California is the most populous and the third largest U.S. state. California is home to eight of the nation’s fifty most populated cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach and Oakland. The capital of California is Sacramento.
California contains some interesting geographic statistics. The state contains both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States. Mount Whitney is the highest point at 14,505 feet and Death Valley is the lowest at 282 feet below sea level. In addition, California has the third-longest coastline of all states. Also, earthquakes are a common occurrence with residents experiencing about 37,000 annually.
- Population California was 37,691,912
- Population Breakdown:
- White Persons 57.6%
- Asian Persons 13%
- African American Persons 6.2%
- Native American Persons 1%
- Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian Persons 0.4%
- Hispanic or Latino Persons 37.6%
California was first populated by descendants of Siberian hunters who crossed the Bering Strait during the last Ice Age roughly 12,000 years ago. These hunters lived peacefully on the land until their world was shaken by the Spanish colonization that began in 1769. By 1845, California was part of the Mexican Republic. Mexico and the new, growing United States of America would have clashing interests in the years to come. The new United States felt that the Pacific coast was the natural goal of American expansionism. Mexico, understandably, did not agree, with this disagreement came the Mexican–American War, in which the United States conquered California.
The discovery of gold in 1848 forever changed California. The news of the discovery made its way first to San Francisco then across the continent, and eventually, around the world. With that discovery and the revenue that followed California became the 31st state of the United States on September 9, 1850. For the next 20 years thousands of people flooded into California seeking their fortunes in the canyons, ravines, and small valleys of the Sierra Nevada foothills, as well as to the watersheds of the Klamath, Trinity, and Shasta Rivers.
California’s first railroad, called the Sacramento Valley Rail Road, opened in 1856 and brought substantial growth to many cities that were once cut off from metropolitan areas. This short route would be the foundation for plans to connect California with the rest of the new nation. Real growth for California, however, did not occur until the completion of the first railroad to connect California with the eastern states. Between 1863 and 1869 the Central Pacific Railroad built east from Sacramento while the Union Pacific built west from Omaha. The two lines met on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit in what was then only the Utah Territory. Railroad technology was revolutionary for California. A state once cut off from the trade and comforts of the Atlantic was able to finally communicate and be a part of the rest of the new nation. Soon dozens of railroads were built from Atlantic seaport cities to western destinations.
Since then people have been flocking to California steadily to follow their dreams. Gold fever became black gold fever with the discovery of oil and the natural resources seemed never ending. These days most people identify California with its big cities and, of course, with Hollywood. But, there are still some places in the state where that old west untouched America may still be seen and experienced.