California is the most populous state in the United States, located in the Far West; bordered by Oregon (North), Nevada and across the Colorado River, Arizona (East), Mexico (South) and the Pacific Ocean (West).
Ranking 3rd among the U.S. states in area, California has a diverse topography and climate. A series of low mountains known as the Coast Ranges extends along the 1,200 mile (1,930 km) coast. The region from Point Arena, north of San Francisco, to the southern part of the state is subject to tremors and sometimes to severe earthquakes caused by tectonic stress along the San Andreas Fault. The Coast Ranges receive heavy rainfall in the north, where the giant cathedral-like redwood forests prevail, but the climate of these mountains is considerably drier in Southern California, and south of the Golden Gate no major rivers reach the ocean. Behind the coastal ranges in central California lies the great Central Valley, a long alluvial valley drained by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. In the southeast lie vast wastelands, notably the Mojave Desert, site of Joshua Tree National Park (photo).
Rising as an almost impenetrable granite barrier east of the Central Valley is the Sierra Nevada range, which includes Mt. Whitney, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park. The Cascade Range, the northern continuation of the Sierra Nevada, includes Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lying east of the Southern Sierra Nevada range is Death Valley National Park. California has an enormously productive economy, which for a nation, would be the 5th largest in the world. Although agriculture is gradually yielding to industry as the core of the state's economy, California leads the nation in the production of fruits and vegetables, including carrots, lettuce, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, and almonds. The state's most valuable crops are grapes, cotton, flowers, and oranges; dairy products, however, contribute the single largest share of farm income, and California is again the national leader in this sector. The state also produces the major share of U.S. domestic wine (photo).
California's farms are highly productive as a result of good soil, a long growing season, and the use of modern agricultural methods. Irrigation is critical, especially in the San Joaquin Valley and Imperial Valley. The gathering and packing of crops is done largely by seasonal migrant labor, primarily Mexicans. Fishing is another important industry.
California continues to be a major U.S. center for motion-picture, television film, and related entertainment industries, especially in Hollywood and Burbank. Tourism also is an important source of income. Disneyland, SeaWorld San Diego, and other theme parks draw millions of visitors each year, as do San Francisco (photo) with its numerous attractions.
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