California Geography

California Geography

California is as diverse in its geography as it is with its mix of people. One can find hot deserts, pleasant coastlines and rocky mountainous terrains all within one state. The state can be divided into the northern and southern hemispheres for better understanding of its features.

Northern California Geography

  • Klamath Mountains: The Thompson Peak in Trinity County is a part of the Klamath Mountains in California. It measures 2,744 m or 9,002 feet. The mountain range has distinct features as a result of which one can find abundant supply of marble and serpentine. The weather too, is pleasant and receives limited rainfall. The diverse flora of the mountains encompasses unique species like the Foxtail Pine, the Lawson’s Cypress and the Kalmiopsis.
  • Cascade Range: The Cascade Range starts from British Columbia and continues down to northern California. It is one of the ranges that make up the Pacific Ring of Fire. The mountain range can be found on the border of Oregon and Nevada sharing space with the Central Valley on the north. All known volcanic eruptions in the United States of America have been from the Cascade Range and the latest known eruption was from the Lassen Peak. It erupted from 1914 to 1921.
  • Modoc Plateau: The plateau is a scenic landmark in California where one can find seasonal lakes, lush pine forests, juniper flats etc. Of the entire Modoc National Forest, about 4000 square kms lie on the plateau and are situated between the Medicine Lake Highlands and Warner Mountains. One can find numerous herds of the mule deer as well as the Rocky Mountain Elks.
  • Basin and Range: The Basin and Range is a collective term given to the mountains and valleys in the region. Mono lake, which is also the oldest lake in North America, is situated in this range. The geological region of the basin and range region is also home to the Owens Valley: the deepest valley in North America.
  • Central Valley: The area between the Coastal mountain ranges and Sierra Nevada is home to the Central Valley. The northern portion of the valley is known as the ‘Sacramento Valley’ while the southern part of it is known as the San Joaquin Valley. The Tulare Lake which was once bountiful is now dry and is covered with agricultural fields.
  • Sierra Nevada: The range runs south for 400 miles and also hosts the highest peak in the United States of America. The area experiences warm summers for most of the year but battles fierce winters through the rest. The Giant Sequoia is found in Sierra along with Lake Tahoe and the Yosemite Valley. The Sierra is home to the John Muir Trail which is one of the most famous hiking trails in the US.

Southern California Geography

  • Transverse Ranges: The Transverse Range separates the southern and northern part of California. The Santa Susana Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains are home to various valleys in southern California. Mt. San Gorgonio is the highest peak in these ranges.
  • Los Angeles Basin: Los Angeles, Santa Ana and the San Gabriel rivers have deposited silt as well as sediment along the southern Californian coast. This sediment has, over the years, resulted in a piece of flat land known as the Los Angeles basin. At some points within the basin, the sediment layers are over 10 km deep. Due to the intense, unstable sediment buildup over the years, volcanic eruptions cause much discomfort to the city than it usually would.
  • Mojave Desert: The Mojave Desert is one of the harshest cold deserts known. The desert is formed as a result of the cold offshore current and the rain shadow found in the mountains.  The desert is surrounded by the Tehachapi Mountains in the northwest while the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel mountains enclose it from the southwest. The desert is known to extend into Nevada. The temperatures in the desert are usually very low owing to two or more snow sessions in a year. However, the current recordings indicate that the desert is receiving less than 6 inches of rain and lesser snowfall as well.