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  Geographical features in local region

1. Sacramento, 2. Pacific Ocean, 3. Yosemite National Park, 4. Death Valley, 5. Coast Range, Sierra Nevada Mountains, 6. San Francisco, 7. Los Angeles.


The Pacific Plate and the North American plate:
The word Geography is derived from Greek and exactly means "to write about the earth," the subject of geography is much more than describing "foreign" places or memorizing the names of capitals and countries. Geography is a large-scale discipline that seeks to understand the world - its human and physical features - through an understanding of place and location. Geographers study where things are and how they got there. The favorite definition for geography is "the bridge between the human and physical sciences." Geography looks at the spatial connection between people, places, and the earth. Being able to view the world geographically is a fundamental skill for everyone. Understanding the connection between the environment and people, geography ties diverse science in different angles.

One of the most active seismic areas on the planet Earth is California. Located on two tectonic plates, the Pacific and North American Plates, tremors in this region are constantly being recorded at seismic stations around the world. To give you an idea of how active this area is, read the eyewitness accounts of earthquakes in the Santa Barbara area of Southern California. Written accounts have been recorded as far back as 1812. Once you have read the eyewitness accounts of almost 200 years of quakes, you will learn how to determine the epicenter of one. The Spanish missionaries followed in the mid-1700s, and then in 1825 Mexico took control over California, and then finally surrendered its grip in 1848. Soon after California was granted statehood, it became the most famous of all the states in U.S.

California is also well known for its earthquakes. As we have discussed California lies along two great geographic plates, the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate, these plates shift past each other, they cause shock waves through the ground resulting in earthquakes. Earthquakes are measured on a Richter scale of 1 to 10. As you have read, earthquakes are serious business, and California is struck with many of them throughout the year. The North American Plate is a Continental tectonic plate covering the Continent of North America, extending eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Cherskiy Range in East Siberia. The easterly side is a divergent boundary with the Eurasian Plate to the north and the African Plate to the south forming the northern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The southerly side is a boundary with the Cocos Plate to the west and the Caribbean Plate to the east.


  California : Origin of its name

  The map to the left shows some important rivers, bordering states, country, and body of water of California.

Main Rivers - Sacramento River, Colorado River, San Joaquin River,
Highest Point - Mt. Whitney, 14,495 feet (4,418 m) above sea level,
Lowest Point - Death Valley, 282 feet (86 m) below sea level and this is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere,
Bordering States - Oregon, Nevada, Arizona,
Bordering Country - Mexico,
Bordering Body of Water - Pacific Ocean.

California - Origin of its Name:
The Spanish explorers originally thought that California was an island. The name California comes from a mythical Spanish island ruled by a queen called 'Califia' that was featured in a Spanish romance "Las Sergas de Esplandian." More over, the redwood is the tallest tree, growing up to 370 feet (113 m) tall and living for over a thousand years. One redwood in California is 2,200 years old. The roots of this giant conifer are shallow, but spread sideways up to 250 feet (75 meters) from the trunk. The bark is deeply furrowed, fibrous, thick, which is up to about 1 foot (30.5 cm) thick and lacks resin. There are many species of redwood.

The heart of geography, and even the source of its name, is the map - a picture of the world, which organizes our understanding of places. Manipulating a map and assembling it, is the best way to learn where the different countries are and what other countries they are near to or far way from. This forms a lasting image and understanding. It is hard to know much of a foreign place without knowing where it is. The map is a framework that brings other knowledge together and makes the world understandable. The geography of California is the stage on which our history has unfolded. It has had a strong influence on how we live and how we make a living. We can see evidence of this to the present day. Our Pacific Coast, and its features, has been one of the most important geographical factors shaping our state.

However, the West Coast is for the most part an open and exposed shoreline with few safe harbors. Other influential features of the coast affecting shipping are capes or points. Two features we will consider are prevailing winds and ocean currents. Some of these features are less influential today because marine engines allow ships and boats to navigate their routes with passing concern for these factors. The story was very different throughout the age of sail. With ships and boats being powered solely by the wind, vessels were at the mercy of the weather conditions and the geography of the areas they traveled. The winds blow consistently from one direction. These consistent winds are called trade winds. Sail ships would travel to areas of favorable trade winds, those blowing in the direction of travel before crossing the ocean.



Capes sometimes called headlands are potential hazards to ships traveling along the coast they often mark an area of major change in wind direction and current flow. This is the case at Point Conception on the Santa Barbara coast. South of the point California, shoreline trends more to the east. This point marks a major shift in wind direction, while the influence of the offshore current is diminished.

Capes are also prominent landmarks aiding navigation. For this reason, and in order to keep ships from running into them, many major capes have lighthouses on them. In Northern California, we have north westerlies, named after the direction from which they are blowing. On any given day, if you are on the beach and look out to sea and slightly to the north the wind will be hitting you directly in the face.

This also means the West Coast is a lee shore. Sailors dreaded lee shores because if weather conditions took a turn for the worse and your ship was close to shore, a sail ship would be in certain danger. With strong storm winds, the ship would be moved towards shore more than it would be making headway, and hence it was likely that it would end up on the beach or, on the rocks. The only thing to do in such a situation was to sail into protected waters from wind and the seas such as to a bay or a harbor.


  The Sierras and the Mt. Whitney

The Sierras and the Mt. Whitney :


The Sierra Nevada Mountains, often simply called "The Sierras", run very roughly north northwest to south southeast for about 400 miles in the central part of eastern California. They also extend a short way into Nevada near Lake Tahoe. The Cascade Mountains lie to the north of the Sierras, and the Mojave Desert lies to the south. The Great Basin lies to the east. About 25 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada started to rise and tilt to the west. Rivers started cutting deep canyons on both sides of the range. The earliest identified inhabitants of the Sierra Nevada were the Paiute tribe on the east side and the Miwok tribe on the west. These tribes traded goods by meeting at and traveling over mountain passes.

Even today, passes such as Duck Pass are under attack with unnecessary obsidian arrowheads, which are leftovers of the trading. Sierra Nevada means "Snowy Range" in Spanish. In April 1776, Padre Pedro Font on the second de Anza expedition gave that name to the mountains that could be seen in the distance to the east. Its most common nickname is the 'Range of Light'. This nickname comes from John Muir, who in 1894 wrote in 'The Mountains of California'. A unique peculiarity of the Sierra Nevada is that, under certain wind conditions, a large circular tube of air begins to roll on the southeast side. This is known as the "Sierra Nevada Rotor." This "mountain wave" forms when dry Continental winds from the east cause the formation of a stacked set of counter-revolving cylinders of air reaching into the stratosphere.

The height of the mountains in the Sierra Nevada gradually increases from north to south. Thus, the crest near Lake Tahoe is roughly 9000 ft (2,700 m) high, the crest near Yosemite National Park is roughly 13000 ft (4,000 m) high, and the entire range attains its peak at Mount Whitney. South of Mount Whitney, the range quickly diminishes in elevation. The Sierras are often stated as ending in the north at the gap immediately to the south of Lassen Peak, making Lassen the southern most peaks in the Cascades. However, there appears to possibly be some controversy over whether Lassen lies in the Cascades or the Sierras. In the South the Sierras end at the Tehachapi pass, situated at California State Highway 58 from Bakersfield to Mojave and then Barstow.


There are several notable geographical features in the Sierra Nevada:
Lake Tahoe is a large, clear freshwater lake in the northern Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 6225 feet (1,897 m) and an area of 191 square miles (489 kmē). Lake Tahoe lays between the main Sierra and the Carson Range, a spur of the Sierra. Hetch Hetchy Valley, Yosemite Valley, and Kings Canyon are beautiful, glacially scoured canyons on the west side of the Sierra. Yosemite National Park is filled with stunning features, such as waterfalls and granite domes. Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4,421 m), is the highest point in the Continental United States. Groves of Giant Sequoias occur along a narrow band of altitude on the western side of the Sierra Nevada. Giant Sequoias are the most massive trees in the world.

The highest peak in the Sierras is Mount Whitney, which at 14,494 feet is the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Highlights of the Sierras include Lake Tahoe, Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park. The Mother Lode runs along part of the western slope of the Sierras and the Comstock Lode is located on the eastern slope. Mount Whitney in the Sequoia National Park is the highest mountain in the Continental United States, excluding Alaska. Mount Whitney was named after Josiah Whitney, the chief geologist of California. It was first climbed in 1873 by Charles Begole, A. H. Johnson, and John Lucas, a fishermen who lived in Lone Pine, California. Mount Whitney is less than 90 miles from the lowest point of the United States, in Death Valley, and immediately rises just over 2 miles in elevation above the floor of the Owens Valley. The Badwater Ultra marathon is a 135-mile (215 km) running race from the bottom of Death Valley and ending at an elevation of 8360 feet (2548 m) at Whitney Portal, the trailhead for Mount Whitney.

The estimated elevation of the peak of Mount Whitney has changed over the years. This is not due to the peak growing: the elevation measurement has become more refined, and more importantly, the vertical coordinate system has changed. The peak is commonly thought to be 14,494 feet high as mentioned earlier. Marin and Sonoma Counties lie nestled between the marsh-lined northern shores of San Pablo Bay, the forested mountains of Mendocino, and the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. This is the pastoral and agricultural region where northern California's wine industry was born more than a century ago. Its gentle, Mediterranean-type climate with warm summer days and cool nights, rainfall concentrated in the winter and early spring, sloping hillsides and abundant waterways make for great wines - and ideal conditions for breeding mosquitoes.


  External web resource links
The Geography of California
California - The Free Dictionary
California - From Wikipedia
Around the World with mrnussbaum
Geography: Office of Instructional Technology
Exploring California's Regions
California Maps and Information
U.S. and World Geography
Gr 3 Social Studies Essential
Schoolyard Geology
First Gov for Kids-Geography
Geologic Information About California
World Time Zone