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About California

As of 2007

California (i/ˌkælɨˈfɔrnjə/) is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is the most populous U.S. state, with 38 million people, one in eight of the people who live in the U.S, and the third largest state by area (after Alaska and Texas). California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south. It contains the nation's second most populous census statistical area (Greater Los Angeles Area) and the fifth most populous (San Francisco Bay Area), and eight of the nation's 50 most populated cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, and Oakland). Sacramento has been state capital since 1854.

What is now California was first settled by various Native American tribes before being explored by a number of European expeditions during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was then claimed by the Spanish Empire as part of Alta California in the larger territory of New Spain. Alta California 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 western portion of Alta California was organized as the State of California, which was admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The California Gold Rush starting in 1848 led to dramatic social and demographic change, with large-scale immigration from the east and abroad with an accompanying economic boom.

California's diverse geography ranges from the the Sierra Nevada in the east to the Pacific Coast in the west, from the Redwood–Douglas fir forests of the northwest, to the Mojave Desert areas in the southeast. The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, a major agricultural area. California contains both the highest point (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point (Death Valley), in the contiguous United States and it has the 3rd longest coastline of all states (after Alaska and Florida). Earthquakes are common because of the state's location along the Pacific Ring of Fire. About 37,000 earthquakes are recorded each year, but most are too small to be felt.