Many people think that there are really 2 Californias:
Northern and Southern (Baja doesn't count). Where Southern California ends
and Northern California begins is a matter of perspective. Everybody knows
that San Francisco is in Northern California, and LA and San Diego are
in Southern California, but where does the boundary line begin? It depends
on whether you're talking geographically, climatologically, zoologically,
botanically, culturally, or politically. Many people, especially those
people who live around San Luis Obispo, think that there are really 3 Californias,
and they live in Central California. Other people, including the state's
tourism board, claim that there even more Californias, like 12 or so. Depending
on how fine you draw the distinctions, you can probably divide the state
into a hundred pieces, but that's getting ridiculous. It does show, however,
that the state has tremendous diversity in many ways. I choose to divide
the state into 10 regions, each having their own unique characteristics.
They roughly correlate to how a visitor would view the regions. Here they
- The heavily-populated South Coast, from San Diego in
the south, through LA and Ventura/Oxnard, to Santa Barbara in the north.
Los Angeles from the Griffith Park Planetarium
- The Inland Empire, east of LA to the San Bernadino Mountains.
- The Deserts, including the Anza Borrego, Sonoran or Colorado,
Mojave, Great Basin, and Death Valley, which cover most of the south central
to east central parts of the state.
- The Central Coast, from north of Santa Barbara to south
of Big Sur, which includes the cities of Santa Maria, Pismo, San Luis Obispo,
and Morro Bay.
- The vast Central Valley, from Bakersfield, through Fresno,
Stockton, Sacramento, to Redding.
- The Sierras, consisting of the Motherlode, the High Sierras,
and the Eastern Sierras, including Sequoia, King's
Canyon, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and the Feather River
Tioga Pass looking west
- The Wine Country, consisting of the world-famous varietal
wine-growing areas of Napa, Sonoma, Eastern Mendocino, and Lake Counties.
- The San Francisco Bay Area and Delta, which covers the
areas bordering the Bay and from Monterey in the south to Marin in the
north, southern Sonoma and Napa counties, and east to Contra Costa County.
- The Redwood Empire, which is the coastal belt where redwood
trees thrive, from northwestern Marin County, through western Sonoma, Mendocino,
and Humboldt Counties to the Oregon border (though technically, redwoods
also thrive along the coast as far south as Big Sur).
- The Shasta-Cascade area, which is the mountainous and
volcanic area in the extreme north-central part of the state around Mt.
Lassen, Mt. Shasta, to the Oregon border. It also includes the northeastern
corner of the state, which is one of the least-visited and least-populated,
but still scenic part of the state, consisting of deserts, lakes, and mountains.
The vast differences between these regions show that California
has tremendous variety. They're reflected in some of the records that California
- Most populous state (almost 30 million).
- Highest gross state product among the states.
- Highest volume of construction and manufacturing output
in the US.
- Largest exporter among the states.
- Greatest agricultural producer in the US.
- Largest producer of walnuts, almonds, nectarines, olives,
dates, figs, pomegranates, persimmons, lettuce, broccoli, garlic, celery,
cauliflower, carrots, lima beans, spinach, apricots, grapes, lemons, strawberries,
plums and prunes, peaches, cantaloupes, avocados, and honeydew melons.
- Nation's largest wine producer--4/5 of national total.
- Leading egg and milk producer in US.
- Largest producer of sand and gravel in US.
- Largest consumer of minerals in US.
- Leading state in retail and wholesale trade.
- Leading state in value of industrial output.
- Largest industrial employment in US.
- Second most populous city in the US (LA, 3.5 million).
- Most urbanized state (93% of population live in cities).
- Wealthiest community in the US (Woodside, San Mateo County).
- Largest Chinese community outside of Asia (San Francisco's
- Most cars of any state.
- Most civil aircraft of any state.
- Most immigrants of any state.
- Largest state college and university system.
- Largest academic building in the US (Life Sciences Building,
- 4 of the 20 largest cities in the US (LA, San Diego,
San Jose, San Francisco).
- Third largest state in area (158,869 square miles).
- Longest coastline outside of Alaska (840 miles long;
3427 miles, counting islands, inlets, and bays).
- Highest temperature ever recorded in the US (134 degrees,
- Windiest, foggiest point on the Pacific Coast (Point
- Lowest point in the western hemisphere (-282 feet, Death
- Highest point in the continguous 48 states (14,495 feet,
- Longest single continuous mountain range in North America
(Sierra Nevada, approx 400 miles).
- Deepest canyon in North America (Kings Canyon, 8200 feet
from river level to Spanish Mountain peak.
- Greatest viewpoint in Western Hemisphere in terms of
area visible, 2nd greatest in the world (Mount Diablo, Contra Costa County).
- Tallest tree in the world (coast redwoods, >360 feet,
Redwood Nat. Park).
- Largest tree in the world and by most measures, the largest
single living thing (General Sherman giant sequoia, Sequoia Nat. Park,
275 ft. tall and a maximum diameter of 36.5 ft, trunk weight estimated
at 1385 tons).
- Oldest tree in the world (bristlecone pine, >4500
years old, White Mountains).
- Highest waterfalls in North America (in Yosemite: Ribbon
Falls--1612 feet, Upper Yosemite Falls--1430 feet, Silver Strand--1170
feet, Bridalvel Falls--620 feet, Nevada Falls--594 feet, Illiloutte Falls--370
feet, Lower Yosemite Falls--320 feet, Vernal Falls--317 feet). The total
length of Yosemite Falls makes it the fifth longest in the world, otherwise
Ribbon Falls would be the fifth.
- Largest national park outside of Alaska (Death Valley,
8554 sq. mi.).
- Second largest alpine lake in the world and second deepest
in the US (L. Tahoe).
- Longest suspension bridge when built (Golden Gate Bridge,
1937, 8,981 feet in total length, 4200 feet between towers).
- Most photographed manmade structure in the world (Golden
- Motion picture capital of the world (Hollywood, of course).
- High-tech capital of the world (Santa Clara Valley, aka
- Largest wind tunnel in the world (at NASA Ames Research
Center, Mtn View).
- Largest continuous window in the world (Outer Bay tank,
Monterey Bay Aquarium).
- Most national parks and forests:
- 8 National Parks: Channel Islands, Death Valley, Joshua
Tree, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Redwood, Sequoia, and Yosemite.
- 5 National Monuments: Cabrillo, Devils Postpile, Lava
Beds, Muir Woods, and Pinnacles.
- 5 National Historic Sites and Parks: Eugene O'Neill,
Fort Point, John Muir, Manzanar San Francisco National Maritime Museum.
- 1 National Preserve: Mojave.
- 1 National Seashore: Point Reyes.
- 2 National Recreation Areas: Golden Gate, Santa Monica
- Largest national forest acreage outside of Alaska: 20.6
million acres in 18 national forests.
- California also has 180 state parks and beaches.
- Most professional sports team of any state.
- Best quarterback and wide receiver in NFL history (Joe
Montana, Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49'ers).
- Most expensive housing in the Continental US (San Francisco
- Most traffic-congested metropolitan area (Los Angeles,
San Francisco-Oakland is third).
- Disaster capital of the US (fire, flood, earthquakes,
mudslides, bad movies).
- Worst disaster ever to hit a North American City (Great
San Francisco Fire and Earthquake of 1906).
Here are some useful links:
- The Dream & The Challenge
- California Travel
- California Home Page
State Historical Landmarks
- California State University
of California State Parks PARK RELATED LINKS
State Parks A to Z List
Click here to return to my Bay Area
Back Pages Home Page
Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 10/7/97. Last update 11/12/97.