The Central Valley

Here are some illustrations showing the main sights of the Great Central Valley of California:

Central Valley in Summer

Central Valley in Winter

OK, I'm just kidding. It's not that bad, but this is how many Californians, especially from coastal cities, view the Central Valley. It's mostly covered with flat farmland. It's hot in the summer and foggy in the winter. 

California's vast central valley lies between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevadas. It runs for 500 miles from the northwest near Lake Shasta to the southeast near Bakersfield. Two major river systems drain the valley--the Sacramento in the north and the San Joaquin to the south. The mountain rivers and streams of the western Sierra drain into these rivers. Most of the valley is a broad, flat, fertile plain, covered with farmlands. Three-fifths of California's farmland lies in this region. Though most of this region is rural, there are several major cities here: Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, and the state capital, Sacramento. There are also many small cities, like Redding, Red Bluff, Chico, Marysville, Yuba City, Woodland, Davis, Modesto, Tracy, Merced, Los Banos, Chowchilla, Madera, Hanford, Visalia, and Porterville. These cities thrive on commerce, farm equipment manufacturing, and agri-business. Some, like the cities east of Sacramento, are getting more high-tech industries, as they seek lower-cost real estate. Cities on the western edge of the valley, like Los Banos, Modesto, Tracy, and Stockton, are becoming commuter cities for workers in the Bay Area who can't afford the sky-high housing prices there.

Though the Central Valley, except for Sacramento, is not a major tourist destination, many tourists pass through here on the way between the Sierras and the coast. Visitors to Yosemite and other parks in the Sierras often stay in lodging in the valley. Because it's mostly flat farmland, the area doesn't have the scenery of the mountains and the coast. Its 100+ degree weather in the summer and dense fog in the winter make it unpleasant during those times of year. People from the coast consider it the most boring part of a trip to the Sierras. They may stop there only for food or a rest stop. Travelers who drive the long, straight, monotonous run along Interstate 5 to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles may have a hard time staying awake. Still, there are things to see in the valley if you take the time to look for them. Here are some:

State Capitol Building, Sacramento Click here to return to my Bay Area Back Pages Home Page

Created 10/9/97. Last update: 1/31/99