California location map
CALIFORNIA, one of the Pacific Coast states of the United States of America, physically one of the most remarkable, economically one of the more independent, and in history and social life one of the most interesting of the Union It is bounded N. by Oregon, E. by Nevada and Arizona, from which last it is separated by the Colorado river, and S. by the Mexican province of Lower California. The length of its medial line N. and S. is about 78o m., its breadth varies from 150 to 350 m., and its total area is 158,297 sq. m., of which 2205 are water surface. In size it ranks second among the states of the Union. The coast is bold and rugged and with very few good harbours; San Diego and San Francisco bays being exceptions. The coast line is more than 'coo m. long. There are eight coast islands, all of inconsiderable size, and none of them as yet in any way important. Physiography:—The physiography of the state is simple; its main, features are few and bold: a mountain fringe along the ocean,, another mountain system along the east border, between them—closed in at both ends by their junction—a splendid valley of imperial extent, and outside all this a great area of barren, arid lands, belonging partly to the Great Basin and partly to the Open Basin region. Along the Pacific, and some 20-40 M. in width, runs the mass of the Coast Range, made up of numerous indistinct chains—most of which have localized individual names—that are broken down into innumerable ridges and spurs, and. small valleys drained by short streams of rapid fall. The range is cut by numerous fault lines, some of which betray evidence of recent activity; it is probable that movements along these faults cause the earthquake tremors to which the region is subject, all of which seem to be tectonic. The altitudes of the Coast Range vary from about 2000 to 8000 ft.; in the neighbourhood of San Francisco Bay the culminating peaks are about 4000 ft. in height (Mount Diablo, 3856 ft.; Mount St Helena, 4343. ft.), and to the north and south the elevation of the ranges increases. In the east part of the state is the magnificent Sierra Nevada, a great block of the earth's crust, faulted along its eastern side and tilted up so as to have a gentle back slope to the west and a steep fault escarpment facing east, the finest mountain system of the United States. The Sierra proper, from Lassen's Peak to Tehachapi Pass in Kern county, is about 430 M. long (from Mt. Shasta in Siskiyou county to Mt. San Jacinto in Riverside county, more than boo m.). It narrows to the north and the altitude declines in the same direction. Far higher and grander than the Coast Range, the Sierra is much less complicated, being indeed essentially one chain of great simplicity of structure. It is only here and there that a double line of principal summits exists. The slope is everywhere long and gradual on the west, averaging about 200 ft. to the mile. Precipitous gorges or canyons often from 2000 to 5000 ft. in depth become a more and more marked feature of the range as one proceeds north-ward; over great portions of it they average probably not more than 20 M. apart. Where the volcanic formations were spread uniformly over the flanks of the mountains, the contrast between the canyons and the plain-like region of gentle slope in which they have been excavated is especially marked and characteristic.