Parents and Teachers: In honor of Veterans Day, please check out my extensive resources on United States History and United States Geography. These sections contain hundreds of interactive and printable resources as well as fun online games, interactive maps, and much more!
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Oakland is the third largest city in the "Bay Area" behind San Jose and San Francisco. It was founded in 1852 as a railroad terminus during the California Gold Rush. In 1906,
its population doubled after refugees from the San Francisco Earthquake arrived in town. In the 1920’s, the city
became a major manufacturing center for ships, automobiles, and metals.
Today, Oakland’s shipping port is the third largest on the west coast. Just to the north of Oakland lies Berkeley. Berkeley is best known as the home of the University of
California at Berkeley, the site of the nation’s two nuclear weapons labs.
Sacramento was founded in 1839 by John Sutter, an immigrant from Switzerland who established a stockade and trading colony known as Sutter’s Fort. After gold was discovered in the region in 1848, the town’s name was changed to Sacramento, after the Sacramento River. It was the second incorporated city in California.
Perhaps no other city was as essential to the gold and land rushes of the 1850’s as Sacramento. Thousands of settlers descended upon the region, after traveling the 2,000 mile long California Trail, in the hopes of finding fortune in the gold mines. Sacramento was made capital of California in 1855 and soon became a very important city. It was made the western terminus of the Pony Express and first Transcontinental Railroad.
Today, Sacramento’s population is booming, as people leave the San Francisco Bay area in search of lower housing prices. In addition, the area has recently received an influx of immigrants.
Channel Islands National Park, located just outside of Los Angeles, is comprised of five islands full of natural wonders. Although only four mammals are endemic to the islands, over 2,000 species of plants and animals are found within the park, 145 of which are found nowhere else on earth. More than half of the park’s 250,000 acres are under the ocean. The park’s waters are home to the Blue Whale, the largest animal to have ever lived on earth.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, located in eastern California, feature the famous Giant Sequoias – huge trees that can grow to over 300 feet in height. One of the trees, the General Sherman Tree, is the largest tree on earth. It is over 274 feet high, and over 100 feet around. It is located in the section of the park known as the "Giant
Forest", where five of the ten largest trees in the world are
located. The park also contains Mt. Whitney – the highest
peak in the continental USA.
Death Valley National Park, located in eastern California, is one of the most arid places on earth. It also contains the second lowest point in the western hemisphere (282 feet
below sea level). Summer temp-ertures in the valley average well over 100 degrees, and the region receives a little less than two inches of rain per year. The park, however, also features incredible sand dunes, colorful badlands, rocky canyons, and hearty animals that have adapted to the harsh climate.
The valley is punctuated by unusual rock formations and
towering mesas and buttes. A mesa is an elevated area of land with a flat top, and a butte is an isolated hill with steep sides and a small, flat top.
Located in the cool, misty climate of northern California’s Coast Range, Redwood National Park is a surreal place. The ancient redwood trees that populate the park are among the world’s most spectacular sights. Many of the trees exceed 300 feet in height and 20 feet in width. Some are nearly 2,000 years old!
Los Angeles was founded in 1781 as Mission Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles by 46 Mexican settlers. After the area was ceded to the United States following the
Mexican-American War, the railroads came to town in 1876, and oil was found in 1892. The population quickly exploded and by 1923 Los Angeles was producing 25 percent of the world’s petroleum. Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984.
Today, Los Angeles, otherwise known as "The City of Angels," or simply as "L.A.," is the nation’s second largest city, and home to major movie studios, television networks, Hollywood, and scores of famous personalities, actors, and actresses. In addition, Los Angeles is the largest manufacturing center in the United States and features the nation’s most important port. Despite its reputation as a mecca of entertainment, Los Angeles is one of the nation’s most polluted and congested cities.
Anaheim was founded in 1858 by a group of fifty German grape farmers. Today, it is best known as the site of the DisneyLand theme park. The park, which recently celebrated its fiftieth birthday, has attracted over 500 million visitors since it opened. Anaheim also features two
professional sports teams, the Angels (baseball) and Mighty
Ducks (Hockey). The city boasts the largest convention center on the west coast.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, located in northeastern California at the southern limit of the Cascades Range, features all four types of volcanoes that exist on Earth.
Over 150 miles of trails provide access to volcanic wonders in-cluding steam vents, mudpots, boiling pools, volcanic peaks, and painted dunes.
Joshua Tree National Park, located in southeastern California, marks the junction of two deserts, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. The famous Joshua Trees inhabit the Mojave portion of the park. Joshua Trees are unusual looking trees that grow only in the Mojave Desert. They can live hundreds of years and take a human lifetime to reach full height (40 feet high). The trees were named by Mormons crossing the desert in the 1800’s. They reminded them of the biblical character Joshua reaching his hands to the sky.
The Mojave desert extends through southern Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and parts of southeastern California.
The region gets about six inches of rainfall per year. Most of the desert is between 3,000 and 6,000 feet in altitude. Summers are extremely hot. Some places, like Death Valley, regularly reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Mojave is one of the most biologically rich deserts. About 2,000 species of plants have been documented.
The Golden Gate Bridge is an international symbol of San Francisco and the second largest suspension bridge in the United States. It spans a length of 1.7 miles and connects the city of San Francisco with Marin County. The bridge was opened on May 27, 1937. Today, about 100,000 vehicles
pass over every day. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which also includes the Muir Woods and Alcatraz Island. Since its opening, over 1,300 people have committed suicide by jumping off of the bridge. 26 people have survived the jump.
The area that is now San Diego was first visited by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who claimed the bay for Spain in 1542. In 1602, the area was renamed San Diego, after the ship of Spanish sailor Don Sebastian de Viscaíno. San Diego was incorporated as an American city in 1850, after California achieved statehood. In the early and mid 1900’s, the city became a major naval port.
Today, San Diego is a rapidly growing city. It has some of the mildest weather in the nation. San Diego is home to the San Diego Zoo, one the world’s premier zoological parks. It features over 4,000 animals of 800 different species, including some of the nation’s only Giant Pandas.
Once a farming community for nearby military institutions, San Jose was the original capital of California when it gained state-hood in 1850. San Jose was one of the first incorporated cities in the state of California.
Today San Jose is a bustlingcity – the center of the region
of California known as "Silicon Valley". The region gets its name from the multitudes of high-tech companies that are headquartered in the region, including Google, Yahoo, and Intel. San Jose is the largest city in northern California, and the third largest city in the state. Just to the north of San Jose
lies Palo Alto, home to Stanford University.
San Francisco, California, is one of the nation’s top tourist destinations. It is California’s third largest city, and the 13th largest city in the United States. Because the city only occupies 47 square miles, San Francisco is the nation’s secondmost densely populated city after New York. It is nicknamed “the city by the bay,” and “fog city.”
Its artistic culture, Victorian architecture, cable cars, and hilly topography, make it unique among major American cities. San Francisco was founded during the height of the gold rush in 1849. That year, the city’s population swelled to 25,000, as people rushed to the city to seek fortunes. In 1906, an earthquake caused a fire that utterfly destroyed San Francisco. Today, however, San Francisco is the center of the region known as “Sillicon Valley,” and is home to numerous major technology companies including Twitter, Dropbox, Uber, Pinterest, Mozilla, and Craigslist. San Francisco was also the birthplace of Levis jeans and the Gap. Surrounding areas are home to Google, Adobe, and Apple, among many others.
San Francisco features many interesting landmarks. Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, was once home to America’s most secure and infamous prison. It was nicknamed “the Rock,” and it housed violent gangsters such as Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. The Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Marin County, California, is one of America’s most recognizable landmarks and is the international symbol of San Francisco and the Bay area. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest in North America and the largest Chinese community outside of China.
The Sierra Nevada Range is almost entirely within California. Only a small section of the range lies in western Nevada, next to the Great Basin. Three national parks are contained within the range, as is Lake Tahoe, one of the most popular tourist resorts in California.
Length: 400 miles
Highest Point: Mt. Whitney –
Mt. Whitney, California’s highest peak, is part of the
Sierra Nevada Range.
Located in the Sierra Nevada Range of eastern California,
Yosemite is one of the oldest, and certainly one of the most spec-tacular national parks in the world. The park has too many natural wonders to describe, but features towering waterfalls, the Mariposa Grove (hundreds of Giant Sequoias), alpine valleys, and the world-famous Yosemite Valley and its amazing cliffs such as El Capitan and Half-Dome. El-Capitan is one of the most popular rock climbing locations in the world.
1542 – The Portuguese-born sailor, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, becomes the first European to explore California, landing at San Diego on September 28, 1542. He went on to discover the Catalina Islands, the sites of San Pedro, Santa Monica and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands.
1579 – Sir Francis Drake landed North of San Francisco Bay and claimed the territory for England.
1665 – José de Gálvez arrives in Mexico as Visitor General of New Spain. He launched a program of colonizing Alta California.
1767-1770 Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola led an expedition from Mexico to make settlements in Alta California. He would eventually found San Diego and Monterrey.
1769 Junipero Serra built the first California Mission called San Diego de Alcala
1820 Early in the nineteenth century, ships from Boston began to visit the Spanish towns and missions along the upper and lower California coast.
1846 The United States invades Mexico from the east, reaching San Diego in December.
1848 California becomes a U.S. possession with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War.
1849 James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s sawmill in Coloma, along the south fork of the American River, thus kicking off the famous Gold Rush of 1849 from where the term “49ers” was born.
1850 California was admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850.
1860 – The Pony Express, a mail service between St. Louis, Missouri and Sacramento is established.
1869: The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad enables Americans from the eastern states to pack up and move to California. Thousands upon thousands of settlers head for the “Golden State.”
1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire virtually destroys the city.
1911 Hollywood’s first film studio opened.
1937 The Golden Gate Bridge was completed and was opened to pedestrian traffic.