California, a state of the American Union, bounded by Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, the Mexican territory of Lower or Old California, and the Pacific Ocean. The parallels of 32° 28' and 42° N. lat. respectively mark its S. and N. limits. The state has an area of 155,980 sq. m. It is thus larger than any other state or territory, except Texas and Alaska, larger than Italy, or Prussia, or Hungary, and more than a fourth larger than the whole of the United Kingdom. The aspect of the country is extremely varied. Along the eastern border of the state extend the ranges of the Sierra Nevada, which connects with the Cascade Range its northward extension. The scenery in this part of the state is often (as in the wonderful Yosemite and Hetch-Hetchy valleys) very striking. There are twelve peaks which exceed 10,000 feet in height; Mount Whitney (14,898 feet) being higher than any other in the United States outside of Alaska. West of the Sierra Nevada lies the central valley of California, drained by the Sacramento River, and the San Joaquin. The eastern slope of the great valley is very gradual, while the opposite side of the Sierras has a sharp and precipitous descent towards the great basin of Nevada. The Coast Mountains consist of a number of ill-defined ridges. To the south of the San Joaquin Valley a transverse ridge connects the coast-ranges with the Sierra, separating to some extent Southern California from the rest of the state. The coast-line is mostly high and rocky, with only a few bays and harbours. California presents a great variety of climatic conditions. In the north-west the rainfall is excessive, and in the north the winters are rather severe than mild; the coast region of the northern half of the state is damp, with cool or cold nights, even in summer. But Southern California, in temperature and productions, has a semi-tropical character; and the serenity of its climate has made it famous as a resort for invalids. In the south the scanty rainfall and the extreme summer heat detract from an otherwise perfect climate. In general it may be said that the winters in California are mild, and the summers dry, and not intensely hot, though often very dusty. There are practically but two seasons - a more or less rainy winter, and a nearly rainless summer. Extremes of temperature are much less marked than in the states east of the Rocky Mountains. In the interior the thermometer sometimes reaches 120° in summer.
The gold production of the state, at one time enormous, for many years declined, but has of late again increased; in the years 1848-64 the annual product was $56,000,000; in 1900-4 it averaged over $15,000,000. Among the valuable minerals obtainable are quicksilver, lead, silver, borax, rock-salt, marbles, asphalt, potash-salts, native soda, sulphur, kaolin, and many others; petroleum is abundant; coal is not extensively wrought. Copper, iron, chromium, antimony, and other metals abound. But the mineral wealth of the state is not more remarkable than its agricultural resources, wheat, alfalfa or lucerne, the vine, and all manner of fruits growing luxuriantly. In many sections irrigation facilitates agriculture. The distillation of brandy, sugar-refining, shipbuilding, the packing of meats, silk-growing, and bee-keeping are profitable industries. The fisheries are of growing importance. The principal exports are wheat, barley, wool, wines, brandy, honey, hops, timber, provisions, metals, ores, borax, and other minerals; fish and furs, largely from Alaska; dried, preserved, and green fruits, including oranges, prunes, raisins, and almonds. The Lick observatory at Mount Hamilton belongs to the state university at Berkeley; there is another university at Palo Alto. Pop. (1850) 92,597; (1860) 379,994; (1870) 560,247; (1880) 864,694; (1890) 1,208,130; (1900) 1,485,000. Chinese immigration was stopped by restrictive legislation in 18S2-92. The principal cities are San Francisco (q.v.), Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento, capital of the state. The prosperity of the state was greatly stimulated by the opening of the Union Pacific Railway in 1S69. In April 1906 a disastrous earthquake and the resultant fires destroyed a great part of San Francisco and injured many other towns.
Lower or Old California is a peninsula and a territory of Mexico, continuous southward from the state of California, and is detached by the Gulf of California and the lower reaches of the Rio Colorado from the rest of Mexico. Its area is 61,562 sq. m., or more than half the extent of Great Britain and Ireland. The climate is exceedingly dry, and the surface mountainous, and excepting in some of the valleys, agriculture is hardly practicable. The whale-fishery and pearl-fishery are of some value. Some mining is done, and salt, sugar, orchil, and a little wine produced. Pop. 42,200.
The Gulf of California, an arm of the Pacific Ocean, which divides the peninsula above described from the rest of Mexico, is 700 miles in length, and varies in width from 40 to 100 miles. It receives the waters of the Colorado.