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State of California
Map of the United States with California highlighted
Map of the United States with California highlighted
CountryUnited States
Before statehood
Los Angeles
Largest metro and urban areasGreater Los Angeles
 • GovernorGavin Newsom (D)
 • Lieutenant GovernorEleni Kounalakis (D)
LegislatureState Legislature
 • Upper houseState Senate
 • Lower houseState Assembly
JudiciarySupreme Court of California
U.S. senatorsDianne Feinstein (D)
Alex Padilla (D)
U.S. House delegation
 • Total163,696 sq mi (423,970 km2)
 • Land155,959 sq mi (403,932 km2)
 • Water7,737 sq mi (20,047 km2)  4.7%
 • Rank3rd
 • Length760 mi (1,220 km)
 • Width250 mi (400 km)
2,900 ft (880 m)
Highest elevation14,505 ft (4,421.0 m)
Lowest elevation−279 ft (−85.0 m)
 • TotalNeutral decrease 39,185,605[6]
 • Rank1st
 • Density251.3/sq mi (97/km2)
  • Rank11th
 • Median household income
 • Income rank
 • Official languageEnglish
 • Spoken language
USPS abbreviation
ISO 3166 codeUS-CA
Traditional abbreviationCalif., Cal., Cali.
Latitude32°32′ N to 42° N
Longitude114°8′ W to 124°26′ W
State symbols of California
California quarter dollar coin
Released in 2005
Lists of United States state symbols

California is a

most populous city in the state and the second most populous city in the country. San Francisco is the second most densely populated major city in the country. Los Angeles County is the country's most populous, while San Bernardino County is the largest county by area in the country. California borders Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, the Mexican state of Baja California to the south; and it has a coastline along the Pacific Ocean
to the west.


primary statistical areas in 2018,[18] and is home to five of the world's ten largest companies by market capitalization[19] and four of the world's ten richest people.[20] Slightly over 84 percent of the state's residents hold a high school degree, the lowest high school education rate of all 50 states

Prior to

Viceroyalty of New Spain. The area became a part of Mexico in 1821, following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War. The California Gold Rush started in 1848 and led to dramatic social and demographic changes, including large-scale immigration into California, a worldwide economic boom, and the California genocide of indigenous peoples. The western portion of Alta California was then organized and admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850, following the Compromise of 1850

Notable contributions to

Knotts Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, and many others. The San Francisco Bay Area and the Greater Los Angeles Area are widely seen as the centers of the global technology and film industries, respectively. California's economy is very diverse: 58% of it is based on finance, government, real estate, technology, professional, scientific, technical and business services, architecture, academia, accountancy, marketing, law, market research, business and executive management, economics, consulting, customer support, human resources, information technology, engineering, research and development, design, public relations, education, healthcare, transportation, trade, hospitality, leisure, utilities, tourism, manufacturing, construction, roofing, shipping, warehousing, food processing, trucking, mining, oil field work, recycling, maintenance, custodial work, logging, landscaping, waste collection and disposal, and many other industries.[28] Although agriculture (including hunting, farming, and fishing) accounts for only 1.5% of the state's economy,[28] California's agriculture industry has the highest output of any U.S. state.[29][30][31] California's ports and harbors handle about a third of all U.S. imports, most originating in Pacific Rim
international trade.

The state's extremely diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast and metropolitan areas in the west to the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, and from the redwood and Douglas fir forests in the northwest to the Mojave Desert in the southeast. Two-thirds of the nation's earthquake risk lies in California.[32] The Central Valley, a fertile agricultural area, dominates the state's center. California is well known for its warm Mediterranean climate along the coast and monsoon seasonal weather inland. The large size of the state results in climates that vary from moist temperate rainforest in the north to arid desert in the interior, as well as snowy alpine in the mountains. Drought and wildfires are a persistent issue for the state. California has established a state program in recognition of Native American use of fire in ecosystems to mitigate wildfires.[33]


Las Sergas de Esplandián, written by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo

The Spaniards gave the name Las Californias to the peninsula of Baja California and to Alta California, the latter region becoming the present-day state of California.

The name derived from the mythical island of California in the fictional story of

caliph, used for Muslim leaders.[34][40]

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.

Official abbreviations of the state's name include

CA, Cal., Calif., and US-CA


Indigenous Californian
tribes and languages at the time of European contact


California was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in

70 distinct ethnic groups, inhabiting environments ranging from mountains and deserts to islands and redwood forests.[44]

Living in these diverse geographic areas, the Indigenous peoples developed complex forms of ecosystem management, including forest gardening to ensure the regular availability of food and medicinal plants.[45][46] This was a form of sustainable agriculture.[47] To mitigate destructive large wildfires from ravaging the natural environment, Indigenous peoples developed a practice of controlled burning.[48] This practice was recognized for its benefits by the California government in 2022.[33]

These groups were also diverse in their political organization, with bands, tribes, villages, and, on the resource-rich coasts, large

Pomo and Salinan. Trade, intermarriage, craft specialists, and military alliances fostered social and economic relationships between many groups. Although nations would sometimes war, most armed conflicts were between groups of men for vengeance. Acquiring territory was not usually the purpose of these small-scale battles.[49]

Men and women generally had different

mourning rituals and performed women's social roles.[51] Indigenous societies had their own terms to refer to them. The Chumash referred to them as 'aqi.[51] The early Spanish settlers detested and sought to eliminate them.[52]

Spanish period

Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claiming California for the Spanish Empire
in 1542

The first Europeans to explore the

Viceroy of New Spain, to lead an expedition up the Pacific coast in search of trade opportunities; they entered San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542, and reached at least as far north as San Miguel Island.[53] Privateer and explorer Francis Drake explored and claimed an undefined portion of the California coast in 1579, landing north of the future city of San Francisco.[54] Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast of California in 1602 for New Spain, putting ashore in Monterey.[55] Despite the on-the-ground explorations of California in the 16th century, Rodríguez's idea of California as an island persisted. Such depictions appeared on many European maps well into the 18th century.[56]


on Monterey Bay.

Junípero Serra conducting the first mass in Monterey Bay
in 1770

After the Portolà expedition, Spanish

Spanish missions of California along El Camino Real ("The Royal Road") and along the Californian coast, 16 sites of which having been chosen during the Portolá expedition. Numerous major cities in California grew out of missions, including San Francisco (Mission San Francisco de Asís), San Diego (Mission San Diego de Alcalá), Ventura (Mission San Buenaventura), or Santa Barbara (Mission Santa Barbara
), among others.

Juan Bautista de Anza led a similarly important expedition throughout California in 1775–76, which would extend deeper into the interior and north of California. The Anza expedition selected numerous sites for missions, presidios, and pueblos, which subsequently would be established by settlers. Gabriel Moraga, a member of the expedition, would also christen many of California's prominent rivers with their names in 1775–1776, such as the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River. After the expedition, Gabriel's son, José Joaquín Moraga, would found the pueblo of San Jose in 1777, making it the first civilian-established city in California.

The Spanish founded Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1776, the third to be established of the Californian missions

During this same period, sailors from the

Fort Ross on the North Coast.[57][58] Fort Ross was primarily used to supply Russia's Alaskan colonies
with food supplies. The settlement did not meet much success, failing to attract settlers or establish long term trade viability, and was abandoned by 1841.

During the

Californios supported independence from Spain, which many believed had neglected California and limited its development.[60] Spain's trade monopoly on California had limited the trade prospects of Californians. Following Mexican independence, Californian ports were freely able to trade with foreign merchants. Governor Pablo Vicente de Solá presided over the transition from Spanish colonial rule
to independent Mexican rule.

Mexican period

Californian independence

In 1821, the

Mexican Empire
(which included California) independence from Spain. For the next 25 years, Alta California remained a remote, sparsely populated, northwestern administrative district of the newly independent country of Mexico, which shortly after independence became a republic. The
Californios (Hispanics native of California) who traded cowhides and tallow with Boston merchants. Beef did not become a commodity until the 1849 California Gold Rush

From the 1820s, trappers and settlers from the United States and Canada began to arrive in Northern California. These new arrivals used the Siskiyou Trail, California Trail, Oregon Trail and Old Spanish Trail to cross the rugged mountains and harsh deserts in and surrounding California. The early government of the newly independent Mexico was highly unstable, and in a reflection of this, from 1831 onwards, California also experienced a series of armed disputes, both internal and with the central Mexican government.[62] During this tumultuous political period Juan Bautista Alvarado was able to secure the governorship during 1836–1842.[63] The military action which first brought Alvarado to power had momentarily declared California to be an independent state, and had been aided by Anglo-American residents of California,[64] including Isaac Graham.[65] In 1840, one hundred of those residents who did not have passports were arrested, leading to the Graham Affair, which was resolved in part with the intercession of Royal Navy officials.[64]

General Mariano G. Vallejo reviewing his troops in the Sonoma Plaza
, 1846

One of the largest ranchers in California was John Marsh. After failing to obtain justice against squatters on his land from the Mexican courts, he determined that California should become part of the United States. Marsh conducted a letter-writing campaign espousing the California climate, the soil, and other reasons to settle there, as well as the best route to follow, which became known as "Marsh's route". His letters were read, reread, passed around, and printed in newspapers throughout the country, and started the first wagon trains rolling to California.[66] He invited immigrants to stay on his ranch until they could get settled, and assisted in their obtaining passports.[67]

After ushering in the period of organized emigration to California, Marsh became involved in a military battle between the much-hated Mexican general,

Pio Pico was returned to the governorship. This paved the way to California's ultimate acquisition by the United States.[68][69][70][71][72]

U.S. Conquest and the California Republic