A map of CaliforniaCalifornia is located in southwest United States. Northern and central California is bounded by two mountain ranges: the Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "snowy range") in the east and the Coast Ranges running down the Pacific Coast. Between them lies the Central Valley, California’s rich agricultural heartland, made up of the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the south. Water is diverted from the rivers here through an extensive network of canals to provide drinking water and irrigation for much of the rest of the state. Almost all of southeastern California is arid or semi-arid. The central part of this region is called the Mojave Desert. Northeast of it lies Death Valley, both the lowest and hottest location in North America. In the far south is the Salton Sea, a salt lake.
Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, region of California's Central Coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean
Golden Gate Bridge (0.8 miles / 1.28 km long), near San Francisco. It was completed in 1937.
The name "California" originally referred to the entire region that included the Baja California (lower California) peninsula of Mexico, as well as the American Southwest (Alta California, or upper California). Spanish explorers named California after "Califia", a mythical island paradise described in the story Las Serges de Esplandian, written by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo in about 1510.
The paradise was inhabited by strong and beautiful black women, called Amazons. They were led by a Queen Calafia (or Califia). She fought alongside Muslims (who ruled parts of Spain at the time), and her name was chosen to echo the title of a Muslim leader, the Caliph. The Spanish gave the name originally to Baja California, which they took to be an island at the time.
The Mojave Desert after a winter snowfall
California is the most populous state in the US. It includes the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and the largest county by area, San Bernardino County.
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