California is famous for many things, mainly the Golden Gate Bridge, its unique scenery, the various wineries producing world-class wines, and Hollywood. There are also other things about the 31st American state that are interesting that you may not know about. Click through this gallery to know more of the interesting facts about California!
California’s topography is particularly interesting mainly because it is varied and diverse. There is so much to be said about this, but we’ll mention just a noteworthy few.
California has the third largest coastline in the United States (after Alaska and Florida) with 840 miles (1,350 kilometers). The diversity of this state is quite extreme as it’s best illustrated by the state’s highest point, Mt. Whitney. The mountain is just over 80 miles away from the lowest point in the entire United States and all of North America, Badwater Basin in Death Valley. You will find more about them as you click through this gallery. The state’s mean elevation stands at around 2,900 feet.
California has a total of 41 mountains and three main deserts: the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Desert, and the Great Basin Desert.
There were a lot of fossils found and discovered throughout the world, but not every one of them has the privilege of being recognized as a “state fossil” — and it’s really official! The fossil of a saber-toothed cat (Smilodon californicus) became the California’s state fossil in 1973.
Mt. Whitney is California’s tallest mountain with its highest point at 14,505 feet or (4,442 meters) above sea level. It is also the 11th highest peak in the United States. The mountain is only 84.6 miles away from Death Valley, whose Badwater Basin is the country’s lowest elevation at 282 feet below sea level. Talk about extremes!
Next to the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge is probably one of the most internationally recognizable American landmarks. It is considered one the most beautiful and the most photographed bridges in the world, as well. The suspension bridge spans the Golden Gate Strait (the channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean). Built in the 1930s, its total length measures 8,981 feet (2,737.4 meters), width at 90 feet (27.4 meters), and the height of the towers measure 746 feet (227.4 meters). The bridge connects the city of San Francisco and Marin County.
California does not only have one state tree, but two. There are two species of the sequoia tree — the California redwood (or coast redwood or coastal redwood, with the scientific name Sequoia sempervirens) and the giant sequoia (Sequoia giganteum). They were both declared as state trees in 1937. Unfortunately, both species of sequoia are under threat nowadays mainly due to harvesting for their wood or due to forest fires.
You may have seen California’s state seal a lot of times but you may wonder about the figures inside the seal and what they stand for. The elements inside the seal are worth knowing, for sure, and awareness of them will magnify your pride as a Californian.
The California’s state seal features:
- “Eureka!” — the Greek for “I have found it!” — refers to the discovery of gold in California. Thus this expression was made as the official state motto in 1963
- Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom
- The California grizzly bear (Ursus arctos californicus) is the official state animal. It stands under Minerva’s feet and feeds on the grape vines, which represents the states’ prosperous wine industry
- A sheaf of grain symbolizes the state’s agriculture industry
- A miner working near the Sacramento River represents the California Gold Rush, and the state’s entire mining industry
- The sailing ships on the river symbolizes California’s economic power.
The seal’s original design was created by US Army Major Robert Garnett and was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in 1849, a year before California officially became a state. The Seal of California has gone through minor design changes — in 1883, 1891, and 1937.
The 50 State Quarters is a program by the United States Mint that released a series of commemorative coins. These coins are legal tender but were not meant for general circulation. From 1999 through 2008 the US Mint released uniquely-designed reverses of the 25 cent coin, each representing one the 50 US states. The quarters were released in the order each became a state.
California got its own official state quarter on January 31, 2005. The reverse of the coin features:
- The late Scottish-American naturalist John Muir. He is known for his own adventures in the Sierra Mountains of California and the preservation efforts of the natural parks such as the Yosemite Park and the Sequoia National Park
- The California condor
- The Half Dome in Yosemite Park
- Captions “John Muir” and “Yosemite Valley”
The Bear Flag is California’s official state flag. The modern and current version of the state flag features a white background and red stripe along the bottom. A red star is at the upper left-hand corner and a grizzly bear faces left (the flag’s hoist). The single red star is believed to be inspired by the lone star of Texas. At the bottom of the white field are emblazoned the words “California Republic.”
The modern flag’s forerunner was first hoisted and waved during the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt. It had similar elements as the current version but differed in design. The words “California Republic” were also printed, which only appeared on flags of the insurgents, representing their demands of forming an independent republican government from Mexico.
California made the golden trout (Salmo aguabonita) its official state freshwater fish in 1947. It is a subspecies of the rainbow trout native to the fresh waters of California. They are especially abundant in the tributaries of Kern River, the Golden Trout Creek, and the South Fork Kern River.
This capitol houses the government of California. Construction of the building began in 1860 and was completed in 1874. The Neoclassical-styled building had been planned by architect M. Frederic Butler. Like many capitol buildings in other states, the California State Capitol’s design is patterned after the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
Located in the city of Sacramento, the capitol building has three floors, and its roof is measured at 64 meters (210 feet) high and the antenna spire is at 75.3 meters (247 feet) high.
The California quail (Callipepla californica) was recognized as an official state bird in 1931. The California quail is a small bird that spends most of its time on the ground. There are seven subspecies of this bird, which belongs to the family of New World quails.
The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a flowering plant native to the United States and Mexico. Also called Californian poppy, golden poppy, California sunlight and cup of gold, these beautiful blooms were established as California’s official state flower in 1903.
California can be a land of extremes. Just over 80 miles away from the state’s highest peak, Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet) situates the lowest elevation in the whole of North America: the Badwater Basin. This saltwater basin is located in Death Valley, a desert valley in Eastern California known for its extremely hot and dry climate.
The Badwater Basin has the surface elevation of 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level. Its water, which comes from a spring, has built up so much salinity (salt) that the water is undrinkable for humans and other mammals, and uninhabitable by aquatic animals such as fish. Thus, the excessive accumulation of salts in the basin makes its water “bad,” and this is where the Badwater Basin gets its name.
This “rock” pictured above is the 110-foot Grizzly Peak, a man-made structure located at the Disney California Adventure Park. So as it’s not a real rock, of course, its history was cooked up and dashed with a lot of Disney-esque imagination. According to the “legend,” there was a giant grizzly bear called Oo-soo’-ma-te, and a coyote named A-ha-le transformed the bear into a pillar of rock to watch over and protect the land.
In reality, the California grizzly bear — the official state animal — has been extinct since 1924.