $7.3 billion in 1974 to nearly $31 billion in 2004. This increase has occurred despite a 15 percent decline in acreage devoted to farming during the period. Factors contributing to the growth in sales-per-acre include more intensive use of active farmlands and technological improvements in crop production.
Per capita personal income was $38,956 as of 2006, ranking 11th in the nation. Per capita income varies widely by geographic region and profession. The Central Valley is the most impoverished, with migrant farm workers making less than minimum wage. Recently, the San Joaquin Valley was characterized as one of the most economically depressed regions in the nation, on par with Appalachia.
The high-technology sectors in Northern California, specifically Silicon Valley in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, have emerged from the economic downturn caused by the dot.com bust. In spring 2005, economic growth had resumed in California at 4.3 percent.
California’s crude oil and natural gas deposits are located in six geological basins in the Central Valley and along the coast. California has more than a dozen of the United States' largest oil fields, including the Midway-Sunset Oil Field, the second largest oil field in the contiguous United States.
Although California is a leader in some energy-intensive industries, the state has one of the lowest per capita energy consumption rates in the country. This is in spite of the fact that more motor vehicles are registered in California than any other state, and worker commute times are among the longest in the country.
California’s crude oil output accounts for more than one-tenth of total U.S. production. Drilling operations are concentrated primarily in Kern County and the Los Angeles basin. Although there is also substantial offshore oil and gas production, there is a permanent moratorium on new offshore oil and gas leasing in California waters and a deferral of leasing in federal waters.
California ranks third in the United States in petroleum refining capacity and accounts for more than one-tenth of total U.S. capacity. In addition to oil from California, California’s refineries process crude oil from Alaska and foreign suppliers.
California natural gas production typically is less than 2 percent of total annual U.S. production and satisfies less than one-fifth of state demand. California receives most of its natural gas by pipeline from production regions in the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, and western Canada.
Natural gas-fired power plants typically account for more than one-half of the state's electricity generation. California is one of the largest hydroelectric power producers in the United States, and with adequate rainfall, hydroelectric power typically accounts for close to one-fifth of its electricity generation. Due to strict emission laws, only a few small coal-fired power plants operate in California. The Mojave Desert is one of the best sites in the United States for solar power plants. California’s two nuclear power plants account for almost one-fifth of total generation.
California leads the United States in electricity generation from nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal, solar energy, fuel wood, and municipal solid waste/landfill gas resources. A facility known as “The Geysers,” located in the Mayacamas Mountains north of San Francisco, is the largest group of geothermal power plants in the world.
Due to high electricity demand, California imports more electricity than any other state, primarily hydroelectric power from states in the Pacific Northwest and coal- and natural gas-fired production from the desert Southwest.
California offers a unique three-tier system of public postsecondary education:
California is also home to such notable private universities as Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and the California Institute of Technology. California has hundreds of other private colleges and universities, including many religious and special-purpose institutions.
Public 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. California's public educational system is supported by a unique constitutional amendment that requires 40 percent of state revenues be spent on education.
By 2007, California's population was estimated at 36,553,215, making it the most populated state and the 13th fastest-growing state. More than 12 percent of U.S. citizens live in California.
California has eight of the top 50 U.S. cities in terms of population. Los Angeles is the nation's second-largest city with a population of 3,849,378 people, and Los Angeles County has held the title of most populous county for decades and is more populous than 42 U.S. states.
According to the 2006 American Community Survey Estimates, California's population is:
According to estimates from 2006, California has the largest minority population in the United States, making up 57 percent of the state population. Non-Hispanic whites decreased from 80 percent of the state's population in 1970 to 43 percent in 2006. The state has the fifth largest population of African Americans and approximately one-third of the nation's Asian Americans. Its Native American population is the most of any state.
As of 2000, 60.52 percent of California residents age five and older spoke English as a first language at home, while 25.8 percent spoke Spanish. In total, 39.47 percent of the population spoke languages other than English. Over 200 languages are known to be spoken and read in California.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and the Southern Baptist Convention. While California is below the national average in those officially belonging to a church (approximately one-third of the population), it has the highest concentration of megachurches (generally nondenominational churches with 2,000 or more members) of any state.
Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish community in North America. California also has the largest Muslim community in the United States, an estimated 3.4 percent of the population, mostly residing in Southern California, which is also home to 40 percent of all Buddhists in America. It also has a growing Hindu population.
A Pew Research Center survey revealed that California is less religiously inclined than the rest of the nation: 62 percent say they are "absolutely certain" of the belief in God, while in the nation 71 percent say so. The survey also revealed 48 percent of Californians say religion is "very important," while the figure for the United States is 56 percent.
The Azusa Street Revival, the primary catalyst for the spread of Pentecostalism in the 20th century, took place in Los Angeles from 1906 to 1915. One of the early twentieth century's best remembered evangelists, and founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church, Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), built the prestigious Angelus Temple in Los Angeles. In the 1950s, Zen Buddhism was popular in San Francisco, with the well-known Alan Watts—known as an interpreter and popularizer of Asian philosophies for Western followers—gaining a following in Berkeley. Scientology has thrived in southern California and has boasted many celebrity adherents.
The Hippie subculture that began as a youth movement during the early 1960s had its beginnings in San Francisco and soon spread throughout the world. Hippie fashions and values had a major effect on culture, influencing popular music, television, film, literature, and the arts. Since the 1960s, many aspects of hippie culture have been assimilated by the mainstream. The religious and cultural diversity espoused by the hippies has gained widespread acceptance, with Eastern philosophy and spiritual concepts having reached a wide audience. The hippie legacy can be observed in contemporary culture in a myriad of forms — from health food, to music festivals, to contemporary sexual mores.
One of the first U.S. cities to issue anti-discrimination ordinances on the basis of sexual preference was San Francisco, which had become a haven for gay men and lesbians in the years following World War II. Other California cities, including Los Angeles, also have significant gay and lesbian populations that are politically and culturally active. In May 2008, California’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage. Opponents vowed to battle the ruling with a constitutional amendment.
With the largest economy of any U.S. state, only a handful of industrialized nations have economies that surpass California's. The development of Silicon Valley in the late 1970s made the state a world leader in the manufacture of computers and electronics. It dominates in the aerospace industry, in the film and television industry, and in agriculture and viticulture, and attracts workers from the world over.
However, its large, concentrated population creates strains on its natural resources and challenges the state to solve its pressing needs for water, energy, and clean air. California leads the United States in electricity generation from nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal, solar energy, fuel wood, and municipal solid waste/landfill gas resources. Its auto-emission standards are the toughest in the nation. Tensions exist between those who value restoring California's rivers to their wild state and those who want to harness the water for electricity, irrigation, and drinking water.
A 26-year federal ban on most offshore drilling for oil and natural gas was allowed to expire in 2008, giving states a bigger say on new drilling projects. While many people fear a repeat of a 1969 accident on an oil rig near Santa Barbara that coated 35 miles of shoreline in oil, the high prices for gasoline in 2008 revived the debate. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) opposes more drilling, but public opinion is shifting toward approval.
All links retrieved March 27, 2013.
|Political divisions of the United States|
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