The third largest state in the United States, California runs almost 800 miles from north to south and covers 163,707 square miles. Its land is divided into eight main land regions. The Klamath Mountains are in the northwest corner of the state and are covered with forests and divided by deep canyons. The Coastal Ranges extend from the northern part of the state south to Santa Barbara. They consist of smaller chains of mountain ranges as well as several valleys including Napa Valley. This land region is also home to California’s legendary Redwood trees. The Sierra Nevada region includes the Sierra Nevada mountain range that runs 430 miles north and south in the state. Within this range is Mount Whitney which stands at 14,494 feet and is the highest peak in the United States south of Alaska. One of the region’s most famous and breathtaking valleys is Yosemite. The Central Valley land region lies between the Coastal Range and the Sierra Nevada range and is home to the San Joaquin River and the Sacramento River. The Cascade Mountain region is the northernmost region of the state and was formed by volcanos. This region still has one active volcano known as Lassen Peak. The Basin and Range region contains the southeastern deserts of California, including the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. The final two land regions are the Los Angeles and San Diego Ranges which are groups of small mountain ranges that extend from east to west.
California has several different bodies of water. Besides being bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, it has three main rivers – the Sacramento River, the San Joaquin River, and the Colorado River. The Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers can be found in the Central Valley of the state. The Colorado River, which originates in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and acts as a border between California and Arizona, is a huge provider of water for the state’s southern deserts, providing water for both agriculture and people. Two of California’s major lakes are Lake Tahoe and the Salton Sea. Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevadas, and the Salton Sea is a large, shallow lake that lies below sea level in California’s southern desert.
A trip through California offers a variety of different climates. The state has five climate regions: coastal, valley, foothill, mountain, and desert. From Southern California’s warm sunshine to San Francisco’s fog, and from frigid mountaintops to blazing hot deserts, each climate region is unique. The average January temperature is 57ºF in Los Angeles and 49ºF in San Francisco. Whereas, the average July temperature is 69ºF in Los Angeles and 63ºF in San Francisco. Not known for being a very rainy state, the average annual precipitation is twenty inches in the northern part of the state and only thirteen inches in the southern part.
Found in the southwestern part of the United States, California is bordered on the north by Oregon, Nevada and Arizona lie to the east, the country of Mexico shares its southern border, and the Pacific Ocean borders the state to the west.