What Are Land Features in California?

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California's landscape includes everything from low desert to coastal lagoons.
California's landscape includes everything from low desert to coastal lagoons. (Image: Death Valley image by bkim89 from Fotolia.com)

California, known as the Golden State, is located on the West Coast of the United States. Like many American states, California contains an extensive range of land features, from towering mountains to beaches and agricultural regions. Many of these land features are popular tourist attractions, offering a range of natural sights and opportunities to pursue outdoor activities and sports.

Mountains

California features some towering mountains, in stark contrast to its more low-lying areas. The largest mountain in the state is Mount Whitney, which can be found on the western edge of the Great Basin Desert. Mount Whitney reaches 14,491 feet above sea level, according to the California Map website, and is part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, a group of peaks located in the eastern part of the state, which run from north to south. The Sierra Nevada range covers around 430 miles, and sights include glaciers and the picturesque Yosemite Valley. Other prominent ranges in the state include the group collectively known as the coastal mountains: the Coast Ranges, the Transverse Ranges, the Peninsular Ranges and the Klamath Mountains. These coastal mountains run from the edge of Del Norte County all the way south toward Mexico and are almost constant across their 800-mile length, with few interruptions.

Central Valley

California’s Central Valley region--home to a huge agriculture industry--can be found in-between the state’s coastal mountain system and the Sierra Nevada range. Much of this 400-mile area is occupied by farmland, and the Central Valley is noted for its immense food production, with the region supplying around 25 percent of the food for the United States as a whole, as described by the NPR news website. In the 21st century, the Central Valley has begun to become increasingly urbanized, with cities growing in size as agricultural areas shrink.

Coast

With a coastline running for close to 840 miles, it’s not surprising that California features plenty of beaches as well as beach-side resorts and villages that have grown up around these sandy tourist attractions. Landscape features along the coast include redwood forests and lagoons.

Desert

California contains two major desert regions, the Colorado--part of the extensive Sonoran Desert--and the Mojave; together, the two areas contain approximately 25,000 square miles of desert. The California desert plays host to a number of attractions and parks. To the east, Death Valley National Park, the lowest-lying area in the state and part of the Mojave Desert, features canyons, mountains and sand dunes spread across around three million acres. To the south, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers hiking opportunities and a chance for visitors to spot animals such as bighorn sheep, after which the park was named, kit foxes and roadrunners, as well as flora such as cacti plants.

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