Friday, 10 January 2014


California, state in the western United States, bordering the Pacific Ocean. The third largest state in the Union, California covers an area of great physical diversity in which uplands dominate the landscape. The mountains, hills, ridges, and peaks of California flank the coastline, rise to nearly 4,600 m (15,000 ft) in the towering Sierra Nevada, encircle the great fertile basin of the Central Valley, and separate the desert into innumerable basins. However, despite the physical dominance and economic value of the uplands, California’s urban areas and economic production are concentrated in the valleys and lowlands, such as in the huge metropolitan region centered on Los Angeles, the state’s largest and the nation’s second largest city. Manufacturing, agriculture, and related activities are the principal sources of income. They are based in large part on the state’s wealth of natural resources, its productive farmlands, its large and highly skilled labor force, and its ability to market its output both at home and abroad.
California’s size, complexity, and economic productivity make it preeminently a state of superlatives. It has the lowest point in the country, in Death Valley, and the highest U.S. peak outside of Alaska, Mount Whitney. Among the 50 states it has the greatest number of national parks and national forests, and the only stand of giant sequoias. Its annual farm output is greater in value than that of any other state, and it leads the rest of the nation in the production of many crops. It is the leading state in volume of annual construction and manufacturing. California has more people than any other state and more automobiles, more civil aircraft, and more students enrolled in universities and colleges.
Between the late 1940s and late 1980s the rate of growth and actual growth of California’s population and economy were phenomenal compared with other states. However, this growth also gave rise to, or aggravated, several major problems that now face Californians. Much of the growth occurred in the dry south where water shortages must be offset by vast, expensive public projects delivering water from the wetter north. Urban centers extended outward into good farmland, forever removing it from food production. In addition, as population continues to increase, California is faced with the problem of providing its inhabitants with more schools, hospitals, water, highways, recreational facilities, and other services.
The name California was first used to designate the region by the Spanish expedition led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, as it sailed northward along the coast from Mexico in 1542. The name itself was probably derived from a popular Spanish novel published in 1510 in which a fictional island paradise named California was described. The state’s official nickname is the Golden State, referring to the gold rush, which played a central role in California’s entry into the Union on September 9, 1850, as the 31st state. The nickname also suggests the state’s golden fields and sunshine.
California, the third largest state in the Union, has a total area of 423,971 sq km (163,696 sq mi), including 6,926 sq km (2,674 sq mi) of inland water and 575 sq km (222 sq mi) of coastal waters over which it has jurisdiction. The state is roughly rectangular in shape, although the southern two-thirds bends in a dogleg toward the east. It has a maximum distance north to south of 1,052 km (654 mi) and an east-to-west extent of 945 km (587 mi), although even locations along the state’s eastern border are less than 350 km (220 mi) from the ocean. California’s mean elevation is about 880 m (2,900 ft).
Much of California lies in a geologically unstable area, crisscrossed by fault, or fracture, lines in the Earth’s crust. The great San Andreas Fault extends for 1,000 km (600 mi) northwestward from the Imperial Valley to Point Arena and out to sea. This fault line has caused several notable earthquakes in the recorded history of California. The most widely publicized was that of April 18, 1906, which resulted in the destruction of central San Francisco. Although major earthquakes are rare, landslides, mudflows, minor tremors, and cracks in the ground occur regularly.
A Natural Regions
California lies within four major natural regions, or physiographic provinces. They are the Pacific Border province, the Sierra-Cascade province, the Basin and Range province, and the Lower Californian province.
The Pacific Border province, also called the Coastal Uplands, extends nearly the entire length of western California. It can be subdivided into four sections, the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Ranges, the Transverse Ranges, and the Great Central Valley.
The Klamath Mountains, partly in Oregon, occupy the northwestern corner of California. They include a number of separate ranges, such as the Salmon and Trinity mountains, and form a rugged forested area that rises to 2,700 m (9,000 ft).
The Coast Ranges parallel the Pacific Coast in a complex series of ridges and valleys. The only major low-lying pass through the ranges is formed by San Francisco Bay and its tributary bays, as they carry the waters of California’s largest river, the Sacramento, into the Pacific Ocean at the Golden Gate. The principal range is the Diablo Range, which flanks the Central Valley and rises to 1,500 m (5,000 ft) above sea level. Between the interior Diablo Range and the coastal Santa Lucia Range lies the long Salinas valley.
The Transverse Ranges, so named because they run transverse or perpendicular (west to east) to the north-south oriented Coast Ranges, extend from Point Conception, on the coast, roughly eastward to the Mojave Desert. These generally narrow ranges increase in elevation toward the east, where Mount San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains rises to 3,505 m (11,499 ft) above sea level. The Transverse Ranges partly enclose low but often hilly Los Angeles and its suburbs.
The Great Central Valley is a vast structural depression that extends from northwest to southeast for 640 km (400 mi), with an average width of 80 km (50 mi). The valley is surrounded by mountain ranges that rise steeply from the valley floor on the west and more gently on the east. The Central Valley, with its flat land and rich alluvial soils, is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. The northern part of the valley is called the Sacramento Valley, and the southern part is called the San Joaquin Valley.
The Sierra-Cascade province is, in California, a vast upland area that extends from Oregon to the Transverse Ranges. It is subdivided into two sections, the southern Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada.
The southern Cascade Range, in northern California, consists of a rugged belt of ranges that includes volcanic peaks and extensive lava flows. Mount Shasta, which is a dormant volcano, rises to 4,317 m (14,162 ft) above sea level. Just to the south of Lassen Volcanic National Park the densely forested Cascades meet the Sierra Nevada.
The Sierra Nevada, nearly all of which lies in California, is an imposing mountain barrier that extends along the eastern edge of the Central Valley. It is primarily a vast tilted granite block, with very steep slopes facing east and longer, gentler slopes facing west. The highest section, known as the High Sierra, includes Mount Whitney, which rises to 4,418 m (14,494 ft) and is the highest peak in the United States outside of Alaska. Forests cover large areas on the lower western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. At the southern end of the Sierra Nevada the Tehachapi Mountains curve southwestward to join the Coast Ranges and the Transverse Ranges.
The Basin and Range province is an arid area of mountain ranges, basins, and deserts. In California it is represented primarily by parts of the Great Basin and Sonoran Desert sections. Within the Great Basin lies Death Valley, whose lowest elevation, 86 m (282 ft) below sea level, is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. The Sonoran Desert section is characterized by numerous flat plains separated by low but rugged ranges. It includes the extensive Mojave, or Mohave, Desert. Also in this province is the Colorado Desert, roughly extensive with the Salton Trough. The trough is a depression that extends from the Gulf of California, in Mexico, to the Transverse Ranges in the northwest. This arid depression, rimmed by several mountain ranges, includes the Imperial Valley, the Salton Sea, and the Coachella Valley.
The Lower California province is a northern extension of Mexico’s peninsula of Baja California. The province is dominated by occasional peaks but generally rolling mountain and valley terrain of the Peninsular Ranges. The northern end of the granitic Peninsular Ranges culminates in Mount San Jacinto (3,293 m/10,804 ft), which overlooks the resort city of Palm Springs to the east.
B Rivers and Lakes
California’s principal river systems are formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries, which drain the Great Central Valley. The Sacramento, the longest river within the state, flows generally southward for 607 km (377 mi) from its source at the base of Mount Shasta in the southern Cascade Mountains to its junction with the San Joaquin. The Pit River is the longest tributary of the Sacramento, but shorter tributaries, such as the Feather and American rivers, carry larger volumes of water. The San Joaquin River rises in the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite National Park and flows generally northward for 560 km (350 mi) to join the Sacramento River. The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers unite to form a large inland delta that drains to Suisun Bay, the eastern arm of San Francisco Bay. Numerous mountain streams descend from the Sierra Nevada to join the two rivers. A number of short streams rise on the eastern flanks of the Coast Ranges, but they usually run dry before reaching either river.
The rivers of the Coast Ranges in California are relatively short, except for the 400-km (250-mi) long Klamath River, which rises in Oregon and flows through northwestern California. Farther south the Salinas River rises in the Coast Ranges and flows northwestward, roughly parallel to the coast, through a broad fertile valley to Monterey Bay.
The major river in southern California is the Colorado River, one of the chief rivers of the western United States. It follows the Arizona-California state line before flowing into the Gulf of California, in Mexico.
California has several thousand lakes, most of which are small. The largest is the Salton Sea, a salty lake in the south that lies 71 m (233 ft) below sea level and covers 943 sq km (364 sq mi). Lake Tahoe, high in the Sierra Nevada, is on the California-Nevada state line and is one of the deepest lakes in the United States. Numerous other lakes have been created by the damming of rivers. These include Folsom Reservoir on the American River, Lake Oroville on the Feather River, and Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River, all in the Sierra Nevada, and Clair Engle Lake on the Trinity River, in the Klamath Mountains. Shasta Lake, behind Shasta Dam on the upper Sacramento River, is the largest reservoir in the state, and along with Clair Engle and Whiskeytown lakes, forms one of the largest national recreation areas in the nation.
C Coastline and Islands
California’s coastline is 1,352 km (840 mi) long; when all the inlets and islands are taken into account, it is 5,515 km (3,427 mi) long. The only large indentation along the coast is formed by San Francisco Bay and its tributary bays. The nearly landlocked bay is linked with the ocean through the narrow Golden Gate, and it is one of the finest harbors on the Pacific coast of North America. Other indentations include San Diego Bay, San Pedro Bay, Monterey Bay, and Humboldt Bay.
Other than the small, rocky Farallon Islands, which lie some 50 km (30 mi) west of the Golden Gate and which comprise a National Wildlife Refuge, the state’s larger islands are offshore of southern California. They are in two groups: the Santa Barbara Channel islands, which geologically are a seaward continuation of the Transverse Ranges, and Santa Catalina, San Clemente and San Nicolas islands, which are associated geologically with the Peninsular Ranges. Although essentially uninhabited, the Channel Islands form a national park and are accessed by charter boat. By contrast, Santa Catalina, with its colorful port city of Avalon, has a permanent resident population, as do a few other islands. With the exception of far-flung San Clemente and San Nicolas islands, which serve as unoccupied United States military reservations, Santa Catalina and the Channel Islands are situated 50 km (30 mi) offshore, the former west of the densely populated Los Angeles Basin, and the latter due south of the city of Santa Barbara. None of the islands are large.
D Climate
The climate of California is characterized by cool to mild winters and, except in the high mountains, warm to hot summers. The year is divided into a wet season and a dry season. Precipitation falls mainly during the period from October to April. The mountain slopes facing westward are usually wetter than the slopes facing eastward because the moisture-bearing winds from the Pacific are forced to condense and precipitate their moisture as they rise over the mountains. In general, northern California has lower temperatures and greater precipitation than southern California. However, climatic and weather conditions in the state vary greatly from place to place and from year to year.
The prevailing winds of all of California are the westerlies, so-named because they blow from the west toward the east. The westerlies not only bring winter storms and eagerly awaited precipitation to the state, but throughout the year they drive the nation’s largest wind-power facilities. Located at Altamont, east of San Francisco Bay, and in Tehachapi and San Gorgonio passes, in southern California, the largest windfarms supply several hundred thousand residents with electricity when the winds are greater than 23 km/h (14 mph). The dry Santa Ana wind, a reversal of the prevailing westerly pattern to an easterly or northeasterly wind, occurs predominantly in southern California and in the fall of the year when high pressure builds over the interior deserts and flows offshore to cells of low pressure.
In the coastal areas north of Point Conception, July temperatures average 16°C (60°F). January temperatures are between 4° and 10°C (40° and 50°F). Precipitation increases from 380 mm (15 in) near Point Conception to more than 1,800 mm (70 in) at Crescent City, near the Oregon border. Fogs are frequent along the coast, especially in summer. South of Point Conception the coastal areas are drier and have a greater range of average temperatures. Rainfall averages only 310 mm (12 in) at Los Angeles and 250 mm (10 in) at San Diego. Average January temperatures are between 10° and 16°C (50° and 60°F). July averages are generally between 21° and 27°C (70° and 80°F), but much higher temperatures, even in the upper 30°s C (lower 100°s F) occur during summer.
In the Central Valley, average temperatures are 27°C (80°F) in July and 7°C (45°F) in January. Precipitation varies from more than 760 mm (30 in) a year in the valley’s northern part to less than 150 mm (6 in) at its southern end.
In the extensive mountainous areas of California, winters are severe. The western slopes of the Klamath Mountains, the wettest part of the state, receive more than 2,500 mm (100 in) of precipitation yearly. Many peaks in the Sierra Nevada support small glaciers and thus appear snowcapped throughout the year, and in some locations the snowfall exceeds 13,000 mm (500 in), the equivalent of 1,300 mm (50 in) of rain.
The Great Basin and Mojave Desert sections of California are extremely arid. In Death Valley, precipitation averages less than 50 mm (2 in) a year, and in some years it never rains. These desert areas are the hottest parts of the state and of the nation. July temperatures in Death Valley average in the upper 30°s C (lower 100°s F), and the highest temperature (57°C/134°F) ever recorded in the United States was taken there.
In the Central Valley the frost-free season averages between 240 and 280 days. This long period permits the cultivation of many crops that are sensitive to frost damage. Elsewhere in California the growing season ranges from more than 320 days along the southern coast to less than 120 days in the northern valleys.
E Soils
The most productive soils in California are the alluvial soils of the Central Valley and of the Imperial, San Fernando, Salinas, and Santa Clara valleys. These soils, composed of materials washed down from the surrounding mountains, can be intensively cultivated when irrigated.
The soils of the desert lands lack organic matter but are rich in trace elements. Although they are productive when irrigated, the desert lands are often used for grazing because sufficient irrigation water is not available. Large sections of the state are covered by soils generally not suited for cultivation because they occur in rough and mountainous country. However, in some areas, especially in the northwest, these soils support extensive coniferous forests.
F Plant Life
Forest lands cover 40 percent of California’s land area. The most densely forested areas are the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Ranges north of San Francisco, and the Sierra Nevada. Tree growth is heaviest on the wet, westward-facing slopes. The coast redwood grows in dense forests on the lower mountain slopes along the coast between the Santa Lucia Range south of Monterey Bay and the Oregon state line (see Sequoia). The redwood, the official state tree, grows to more than 60 m (200 ft). The world’s tallest tree is said to be a coast redwood in Redwood National Park that is 111 m (365 ft) tall. Redwoods in California grow in pure stands and also with Douglas fir, canoe cedar, and Port Orford cedar. Douglas fir predominates on the slopes immediately above the redwood areas. Farther inland the Douglas fir forests give way to a more open forest of broadleaved trees, such as Tanoak madrone, Oregon maple, California bay tree, and several species of oak. In the Klamath Mountains and Coast Ranges above 1,500 m (5,000 ft), ponderosa pine predominates.
A close cousin of the redwood, the giant sequoia grows in groves at somewhat higher elevations along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in what is known as the yellow pine belt. Some giant sequoias exceed 2,000 years of age, while some bristlecone pines in eastern California’s White Mountains are more than 4,500 years old. These conifers, along with some species of desert shrub such as creosote at more than twice that age, are among the oldest living things in the world. The yellow, or ponderosa, pine is the most valuable commercial conifer logged in the Sierra, and thrives at elevations between 900 and 2,400 m (3,000 to 8,000 ft). Above the pine forests are stands of red fir and Jeffrey pine. They give way above 2,700 m (9,000 ft) to lodgepole pine, other species of pine, Engelmann spruce, and firs.
In the Coast Ranges south of San Francisco and on the low mountain slopes around the Central Valley, grasslands, woodlands of mixed evergreen and broadleaved species and areas of shrub growth predominate. Grasslands, which once covered most of the Central Valley, are now limited to a discontinuous belt around the rim of the valley and in the foothills. The golden poppy, the state flower, grows abundantly in the Central Valley. Grasses and sedges also form meadows above 3,500 m (11,500 ft), the timberline, in the Sierra Nevada. The mixed evergreen and broadleaved woodlands occupy the low western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and extensive areas in the Coast Ranges inland from the coast. These relatively open woodlands include oak, pine, and juniper. Large areas of the uplands along the southern coast are covered with chaparral, a low, and in places almost impenetrable, shrub growth of manzanita, mountain mahogany, California scrub oak, chamise, buckbrush, and other evergreen species. The lower western slopes of the Sierra Nevada are covered partly with chaparral. Chaparral is prone to fire and poses a major threat to expanding urban development, especially in Southern California.
Shrub growth also characterizes the vegetation of the Californian deserts. However, plant growth tends to be sparse throughout these areas. On well-drained slopes and in open spaces, creosote bush, burroweed, and many species of cacti predominate. Deeper-rooted shrubs and small trees, such as mesquite, desert ironwood, and desert willow, occur along watercourses. The Joshua tree, juniper, piñon, and sagebrush are found at higher elevations with slightly more rainfall.
G Animal Life
The grizzly bear, designated as the state animal of California, disappeared from the state in the 1920s. Many of the other large animals of California, such as the cougar and bobcat, are mainly sighted in the foothills and woodlands throughout the state, wherever deer herds exist. More abundant are the black bear, mule deer, and wapiti, or Roosevelt elk, of the mountains, the black-tailed jackrabbit, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn of the deserts, and the marmot, beaver, raccoon, red fox, weasel, chipmunk, and western gray squirrel of the forests. The native Sierra Nevada fox is only seen in the Sierra Nevada while its counterpart, the red fox, an introduced species, is prolific throughout the state. Although some natural predators, such as the grizzly bear, have long since disappeared from the state, the population of other predators, such as the mountain lion, has remained stable or increased slightly during the past 20 years. Likewise, populations of the species that are preyed upon, such as mule deer, have also remained stable.
Birds of the Sierra Nevada include Steller’s jay, the black-headed grosbeak, western bluebird, western tanager, acorn woodpecker, and several warblers. The golden eagle and the bald eagle are sometimes seen soaring among the crags of the Sierra Nevada. The wren-tit and the California quail, which is the state bird, are characteristic of the chaparral country, as are the cactus wren and the canyon wren of the desert. In the wild, rugged mountains behind Santa Barbara live the few remaining wild specimens of America’s largest bird, the California condor. Gulls, terns, cormorants, pelicans, and murres are common residents along the coast.
The reptiles of California include many species of snakes, lizards, and turtles. Most abundant in the deserts, they include the western diamond rattlesnake, sidewinder, desert tortoise, horned toad, and gila monster.
California’s temperate coastal waters support a great variety of marine life. Although a variety of species are seen, primarily Gray whales visit these waters. The islands and rocky capes serve as sea lion rookeries, and there are a few small colonies of sea otter and elephant seals. Marine fish include tuna, salmon, bass, anchovies, sardines, squid, and herring, which are preyed upon by predatory species such as mackerel, barracuda, rockfish, sole, and grunion, which is found only off the shores of California. Shellfish include abalones, clams, lobsters, shrimp, and oysters.
Many species of freshwater fish inhabit the lakes and rivers. Golden trout are native to Sequoia National Park, as are rainbow trout to the Lassen Volcanic National Park. Brook trout and brown trout have been introduced into Californian streams. Salmon and steelhead (sea-going rainbow trout) also swim the streams of California. Newly hatched fish, called fingerlings, make their way downstream at the beginning of their long trek far out into the Pacific Ocean. When mature, the fish return to their ancestral streams to spawn. However, the numbers of fish making the migration has diminished to a mere fraction of what it once was. Causes of the decline include warming stream waters associated with logging, the construction of dams, pollution, and periodic droughts, as well as the pressures of commercial and sport fisheries.
H Conservation
Conservationists in California are active in the fields of flood control, prevention of soil erosion, forest conservation, preservation of the state’s scenic areas and wildlife resources, and reduction of air pollution. Federal agencies that maintain conservation programs in California include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Water and Power Resources Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers. The resources agency of California is responsible for state conservation programs. Also active are such private groups as the Save-the-Redwoods League, Sierra Club, and California Conservation Council.
Numerous conservationists in California consider urban encroachment on farmland and scenic rural areas to be a major problem, especially around the rapidly growing cities of the south. Efforts are being made to avoid haphazard development by regional planning. Air pollution, an essentially urban problem, is particularly serious in the Los Angeles area, the San Francisco Bay area, and the Central Valley.
One of California’s greatest problems is to provide adequate water to meet the needs of its rapidly expanding population. There is an abundant water supply in sparsely settled northern California, but the demand is greatest in the more densely populated and much drier sections of central and southern California. In addition, water flow in the rivers is often irregular, and flooding may occur in the winter and spring. The redistribution and regulation of the water supply is the major objective of the state’s water projects.
The federal Central Valley Project, sponsored by the United States Bureau of Reclamation in the 1930s, is an extensive system of dams, reservoirs, and irrigation canals that supplies water to the Central Valley for irrigation and urban use. The aims of the project also include flood control and the generation of hydroelectric power. The main units include the Shasta, Friant, Trinity, and San Luis dams and their reservoirs, and the Delta-Mendota and Friant-Kern canals.
The California State Water Project seeks to alleviate water shortages in the Central Valley and also in southern California. Key units include the Feather River Project and the huge Oroville Dam in northern California, the California Aqueduct, and Lake Perris in Riverside County, the southern terminus of the nearly 1,000-km (600-mi) long system.
San Francisco receives much of its water supply from the Tuolumne River in the Sierra Nevada, by way of Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. A large part of the water supply of Los Angeles is carried by aqueduct from the distant Owens River, the Mono Lake area, and the eastern Sierra Nevada watershed. The Los Angeles Aqueduct system, run by the city’s Department of Water and Power, is the only gravity-flow water redistribution system in the state. Water carried by the aqueduct flows downhill from the Mono Basin, at an elevation of 1,945 m (6,380 ft), southward to the Los Angeles Basin, at near sea level. All other major projects use pumps to lift water over elevated terrain. Another project bringing water to southern California is the Colorado River Aqueduct, which taps the Colorado River. The All-American Canal carries irrigation water from Imperial Dam on the Colorado to the Imperial Valley. Water from the Colorado, of major importance to southern California, is available in amounts limited by agreements with Arizona and other states in the Colorado River basin.
Heavy use of groundwater, from wells, in coastal areas of southern California has lowered the water table. As a result, salt water from the ocean has seeped into the water table and is a threat to local water supplies. However, the ocean is also a possible source of fresh water. Small desalination plants have been built in Santa Barbara, on Santa Catalina Island, and elsewhere. The cost to consumers of desalinated water, however, is many times that of water supplied by freshwater redistribution projects. Moreover, with desalination plants using large amounts of electricity to operate and traditional sources of energy dwindling in supply, desalination is unlikely to become a viable solution to California’s water problems.
In 2006 the state had 93 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 26 percent.
Since the earliest settlement of the region by the Spanish in the 18th century, agriculture has been vital to the California economy. The gold rush of the mid-19th century was followed by the intensive exploitation of petroleum and other minerals. As the population grew, fishing and forestry became important, and by the late 19th century light manufacturing industries had developed. Industrial diversification proceeded swiftly in the early 20th century. The motion-picture, radio, and, later, television industries added other dimensions to the economy. World War II (1939-1945) accelerated industrial development and spawned the state’s large aerospace industry. Government and educational services expanded rapidly after the war, as did tourism and other service industries. The economy suffered a recession in the early 1990s, fueled by cutbacks in aerospace and other military-related industries, coupled with a slowdown in housing construction. By the late 1990s, however, California’s economy had rebounded, showing sustained growth in both jobs and production.
California had a work force of 17,902,000 people in 2006. Of those the largest share, 39 percent, worked in the diverse services sector, doing jobs such as restaurant work or computer programming. Another 19 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 17 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 10 percent in manufacturing; 21 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 6 percent in construction; 19 percent in transportation or public utilities; 3 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; and just 0.2 percent in mining. In 2005, 17 percent of California’s workers belonged to a labor union.
A Agriculture
By a number of different measures, California has long been the nation’s leading agricultural state. In 1997 California led all other states with farm sales of $23 billion. Several of the state’s commodities have annual sales of more than $1 billion, including milk and cream, grapes, vegetables and melons, cattle and calves, nursery products, poultry and eggs, and cotton lint and seed. California produces a greater variety of crops, and has higher yields of those crops from each unit of land planted, than any other state.
California’s farms are among the most productive in the world. For example, the state’s highly automated rice industry generates a yield three times greater than the labor-intensive rice paddies of Asia. The high production is based in large part on the fertile soils and long growing season of the region, the widespread practice of advanced farming techniques, and the availability of water. Most of the farmlands lie in the dry Central Valley and southern areas of the state, where farmers are dependent on irrigation projects, such as the Central Valley Project, for water. With the exception of only a few commodities, such as barley, most of the state’s numerous crops are grown on irrigated lands. Livestock ranching is the main activity on the nonirrigated farmlands. However, livestock are also frequently raised on irrigated pastures. California leads all other states in the total amount of land irrigated. Although many crops are grown in each of the farming areas of the state, within each area the individual farms tend to specialize in certain products.
There were 76,500 farms in California in 2005. Some 59 percent of them had annual income of more than $10,000. Many of the rest were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 10.7 million hectares (26.4 million acres), of which 40 percent was cropland. Most of the rest was used as range for the grazing of livestock. Some 75 percent of California’s cropland was under irrigation.
A1 Crops
A great variety of crops, especially fruits and vegetables, are grown in California. The state accounts for nearly the entire U.S. production of walnuts, almonds, nectarines, olives, dates, figs, pomegranates, and persimmons. It leads the nation in the production of vegetables, including lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, carrots, lima beans, and spinach, and also of apricots, grapes, lemons, strawberries, plums and prunes, peaches, cantaloupes, avocados, and honeydew melons. It is the nation’s leading producer of hay and the second leading producer of cotton. California is also the second ranking state in the production of rice, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, apples, pears, sweet corn, and asparagus. Nearly every crop grown in the United States is represented in California fields.
Crops account for 73 percent of the state’s annual farm income, with the rest coming from livestock and animal products. Vegetables are grown primarily in the Central, Imperial, and Salinas valleys. Cotton is raised primarily in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Citrus fruit production is centered in southern California and the southeastern San Joaquin Valley. Grapes, peaches, potatoes, barley, and figs are raised chiefly in the San Joaquin Valley; and rice, sugar beets, and pears are raised mainly in the Sacramento Valley.
A2 Livestock
California leads the nation in egg and milk production and ranks high in the marketing of cattle and calves, chickens, turkeys, and sheep and lambs. Beef cattle and sheep are raised primarily in the hillier parts of the Central Valley and the adjacent foothills. In addition, cattle ranching is the most important activity in some of the dry, sparsely populated basins east of the Sierra Nevada. Dairy cattle and poultry are raised in the Central Valley and near the major urban centers.
B Fisheries
In the 1940s and early 1950s, California’s annual fishing catch was greater in value and volume than that of any other state. In the 1960s, however, California fell behind Alaska in output; in 2004 the value of its fish catch, at $140 million, ranked high in the nation. Among the most important commercial fish caught in Californian waters are species of tuna, salmon, halibut, mackerel, and anchovy. Shellfish taken in coastal waters include crab, shrimp, and abalone.
C Forestry
California usually ranks third among the states, after Oregon and Washington, in output of timber and lumber. Lumbering is the chief economic activity in the Sierra Nevada and in northwestern California. Redwood and Douglas fir are the most important commercial species in the northwest. Ponderosa or yellow pine is the principal commercial species in the Sierra Nevada. About two-fifths of the forestland is classified as commercial forest; more than half of the commercial forest is managed by the United States Forest Service.
D Mining
California is the fourth-ranking state in annual mineral output by value, after Texas, Louisiana, and Alaska. Crude oil and natural gas account for two-thirds of the value of California’s mineral production. California ranks third in the nation in the production of oil, behind Texas and Louisiana. The oil fields of Kern County and the Los Angeles area are the most important. Oil is also produced in offshore waters. Natural gas wells are found in the Sacramento Valley and in all the oil-producing areas. Yet reserves of natural gas are seriously depleted, so much so that the state imports most of the natural gas it consumes each year. The bulk of natural gas piped into California originates in the province of Alberta, Canada, and the states of New Mexico and Texas.
California leads all other states in the production of sand and gravel for construction, Portland cement, diatomite, asbestos, and sodium sulfate. In addition, much of the world’s supply of boron minerals comes from Searles Lake and other areas in California’s Mojave Desert. The state is also the nation’s second largest producer of feldspar, soda ash, titanium, and magnesium compounds, and the third largest producer of gold, perlite, and pumice. Other minerals found in California include stone, lime, clays, gypsum, talc, silver, gemstones, salt, copper, molybdenum, peat, and various high grade iron ores. In spite of the great variety of minerals found in the state, large quantities must be imported to meet the needs of California, which is the nation’s leading consumer of minerals.
E Manufacturing
California leads all states in income generated by industrial activity and in industrial employment. In 1996 California’s manufacturing sector contributed ten percent of the nation’s manufacturing total, and some 2.0 million people were engaged in manufacturing in the state.
California’s leading industry, in terms of the value added by manufacturing, is electronic and electrical equipment manufacturing. Value added by manufacturing is the difference between the price of raw materials used in a product and the price it commands as a finished item. The largest employers were firms making semiconductors, radios and televisions, printed circuit boards, and telephones, although the diverse industrial sector contained manufactures ranging from the makers of electron tubes to household lighting fixtures.
Ranking high in California’s economy is the manufacture of industrial machinery, principally computers and related equipment but including the making of pumps, engines, turbines, and machines for the service industry. Many computer companies are located in what is known as Silicon Valley, in the San Jose-Palo Alto area. Food processing, which includes the drying, freezing, and packaging of fruit, vegetables, fish, and livestock products, is another of the state’s biggest industries. Included in this sector is the California wine industry, which accounts for four-fifths of the nation’s annual wine production. The manufacture of instruments contributes significantly to California’s industrial economy, led by firms making such things as surgical and medical instruments, appliances, and supplies, while also including those making electric meters, analytical tools used in research and by other industries, and photographic equipment.
The manufacture of transportation equipment has long been important to California’s economy. By far the largest employers in the sector are aeronautics firms, making civilian and military aircraft, guided missiles, and vehicles used in space exploration. Other activities include the building and repairing of ships and the manufacture and assembly of automobiles.
Manufacturing is concentrated in southern California and around San Francisco Bay. The aircraft industry is centered in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas and is based in large part on federal military expenditures. Automobile assembly plants are located near Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, and in Fremont. There are shipbuilding yards at San Diego. In Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, and other Central Valley cities, foodstuffs are manufactured. In the San Francisco area, manufacturing is highly diversified and includes food processing, automobile assembly, shipbuilding, chemical production, printing and publishing, and the manufacture of machinery. The computer and electronics industry is centered in Silicon Valley, which is lesser known as, but officially, the Santa Clara Valley.
F Electricity
Hydroelectric facilities provided 20 percent of the electricity generated in California in 2005. Thermal power plants burning fossil fuels provided another 50 percent, while 18 percent of California’s electricity generation comes from four nuclear reactors, two at Diablo Canyon west of San Luis Obispo and two at San Onofre southeast of San Clemente. The city of Los Angeles imports power from a nuclear plant at Palo Verde in Arizona. Southern California also imports electricity generated at coal-fired thermal plants in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Renewable energy sources such as wind-power generators and geothermal power plants, which use heat from the Earth to make steam, accounted for 12 percent of electricity production in 2005.
G Entertainment Industry
Southern California, with its year-round sunshine, variety of landscape, and excellent technical facilities, has dominated the U.S. motion-picture industry since the 1920s. The name Hollywood has long been synonymous with the world of motion pictures. Since the late 1940s the Los Angeles area has also become a major center of the U.S. television industry.
H Tourist Industry
California plays host to millions of visitors each year, and many Californians are employed in providing for these tourists. Tourists are drawn to the state’s magnificent scenery and recreational facilities and to such cities as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, which are also popular convention centers. Visitors to California spend $68 billion on lodgings, rental cars, and other traveling needs each year, by far the largest sum for any state.
I Transportation
Trucks, buses, and automobiles play a major role in the economic and social life of California. Automobiles are the most important means of passenger transportation. There are more automobiles in California than any other state—nearly one car for every two people.
I1 Highways
Beginning in the late 1940s the state embarked on freeway construction, and complicated, multi-laned freeways are one of California’s more indelible images. But dependence on the freeways has given the state’s metropolitan areas some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. By 2005 there were 273,437 km (169,906 mi) of highways in California, including 3,959 km (2,460 mi) of the federal interstate highways.
I2 Railroads
Several major railroads link the cities of California with urban centers in other states to the east. The state was served by 9,328 km (5,796 mi) of railroad track in 2004. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) also serves the state, and more passengers ride trains in California than any other state except New York. Commuter rail systems also provide transportation for people in the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan regions.
I3 Airports
There is widespread use of commercial and private airplanes throughout California. The state ranks first among the states in the number of registered civil aircraft and third, behind Texas and Illinois, in the number of airports and airfields, having 37 in 2007. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego are served by some of the busiest airports in the country.
I4 Ports and Inland Waterways
The two principal port areas in California are the combined ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the ports in the San Francisco Bay area. The major ports in the bay area are San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Richmond, and Redwood City. Other seaports in California include San Diego, which is primarily a naval base, and Crescent City and Eureka, in northern California. The lower Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are the only major inland waterways. The farm products they used to carry to San Francisco Bay, however, are now transported mainly by truck. Nevertheless, ship and barge canals have been built into the Central Valley cities of Stockton and Sacramento. These inland seaports mainly serve California’s farm and forest products industries, handling the shipment of everything from rice to lumber.
J Trade
California leads the nation in retail and wholesale trade. Los Angeles is one of the three largest United States trade centers in value and volume. Other Californian trade centers are San Francisco, which serves a very large area, San Diego, Sacramento, Fresno, San Jose, and Stockton. In addition, Californian ports are engaged in an extensive overseas trade.
A Population Patterns
The population of California grew very fast in the second half of the 20th century. Much of the increase can be attributed to in-migration from other states and emigration from other countries. Many people were drawn to California to work in factories that were built during World War II (1939-1945); others settled there after seeing the state during military service; and many more moved to California because of its mild climate and style of living. More recently the population increase has come about because of immigration from other countries. More legal immigrants settle in California than any other state, and the state is also home to many people who came to the country without legal approval.
According to the 2000 national census, California had 33,871,648 inhabitants, more than any other state. That was an increase of 13.8 percent over the 1990 population of 29,760,021 and 30 percent more than the 1980 population. In 2006 the average population density was 90 persons per sq km (234 per sq mi).
Most of the population is in southern California, the San Francisco Bay area, and, to a lesser extent, the Central Valley. California is the most urbanized state, with 94 percent of the people living in cities or towns in 2000. A majority of Californians live in just three metropolitan areas—Los Angeles-Long Beach, San Francisco-Oakland, and San Diego—on the coast. Large areas in the mountains and deserts of the north and east are sparsely inhabited.
Whites constitute the largest share of California’s population, representing 59.5 percent of the people. Asians are 10.9 percent of the people, blacks are 6.7 percent, Native Americans are 1 percent, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are 0.3 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race are 21.5 percent. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 32.4 percent of the population.
B Principal Cities
The extensive Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County metropolitan area had a population of 16.4 million in 2000, or one-half of the entire population of California. The city of Los Angeles proper had 3,849,378 residents (2006). Founded in 1781 as a Spanish pueblo, Los Angeles, by the time of its bicentennial year in 1981, passed Chicago as the nation’s second largest city. The metropolitan area includes numerous communities with large populations in addition to Los Angeles. Long Beach, the biggest besides Los Angeles, had 472,494 inhabitants in 2006. Other major cities included Anaheim (334,425), Riverside (293,761), San Bernardino (198,985), Torrance (142,350), Pomona (154,271), Pasadena (144,133), and Ventura (104,017). The area is a leading manufacturing and entertainment center.
The entire San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan region had a population of 7 million in 2000. San Francisco, the “city by the Golden Gate,” was California’s largest city from gold rush days in the 1850s until the early 1920s when Los Angeles passed it in population. The city holds an influence in the United States in finance, international trade, and culture far greater than other cities of similar size. San Francisco city and county, which are geographically the same, contained 744,041 people in 2006. San Jose had 929,936 inhabitants, and Oakland had 397,067. San Jose is one of the most important manufacturing centers in the state and lies at the heart of Silicon Valley. Oakland is an important port and manufacturing city. Also in the metropolitan region is Berkeley, seat of the University of California, which had 101,555 residents in 2006.
San Diego, with a population of 1,256,951 in 2006, is the hub of an extensive metropolitan area (population 2.9 million in 2006). The city is an important naval base and commercial port, and it serves as the major trade center of the Imperial Valley to the east. Sacramento, the state capital, had a population of 453,781 in 2006. In addition to serving as an administrative center, it is a commercial and manufacturing city. Fresno, with a population of 466,714, and the smaller cities of Stockton (290,141) and Bakersfield (308,392) are also food-processing centers in the Central Valley. The largest cities in the state north of Sacramento are Redding, a tourist center for the mountain region with 90,033 inhabitants; Chico, a commercial and service center for a large almond- and fruit-growing region, with 73,316 people; and Eureka, a seaport and fishing and lumbering center of 25,435 inhabitants.
C Religion
Franciscan friars entered California in the San Diego area in 1769 to establish the Spanish claim to the region and to convert the Native Americans to Roman Catholicism. By 1823 they had established a chain of 21 missions along the coast, stretching from San Diego north to Sonoma. Protestantism was introduced in California by the early American settlers in the 1830s. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, came to the state over the Mormon Trail from Utah during the 19th century, and laborers from China and Japan introduced Eastern religions. The first Buddhist temple in the United States was constructed in San Francisco in 1905. In the 20th century many religious cults and sects became established in California.
The Roman Catholic Church now has the largest membership of any denomination, with more than one-quarter of all church members. The largest Protestant sects are the Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. Jewish congregations have many members. In San Francisco is the headquarters of the Buddhist Churches of America. There are mosques in many California cities.
A Education
The earliest schools in California were founded in the last half of the 18th century by Franciscan missionaries. In the 1840s, American settlers began to set up their own schools. Progressive school laws, passed in the 1860s, provided for free elementary education for every child and established an advanced state system of public education. High schools were granted state support in 1903, and junior colleges were recognized as part of the secondary school system in 1917. Full-time school attendance is now compulsory for all children from 6 to 18 years old. Some 10 percent of the state’s children attend private schools.
In the 2002–2003 school year California spent $8,740 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 21.1 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9). California had one of the largest average class sizes of any state. Of those older than 25 years of age, 80.1 percent percent had a high school diploma, compared with an average for the nation of 84.1 percent percent.
B Higher Education
California is noted for its many excellent public colleges and universities. The University of California, one of the larger universities in the world, has campuses at Berkeley, Irvine, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Davis, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Riverside. The system also includes a campus focusing on health sciences programs in San Francisco, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, and more than 500 research centers throughout the state. It was founded in 1855 as the private College of California, in Oakland, and was chartered as a state university, in Berkeley, in 1868. Besides the University of California, in 2000 the state system of higher education included the California State University System, which has 22 campuses from San Diego to Humboldt County along the northwest coast and 107 community colleges. In all the state had 144 public and 255 private institutions of higher education.
Many of the early colleges in California were private institutions established by religious denominations. The two oldest schools in the state, both dating from 1851, are the University of the Pacific, founded by Methodists as California Wesleyan College, and Santa Clara University, established by Roman Catholics as Santa Clara College. Among the most noted of California’s many private institutions are Stanford University, in Stanford; the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles; California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena; Claremont Colleges, a consortium of seven schools, in Claremont; Mills College, in Oakland; and Whittier College, in Whittier.
C Libraries
There are 179 tax-supported public library systems in California. San Francisco and Los Angeles are particularly noted for their extensive municipal library systems. Each year the state’s libraries circulate an average of 5.3 books for every resident. Among the many fine college libraries in the state are those maintained by the University of California. At Stanford University is the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. Extensive collections of materials on state and Western history are housed in the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley; in the California State Library in Sacramento; and in the library of the California Historical Society in San Francisco.
D Museums
The private Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino contains an outstanding collection relating to English and American literature and history, as well as noted collections of European art, tapestries, furniture, porcelain, and miniatures. Famous works of art are also found in the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum of California, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has notable collections of American, European, and Asian art. The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena exhibits paintings by European masters, as well as sculptures from Southeast Asia. One of California’s newest arts and cultural complexes is the Getty Center in Brentwood, overlooking Los Angeles. The center, opened in late 1997, is the new site of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which had been located in the Getty Villa in Malibu.
The famed California Historical Society in San Francisco and many local and regional groups maintain collections of California memorabilia. Other museums include the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the Griffith Observatory and the California Science Center, both in Los Angeles, and the Haggin Museum in Stockton.
E Communications
In 2002 there were 125 daily newspapers being published in California. The first newspaper established in California was the Californian, which began operation in Monterey in 1846. The Chico Enterprise-Record, founded in 1853, is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the state. The state’s largest newspaper is the Los Angeles Times, with an average daily circulation of 1.1 million. Other influential dailies include the Orange County Register, in Santa Ana; the San Diego Union-Tribune; the Sacramento Bee; the San Francisco Chronicle; the San Francisco Examiner; the San Jose Mercury News; and the Oakland Tribune. California is also an important book-publishing center.
The first commercial radio station in California, KQL in Los Angeles, began broadcasting in 1921. KTLA, the first television station in the state, began operation in 1947 in Los Angeles. Some 183 AM and 304 FM radio stations and 83 television stations served the state in 2002.
F Music and Theater
Since the mid-19th century, when traveling theatrical companies visited the California mining camps, the theater has been an important part of Californian cultural life. In addition, the growth of the motion-picture and television industries in the 20th century attracted many actors to the state and stimulated the growth of theater productions. There are theaters in many Californian cities, and the state is the home of a number of active professional theater groups. Among the groups is the Buffalo Nights Theatre Company in Santa Monica. An annual summer theater festival is held in the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.
There are fine symphony orchestras in many Californian cities. The most prominent are the San Francisco Symphony, founded in 1909, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, founded in 1919. The Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles, is famous for the evening concerts held there during the summer months. The San Francisco Opera has won national acclaim. Also in the city is a noted music conservatory.
Outdoor recreation has long played an important part in Californian life, and the state’s numerous recreational facilities are heavily used by both visitors and residents. Many of these facilities are found in the national parks, national forests, state parks, municipal parks, and other areas set aside for public use by the federal, state, and local governments. Lumbering, hunting, and fishing are regulated in these areas, many of which serve as preserves for the state’s forests, wildlife, and other natural resources.
A National Parks
Among California’s eight national parks are some of the most frequently visited parks in the country. Yosemite National Park covers 3,100 sq km (1,200 sq mi) of scenic wild lands, including alpine wilderness, three groves of giant sequoias, and the glacially carved Yosemite Valley, with its impressive waterfalls, cliffs, and unusual rock formations. Sequoia National Park, located in central California, is home to the 84-m (275-ft) General Sherman giant sequoia, considered the most massive tree in the world. Its circumference measured directly above the ground flare is 25 m (83 ft). Some of the world’s tallest trees grow in the Redwood National Park in the northwestern portion of the state. Joshua Tree National Park has a representative stand of Joshua trees and other desert vegetation. More of California’s dramatically beautiful landscapes can be found in Kings Canyon National Park, located in the Sierra Nevada and containing two enormous canyons of the Kings River. In stark contrast is Death Valley National Park, which encompasses the lowest land surface in the Western Hemisphere and the place where the country’s record high temperature was recorded.
Before the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens in Washington, Lassen Peak, located in Lassen Volcanic National Park, was the most recently active volcano in the contiguous 48 states, erupting periodically from 1914 to 1921. Other signs of volcanic activity, including cinder cones, lava flows, lava tube caves, pit craters, and steam vents, can be found in Lava Beds National Monument, near the Oregon border, and in the Mammoth Mountain area of the eastern Sierra Nevada. Devils Postpile National Monument, also near Mammoth Mountain, contains lava columns up to 18 m (60 ft) high, and Pinnacles National Monument, in the Diablo Range, has rock spires, caves, and a variety of volcanic features.
Five of the eight islands in the Santa Barbara channel comprise the Channel Islands National Park. A portion of the park is under water and provides habitat for marine life ranging from microscopic plankton to the world’s largest creature, the blue whale. Also preserving a section of California’s coastal environment is Point Reyes National Seashore about 60 km (about 40 mi) north of San Francisco.
Other national sites commemorate the rich history of California. Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego’s Point Loma district marks the spot where in 1542 Europeans first set foot upon what is now California. Fort Point National Historic Site, which is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, contains the fort built in the mid-1800s to prevent any hostile fleets from entering San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park contains a square-rigged sailing ship, steam schooner, three-masted schooner, steam tug, and a paddle wheel tug.
Manzanar National Historic Site, located in the southern Owens Valley of eastern California, commemorates the internment beginning in 1942 of Japanese Americans during World War II. The area from Manzanar south through the Alabama Hills to Lone Pine with the highest part of the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop is one of the most popular film-making locations in the world, and now hosts the Lone Pine Film Festival every October.
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, in Danville, commemorates the only Nobel Prize winning playwright from the United States and the architect of modern American theater.
One of the country’s earliest crusaders for national parks is remembered in two parks in California. John Muir National Historic Site, in Martinez, preserves the mansion where the naturalist lived. Also recognizing the explorer is Muir Woods National Monument, in Marin County, a peaceful grove of coastal redwoods.
B National Forests
The 18 national forests in California are administered by the United States Forest Service. National forests cover about 8.3 million hectares (about 20.6 million acres). Within the national forests are a number of wilderness areas and wildlife refuges. Los Padres National Forest, the largest national forest wholly within the state, covers 688,000 hectares (1,700,000 acres) in western California. Most of the other larger national forests in California lie in the northern and northeastern parts of the state. Shasta-Trinity national forest, in northern California, lies in a volcanic area culminating in the beautiful snowcapped Mount Shasta. In the northern coastal uplands is Six Rivers National Forest, noted for its groves of redwoods. Extending across the Sierra Nevada along California’s eastern border are Plumas, Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, and Inyo national forests. Sierra National Forest, in the Sierra Nevada region, preserves stands of giant sequoias.
C State Parks
The California state park system includes about 128 units. The largest in area is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, covering 243,000 hectares (600,000 acres) of desert and mountain country in southern California. Humboldt Redwoods State Park, in the northwest, is the best known of the several state parks that preserve some of the tallest remaining stands of redwood trees. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, in the Sierra Nevada, is noted for its fine stands of big trees. Point Lobos State Reserve, south of Monterey, preserves a rockbound stretch of the Pacific Coast, which forms, with its varied wildlife, a magnificent outdoor natural-history museum.
Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, nestled in the wooded hills overlooking the Pacific, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, preserves the lavish residence and estate of the former journalist and publisher William Randolph Hearst. Among the many California state parks of historic interest is Columbia Historic State Park, in the tiny village of Columbia just north of Sonora. Columbia has been preserved as a typical example of a Mother Lode mining community during the gold rush.
D Other Places to Visit
Among the most popular of California’s other tourist attractions are Disneyland, in Anaheim; Sea World, on the coast near San Diego; the motion-picture studios of southern California; and Chinatown, in San Francisco. Most of the early Spanish missions in California have been preserved and at least partially restored. The Santa Barbara Mission, known for its fine architecture, has been called the Queen of the Missions. Of particular interest to astronomers are California’s Palomar Observatory and Mount Wilson Observatory (see Hale Observatories), and Lick Observatory, among the nation’s major observatories.
E Sports
California is the home of many professional sports teams. The baseball teams are the San Francisco Giants, the California (Anaheim) Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres, and the Oakland Athletics. The football teams are the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, and the San Diego Chargers. The basketball teams are the Golden State (Oakland) Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Sacramento Kings. The hockey teams are the Los Angeles Kings, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and the San Jose Sharks.
F Annual Events
The Tournament of Roses, an event of national interest, takes place in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. It includes a spectacular parade and the Rose Bowl collegiate football game. In February the National Orange Show is held in San Bernardino. In May the Jumping Frog Jubilee is held in the small community known as Angels Camp, in Calaveras County. The contest was inspired by a story by American author Mark Twain. During the second week of August the Old Spanish Days Fiesta is held at Santa Barbara. The State Fair, held at Sacramento in late August and early September, is a popular annual event that dates from the 1860s. Admission Day, the annual statewide celebration of California’s admission to the Union, takes place on September 9. Many other colorful fairs and festivals occur during the year in California. Among them are the Bach Festival in Carmel, the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, the Los Angeles County Fair, and the Grand National Livestock Exposition, Horse Show, and Rodeo, which is held near San Francisco.
California’s first state constitution was ratified by popular vote in November 1849, almost a year before statehood. The second and present constitution was adopted in 1879. An amendment to the constitution may be proposed by the legislature, voter initiative, or a constitutional convention. To be ratified, it must be approved by a majority of the people voting on the issue in an election.
A Executive
The state’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for a four-year term. The governor appoints some of the state officials and is responsible for the preparation of the state budget. The governor may veto legislation, but the state legislature can override the veto by a vote of two-thirds of the elected membership of each legislative house. The governor may also veto or reduce individual items in appropriations bills. The other elected officials of the executive branch are the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, controller, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner, and the four members of the board of equalization. All are elected to serve four-year terms.
B Legislative
The California legislature is made up of a 40-member Senate and an 80-member Assembly. State senators are elected to four-year terms and members of the assembly to two-year terms. California’s legislature convenes for one of the longest terms of any state legislature. Sessions begin on the first Monday in December of each even-numbered year and last until the end of November in the next even-numbered year. The governor may also call for a special session of the legislature. California’s citizens can pass laws directly or through their power of initiative, or they can prevent a law from being enacted by calling for a referendum.
C Judicial
The Supreme Court, the highest state court, is made up of a chief justice and six associate justices. Supreme court justices, as well as the justices of the state’s district courts of appeal, serve 12-year terms. They are initially appointed by the governor with the approval of the commission on judicial appointments, and at the expiration of their terms they can run unopposed for election to another term. In addition to these appellate courts, California has superior courts, municipal courts, and various lower courts, with judges elected to six-year terms.
D Local Government
Most of the 58 counties in California are governed by a five-member board of supervisors elected to four-year terms. Most of the municipalities have the council and city manager form of government.
E National Representation
California elects two U.S. senators and 53 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The state casts 55 electoral votes in presidential elections.
A Original Inhabitants
Prehistoric inhabitants of California practiced complex religions, hunted with arrowheads made of flint, and subsisted largely on the abundant available acorns supplemented by numerous small animals; coastal peoples ate fish and shellfish. California has many different local climates. Native houses varied accordingly. Indigenous Californians often lived in small communities of about 150 people whom the Spanish called rancherias. Within the boundaries of present-day California there were once 22 different linguistic families with 135 regional dialects. At the time of European discovery there may have been 100,000 to 150,000 native inhabitants in California, but diseases brought by the Europeans would markedly reduce the population.
B European Exploration
The Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was the first European in the area of present-day California. In 1542 Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay and then continued north along the California coast, making frequent trips ashore to claim land for Spain. In 1579 the English explorer Sir Francis Drake sailed along the coast of northern California, which he named Nova Albion and claimed for England. However, no Europeans settled in California for nearly 200 years thereafter.
C Spanish Rule
In the 1740s and 1750s Russian traders in search of seal and sea otter pelts began hunting along the Pacific coastline north of California. As Spain wanted to prevent Russian claims to the area, in 1769 Governor Gaspar de Portolá of Lower California (now Baja California, Mexico) led an expedition to settle California. Accompanied by Junípero Serra, a Franciscan missionary, in July they reached the site of San Diego. There they set up a presidio, or military post, as well as a mission, where the native inhabitants were brought to be taught Christianity and to be prepared to become subjects of the Spanish king. Between 1769 and 1823 the Franciscans, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, built 20 more missions near the coast of California. Before long the missions controlled so much land that they formed a continuous chain from San Diego to north of San Francisco Bay. Most of the native peoples in the coastal region were taken to the missions and were forced to work as farm laborers under the direction of the missionaries. The Spanish built a number of presidios in addition to their first one at San Diego and created small farming settlements, known as pueblos. The first pueblo was established as early as 1777. The pueblos were inhabited for the most part by poor settlers from Mexico whom the Spanish had induced to go to the California region.
Spain, however, could not prevent foreigners from entering California. British, French, and United States ships traded with the Spanish coastal settlements in violation of Spanish regulations prohibiting such trade. In 1812 Russian fur traders built an outpost, now known as Fort Ross, less than 160 km (100 mi) north of San Francisco. They also built several settlements in the vicinity of Bodega Bay, and refused to withdraw from California until 1824, when the region was no longer under Spanish control.
D Mexican Rule
In 1821 Mexico gained its independence from Spain. In 1825, after several years of local provisional government, Alta California, as the region was then called, formally became a territory of the Republic of Mexico.
A number of influential Californians had disliked the wealth and power of the missions during Spanish rule, and after Mexican independence protested to the Mexican authorities against the missions. Eventually the new republic agreed to reduce the power of the missions, and in 1833 the Mexican congress released Native Americans from the control of the missions and opened mission lands for settlement by Californians.
Most of the former mission lands were given as grants to several hundred long-established families. Huge semifeudal estates, known as ranchos, replaced the missions as the dominant institution in California. Cattle raising, developed during the mission days, was the main economic activity on the ranchos. Ranchos traded cattle hides, tallow, horns, and pickled beef for processed food and manufactured goods from foreign ships, including some from the United States.
During the period of Mexican rule, which lasted into the 1840s, a series of largely bloodless uprisings broke out in California. Sometimes these pitted the rancheros, or ranch owners, against the Mexican authorities, but at other times they involved feuds between rancheros themselves, who fought over land or issues of pride.
E United States Settlement
Most U.S. citizens who went to California before 1840 were sailors, fur trappers, and adventurers. A number of trappers, including James Ohio Pattie and Jedediah Smith, arrived by overland routes from the East, and in 1840 several hundred settlers from the United States lived in California, in addition to several thousand Hispanic, or Spanish-speaking, settlers. United States settlers sent out exaggerated reports of the easy life in California. In the 1840s emigrant parties in the Midwest began to organize for the overland trip to California and other regions along the Pacific Coast. In 1841 John Bidwell and John Bartleson led the first group of settlers overland, and in the next five years about 800 settlers traveled to California over the western portion of the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the California Trail. These travelers endured a long, arduous trek across plains, deserts, and mountains, and often faced hostile native peoples and bad weather. One group, the Donner party, became stranded in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1846 and 1847; some ate dead members of the party to survive.
Most of the new Californians, many of them farmers, settled in the fertile Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, rather than along the coast. The Mexican government regarded the United States settlers with hostility and suspicion, fearing that they would encourage the United States to attempt to annex California, but the Mexican government was too weak and divided to expel them.
F Mexican War and Annexation
In 1845 Mexico ruled vast areas of what became the western and southwestern United States, including California. U.S. President James K. Polk was committed to the expansion of the United States and favored the annexation of Texas, which occurred in December 1845. The month before, Polk had sent an envoy to Mexico City in an attempt to purchase California and other parts of the Southwest. In May 1846 Mexico refused the offer. This refusal was one factor—along with the Texas annexation and lawsuits against the Mexican government by U.S. citizens—that led to the Mexican War (1846-1848) between Mexico and the United States.
United States settlers in California had become increasingly uncomfortable with Mexican rule. On June 14, 1846, they captured the presidio at Sonoma, north of San Francisco, and proclaimed the independence of the settlements. The uprising is known as the Bear Flag Revolt, because the rebels raised a homemade flag that carried the figure of a grizzly bear, as well as a star and the words California Republic. John Charles Frémont, an explorer and future Republican candidate for U.S. president, lent support to these rebels, but the republic was short-lived. On July 7, 1846, Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of U.S. naval forces along the Pacific Coast, ordered the U.S. flag raised at Monterey and formally claimed California for the United States.
In August, Sloat’s replacement, Commodore Robert F. Stockton, set up a new government in California with himself as governor. In September, however, Mexicans led by Captain José Maria Flores attacked the new republic and gained control over much of California south of San Luis Obispo. Several months later, in December 1846, a U.S. force under Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny arrived in California. They were defeated at the Battle of San Pasqual, near what is now Escondido, but Kearny’s men, in cooperation with Stockton’s troops, captured Los Angeles on January 10, 1847. At Los Angeles, the Mexicans, under the so-called Cahuenga Capitulation, agreed to accept United States rule. On February 2, 1848, California was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which formally ended the Mexican War.
G Gold Rush
Scarcely more than a week before the signing of the treaty, on January 24, 1848, New Jersey-born carpenter James W. Marshall inspected a sawmill that he was building with his partner, John A. Sutter, on the South Fork of the American River, 56 km (35 mi) northeast of Sacramento. Marshall noticed flakes of yellow metal that later proved to be gold. By the end of that year, Marshall’s discovery had set off the greatest gold rush in United States history. In 1849 gold seekers, known as Forty-Niners, came to California from every part of the United States and from all over the world. The search for gold was concentrated on the Mother Lode country, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. California’s population now rose to more than 90,000 by the end of 1849 and to 220,000 by 1852, the year in which gold production reached its peak. In the next two years, the gold rush ended almost as quickly as it began. Gold mining became a fairly stable and more organized enterprise. Most prospectors either became farmers, merchants, or left the state, as large mining companies took their place.
H Statehood
The flood of settlers following the discovery of gold created a need for effective civil government in California. The Congress of the United States had failed to organize California as a territory because of a deadlock over whether slavery would be permitted in the new states. Finally, Californians acted on their own. In September 1849 a convention met at Monterey and adopted a state constitution, including a clause prohibiting slavery. The constitution was approved by popular vote on November 13, and on December 15 the first legislature met at San Jose to create an unofficial state government. The Compromise Measures of 1850, a series of congressional acts passed during August and September 1850, admitted California as a free, or nonslave, state. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state in the Union. Peter H. Burnett, a Democrat, was its first governor. The state capital was moved successively from San Jose to Monterey, Vallejo, and Benicia. In 1854 it was located permanently at Sacramento.
I Land Grants
During the Spanish and Mexican periods, over 800 huge grants of land had been given to Hispanics and some whites who settled in California. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo explicitly guaranteed that these land grants would be honored by the United States. Several were larger than 40,500 hectares (100,000 acres). With the beginning of the Gold Rush and the influx of new settlers, Americans complained about the size of such land claims. The U.S. Senate sympathized with the new immigrants, not the rancheros, most of whom were Hispanic, and passed legislation that allowed multiple appeals on land claim decisions. Thus, most claims remained unresolved for years. Owners had to prove ownership, a difficult task because few accurate surveys had ever been made. The cost of court proceedings often consumed more than the property was worth.
J Native Americans in 19th-Century California
After Native Americans left the California missions, they found the land had changed with settlement. European settlers along the coast now owned much of the land that had previously supported the indigenous Californians. With little choice, many former mission residents turned to the ranchos for work herding cattle. Rancheros advanced them some money, food, and alcohol on credit, and when they were unable to repay their debts, forced them to continue working. Some were quickly reduced to begging and petty crime for survival. The native Californians were often rounded up to work during peak seasons.
Following the Gold Rush, white settlers and miners flooded their traditional lands. As some newcomers had been attacked on their way to California by other native peoples, some were hostile to the local tribes. After 1848 a series of encounters between whites and Native Americans resulted in several massacres of which whites were often the perpetrators. The worst atrocities took place in northern California, and culminated in the Modoc War of 1872 and 1873. In 1864 the Modoc had been forced to move to a reservation in Oregon. They returned to California twice, but each time they were told to move back. On the second occasion, the Modoc took refuge in lava beds near Tule Lake. After a three-month battle in which the armed Modocs killed about 75 men while losing only 5, they were defeated and their chief, Kintpuash (known as Captain Jack), was hanged. By 1900, only about 5,000 Native Americans remained in the state.
K Economic Development, 1850-1900
Huge numbers of settlers continued to come to California in the decades following the end of the gold rush. Three major economic developments accompanied the arrival of immigrants: agricultural activities expanded and diversified; railroads were built between California and the rest of the country; and manufacturing activities and new economic enterprises grew rapidly.
K1 Agriculture
The focus of agriculture in California shifted in the 1860s from raising livestock, or ranching, to growing grain. Particularly in the vast Central Valley, farmers began devoting former grazing land to wheat and barley cultivation. Grain and flour produced in California were carried by ship around South America to the eastern United States. Farmers in the Central Valley and in southern California, however, found they could make more money raising fruits and vegetables. After 1869 California was linked by railroad with the Eastern states; refrigerated freight cars made shipping fruit and vegetables to those markets possible.
K2 Railroads
The first railroad within the state, a 35-km (22-mile) line between Sacramento and Folsom, was completed in 1855. Two railroad companies built the first transcontinental railroad: The Union Pacific Railway laid tracks west from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific Railroad, under the leadership of wealthy Sacramento businessmen Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collis P. Huntington, and Mark Hopkins, laid track east from Sacramento. The two lines were joined at Promontory, near Ogden, Utah, on May 10, 1869. In 1876 the Central Pacific was extended southward, reaching Los Angeles. The southern portion of this line was called the Southern Pacific Railroad. Early in the 1880s the Southern Pacific linked California with New Orleans.
Railroads had originally promised to stimulate the California economy and to attract new settlers to the state. Although economic growth did increase and settlers did arrive, especially in southern California, economic depression struck the nation in the 1870s, and few of the settlers who came could afford to begin farming immediately. Over time, however, the railroads encouraged the rapid growth of cities in California and made it easy and relatively inexpensive to ship agricultural products across the country.
K3 Other Economic Activities
Mining, primarily for gold, was the main nonagricultural economic activity in California after 1850; but, beginning in the 1870s, manufacturing increased considerably. In 1900 manufacturing had become the most important state economic activity, although meat packing as well as fruit and vegetable canning were based on California’s growing agricultural production. Other important activities included lumber milling, brick manufacturing, fish processing, and the production of farm machinery. Oil production also began in southern California during the last two decades of the century.
L Social Discontent and Reform Movements
In the latter part of the 19th century, California farmers had to pay high railroad rates and unfair taxes. Nonfarm workers were also bitter about low wages and high unemployment, which they blamed on the large number of Chinese workers in the state. Many of the Chinese had been brought to California as railroad construction workers because they were willing to work for lower wages than were Americans. Severe nationwide economic depressions in the mid-1870s and again in the early 1890s increased the problems of all farmers and workers. In addition, the state government was dominated by politicians who, allied with railroad companies and other corporations, often showed little concern for the issues raised by farmers and laborers.
In the 1870s a number of violent riots were directed against the Chinese. In 1877 the Workingmen’s Party of California was organized after riots in which Chinese-owned laundries were burned. Most of the party’s support came from workers and small farmers. Led by the fiery speaker Denis Kearney, the party ultimately encouraged both state and federal anti-Chinese legislation. When a second California Constitution was adopted in 1879 the Workingmen’s Party made sure it included anti-Chinese articles. The U.S. Congress followed that in 1880 by passing a law regulating Chinese immigration, and in 1882 Congress banned it completely for ten years. The Workingmen’s Party also encouraged the creation of a state railroad commission to oversee railroad activities, but railroad companies quickly gained control of the commission. After the demise of the Workingmen’s Party in 1880, large railroad companies and corporations dominated state politics.
In the first decade of the 20th century a group of progressive Republicans, who believed in more government action to stamp out corruption and to meet the needs of citizens, took over the state government. In 1910 Republican Hiram W. Johnson was elected governor, and during his administration sweeping political and economic reforms were passed by the state legislature. Among the most important of these were the initiative, the process of enacting legislation by means of public petition or a popular vote; the referendum, the practice of submitting an issue to a public vote; and the recall, the ability to remove officials from office by popular vote. In addition, California created a new and effective railroad commission, allowed women to vote in state elections, and required employers to participate in a plan that would compensate workers for work-related injuries. In 1912, when former President Theodore Roosevelt ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket, Johnson was his vice-presidential candidate, but Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the election.
M Early-20th-Century Economic Development
During the first three decades of the 20th century, California’s economy and population continued to grow apace. Between 1900 and 1930 the state’s population increased from 1,485,053 to 5,677,251. The rate of growth was most rapid in southern California, especially around Los Angeles. Huge irrigation projects and mechanized farming methods dramatically increased agricultural production.
Industrial production also increased in the same three decades. In 1907 oil surpassed gold as California’s most economically valuable natural resource, and between 1900 and 1936, California became one of the principal oil-producing states in the nation. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 greatly shortened the sea route between California and the East Coast of the United States. At the same time, a deepwater harbor was built at Los Angeles.
In April 1906 San Francisco was seriously damaged by an earthquake, which caused a fire that burned for three days. Most of San Francisco’s downtown and residential areas were destroyed. However, the city was rebuilt quickly, with many improved facilities, including a better port. Many highways were built in California in the 1920s, and a number of automobile-assembly plants were built, primarily near San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the 1920s and 1930s the Los Angeles area became an important center for the U.S. aircraft industry. Also in the 1920s, the new motion-picture industry grew at Hollywood in southern California.
The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed caused high unemployment, many business failures, and farm foreclosures in California throughout the 1930s. The state’s social and economic problems were also aggravated by the influx of thousands of homeless farmers and farm workers from drought-ridden Oklahoma and Arkansas, called Okies and Arkies, as well as emigrants from Kansas, Texas, and other states.
The economic distress of the 1930s was partially eased by construction on a number of water projects in the state. These included Boulder Dam (renamed Hoover Dam in 1947), Imperial Dam, and Parker Dam, on the lower Colorado River, as well as major canals and aqueducts linking the dams with the Los Angeles area and the Imperial Valley. Work was also begun during the 1930s on a vast project to bring water to the Central Valley.
N World War II and After
During World War II (1939-1945) the demand for war supplies helped the recovery of California’s agricultural, manufacturing, shipbuilding, and lumbering industries. The war in the Pacific also enormously increased the traffic at California’s ports and naval bases and brought thousands of industrial workers to the state’s new aircraft and munitions plants.
O The Japanese in California
Japanese workers had begun immigrating to California in the 1890s and experienced racial discrimination, as had the Chinese before them. In 1906 the San Francisco Board of Education announced that Japanese students would have to attend a Chinese school, which was renamed the Oriental School. President Theodore Roosevelt arranged to have the policy rescinded in exchange for Japanese limits on immigration to the United States. In 1924 Asian immigration was shut off entirely.
As World War II approached, anti-Japanese feelings increased further. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, public groups in California argued that the Japanese should be removed from the state. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the removal of 112,000 Californians of Japanese descent, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens, to internment camps in the interior of the United States. After the war, although they were allowed to return, a large number settled in other areas. In 1988 the Congress of the United States passed a bill to compensate those who had been detained.
P Postwar California
California’s varied economy provided its new residents with a personal income substantially above the national average. The decade after the war saw especially rapid urban residential growth. In those ten years, California’s population increased almost 50 percent—from almost 9 million to 13 million. By 1970 the state numbered 19.9 million residents, bypassing New York to become the most populous state.
Earl Warren, a liberal Republican, served as governor for ten years until September 1953, when he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1959 Edmund G. Brown, Sr., became the state’s second Democratic governor since 1899. But by 1966 California had become more conservative, and Brown was defeated in his bid for a third term by Republican Ronald Reagan, a former movie actor. Many California voters saw government activity related to social and economic problems as too much interference in the concerns of private individuals. Conservatism in California was especially strong in populous southern California and in rural areas. Reagan, who was reelected governor in 1970, also became a leading spokesman nationwide for conservative issues, and in 1980 was elected president of the United States, defeating Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
Racial politics were also part of the conservative trend. Blacks had migrated to California in large numbers during and after World War II seeking jobs. Their growing resentment against discrimination in housing and labor unions accompanied the destructive August 1965 riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles. These outbreaks helped turn many whites against the policies of Governor Brown. Brown’s administration had cracked down on racial discrimination by employers. In the 1970s many conservative voters also began to resent the large influx into the state of Mexican immigrants, many of them illegal.
Dissident protests took place on California’s college campuses in the late 1960s. Students demonstrated against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (1959-1975). One major center of public demonstrations was the University of California at Berkeley. The protests alarmed many voters, who generally supported measures to suppress the disturbances and to reduce funds for higher education.
Labor issues also confronted the state in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the important fruit and vegetable industry. During World War II the United States had reached an agreement with Mexico to allow large numbers of workers, called braceros, to work in the United States. They had been joined by illegal immigrants from Mexico who were looking for work. Many of these immigrants became farm workers in California. The United Farm Workers Union, headed by César Chávez, struggled to unionize agricultural laborers, largely Hispanic, despite the determined opposition of farm owners. In 1975 all farm workers were guaranteed the right to collective bargaining by the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, and in 1978 a majority of grape growers, whom the United Farm Workers had been boycotting, signed contracts with the union.
Californians also faced the problem of protecting both their physical resources and their environment. The state’s extraordinary growth in the years after World War II required the development of huge projects to supply residential, agricultural, and industrial water needs, particularly in arid and heavily populated southern California. The exploding population and growing economy also contributed to pollution of the air and of the environment. In the 1950s and 1960s the smog for which Los Angeles had become notorious spread to other urban areas, even to the Central Valley, as well as to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park in the summers. California now began seriously to attack its environmental problems, and in 1976 the legislature created a commission to control development along the coastline.
Reagan was succeeded as governor in 1975 by Democrat Edmund G. Brown, Jr., the son of Reagan’s predecessor. Brown, Jr., also supported government involvement in social and economic activities. His administration supported civil rights legislation, programs to protect the state’s environment, and completion of his father’s huge California Water Project.
But Brown, Jr., also argued that government could only do so much. In 1978 a “taxpayers’ revolt” in California offered Brown, Jr., an opportunity to put his theories of smaller government into practice. The state’s voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 13, that severely reduced local property tax rates by more than two-thirds. This amendment created a financial crisis for local governments, and the state legislature was forced to provide emergency aid from the treasury.
Q The End of the 20th Century
In the past few decades California has experienced a frenzied building of new freeways, airports, factories, and schools. Smog and traffic congestion have enveloped urban areas and an urban landscape has replaced former vineyards and orange groves. Overcrowding, too, has diminished the allure of California.
Following the Vietnam War, the federal government admitted many Asians from countries like Cambodia and Singapore. In addition, a growing number of legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America have complicated the urban tensions that California already faced.
Pete Wilson was elected governor of California in 1990. A former U.S. senator and a Republican, Wilson faced declining state revenues and serious unemployment problems. These were partly due to the decrease of federal defense spending following the end of the Cold War, the economic and diplomatic struggle between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In addition, new business growth had been affected by more stringent environmental regulations.
Many parts of California were buffeted by serious natural disasters in the late 1980s and 1990s. Earthquakes caused major damage in the San Francisco area in 1989 as well as east of Los Angeles in 1992, and again in the Los Angeles area in 1994. Brush fires destroyed more than 1,000 homes in southern California in 1993. By early 1995 winter storms caused flood damage throughout the state. Extensive flooding and mudslides also resulted from above-average rainfall in the winter of 1998 caused by El Niño, a warming of the atmosphere and oceans that periodically disturbs weather patterns.
Racial tensions also increased in the 1990s. In 1991 white Los Angeles police officers were videotaped while beating a black motorist named Rodney King. When the officers were found not guilty during their criminal trial in 1992, the acquittal set off yet another riot in south-central Los Angeles. Some 58 people were killed and many homes and businesses were destroyed or looted. In April 1993 a court convicted two of the police officers for violating Rodney King’s civil rights.
Also in the 1990s, illegal immigration from Mexico became one of the biggest political issues in California. In 1994 California voters approved the controversial Proposition 187, which was intended to revoke the rights of illegal immigrants to state education, welfare, and health services. The measure caused many Hispanic residents to withdraw their support for the state’s Republican administration, which had led efforts to pass the proposition.
Tensions also increased between California and the Mexican government, and in February 1999 the state’s newly elected Democratic governor, Gray Davis, visited Mexico and began efforts to mend the rift. However, the main provisions of the proposition never took effect. In a series of decisions a U.S. District Court judge overturned major parts of the proposition because the regulation of immigration is a federal rather than a state power. In July 1999 Davis reached an agreement with the opponents of the proposition in which the state ended its appeals of the court rulings and left the main provisions of the proposition overturned.
Racial politics have also affected higher education in California. In the 1970s, under affirmative action policies designed to reflect the state’s ethnic diversity, university administrators devised complex racial preference criteria for each state university campus. While increasing minority representation, the system prevented some top California high school graduates from being admitted. Under the earlier (1978) U.S. Supreme Court decision, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the University of California was prohibited from creating such racial quotas but was permitted to consider race as one factor in admissions policies.
In 1995, however, the University of California Board of Regents turned away from previous admissions policies entirely when it passed a resolution eliminating programs that called for racial and gender preferences in admissions, hiring, and the granting of outside contracts. In 1996 a statewide challenge to affirmative action programs throughout state government was placed on the ballot. California voters passed the California Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Proposition 209, which ended any preference based on gender, race, or ethnicity for state jobs, state contracts, or admission to state schools.
California voters also passed another statewide ballot measure, Proposition 227, which required the state’s public schools to end most of their bilingual education programs. The proposition, approved in 1998, ordered that schools teach classes primarily in English, but it gave parents the right to seek a waiver from English-only instruction if their children wished to remain in bilingual programs.
R The 21st Century
At the beginning of the 21st century, California seemed to be facing a severe energy crisis. For several days in 2001 much of California endured rolling blackouts, during which power was turned off because the state could not meet its energy needs. California’s energy problems were a result of the state government’s decision to deregulate the electricity industry in 1996.
Under that deregulation plan, California’s utility companies had to sell their power-generating plants to private companies and then buy power on the wholesale market. In the summer of 2000, the price for power on the wholesale market rose dramatically as hot weather increased demand. However, the conditions of deregulation prohibited the utilities from passing higher prices on to consumers until the year 2002. As a result, the utilities began to run out of money to buy power. Banks became increasingly reluctant to lend them money. Power-generating plants resisted selling the utilities power because they could not pay for it.
The state struggled to deal with its energy crisis. On top of the utilities’ problems, many power plants were taken offline in early 2001 for repairs or maintenance. In addition, California had not built any new power plants to accommodate its growing population and technology industry. The state appealed to the federal government to set a limit on wholesale market prices, but it refused.
The California Public Utility Commission initiated rate increases despite the rate freeze until 2002, citing the severity of the situation and state laws that granted the commission the power to adjust rates. California considered a variety of other solutions, including speeding up the construction of new power plants and negotiating long-term contracts between the utilities and the power-generating plants to control the volatility of prices. New, costly long-term contracts for electricity and natural gas burdened the state with millions of dollars of debt. Ultimately, by late 2001 careful public conservation of electricity and natural gas had overcome the state’s power shortages, and it appeared that the severity of the energy crisis had been overestimated.
In fact, an investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission into the alleged energy shortages later revealed that five energy companies withheld electricity they could have produced. In 2002 the commission concluded that the withholding of electricity contributed to an “unconscionable, unjust, and unreasonable electricity price spike.” As a result, California state utilities paid $20 billion more for energy in 2000 than in 1999, the head of the commission found.
The commission also cited the role of the Enron Corporation in California’s energy crisis. In June 2003 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) barred Enron from selling electricity and natural gas in the United States after probing charges that Enron manipulated electricity prices during California’s energy shortages. In the same month the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested an Enron executive on charges of manipulating the price of electricity in California. Two other Enron employees, known as traders because they sold electricity, pleaded guilty to similar charges. See also Enron Scandal.
R1 The California Recall
In 2003 petitioners in California used a clause in the state’s constitution to force a statewide vote on Democratic governor Gray Davis. The clause allowed for the recall, or removal, of elected state officials before the end of their term. A wealthy Republican politician financed the campaign to recall Davis, but the effort struck a chord with a broad segment of California voters, who, rightly or wrongly, blamed Davis for California’s fiscal crisis. Davis had served as governor of the state since 1999 and was reelected to a second term in 2002.
The recall ballot consisted of two parts. The first part asked voters to decide whether to recall Davis. The second part asked voters to choose a replacement candidate. In October 2003 a majority of voters approved Davis’s recall, and motion-picture actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, running as a moderate Republican, was elected governor of California. Davis became the first California governor to be recalled and only the second recalled governor in U.S. history. Because he was elected only to fill the remainder of Davis’s term, Schwarzenegger had to face the voters again in 2006. Enjoying a reputation as a moderate Republican who worked closely on environmental issues with the legislature in the largely Democratic state, Schwarzenegger was reelected in a landslide.
R2 Southern California Wildfires
In late October 2003 a series of wildfires struck southern California in the costliest natural disaster in the state’s history. The fires burned 300,000 hectares (742,000 acres) in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, killing 26 people and destroying 3,361 homes. Four years later in October 2007 one of the largest evacuations in the state’s history took place when a half-million people in southern California were ordered to leave their homes because of wildfires, particularly in San Diego County. Brush fires, including one set by a young child, combined with the region’s hot and dry Santa Ana winds to burn an area of about 210,000 hectares (520,000 acres) or roughly 2,000 sq km (800 sq mi). Before the fires came largely under control at month’s end, nearly 3,000 structures, mostly private homes, were destroyed and seven people were killed.
Some fire experts and scientists attributed the 2003 and 2007 blazes to periods of drought, the seasonal Santa Ana winds, and abundant dry vegetation caused by the droughts and by a policy of fire suppression that allows brush to accumulate. Some fire experts noted that neighboring Mexico has a policy of allowing brush fires to burn out, thus preventing the accumulation of large amounts of dry vegetation. The fire outbreaks sparked debates on whether rapid and largely uncontrolled real estate development in the area reinforced the need for a fire-control policy and made the fires worse.
The History section of this article was contributed by Andrew Rolle. The remainder of the article was contributed by Crane S. Miller.

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