72 Interesting Facts About California

Last updated on May 27th, 2020

California is the most populous and the 3rd most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It is in the Pacific Region of the United States. The state attained statehood on September 9, 1850, becoming the 31st state to join the union. It shares its border with three states Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada. California (nicknamed: the Golden State) has 58 counties. The state’s capital is Sacramento. California is also famous for Disneyland and beaches. With these facts about California, let us learn more about its history, culture, people, geography, gold rush, mountains, valleys, etc.

72 Interesting facts about California

Silicon Valley 

1. California is the home to the Silicon Valley (a region known the world over for high technology, innovation, and venture capital.) San Jose, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the city is among the largest tech hubs in the United States. Some of these companies include eBay, PayPal, VeriFone, Adobe, Calyx Software, Cisco, and Western Digital. These companies have taken the lead in the industry and employed many citizens within California.[18]

The first motion picture theater

2. The first motion picture theater was opened in Los Angeles on April 02, 1902.[22]

Internet!

3. During the late 1960s, the first workable internet prototype through the U.S. Department of Defense came into realization at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where ARPANET played a role in delivering communication between computers. Since then, technology continues to grow.

California on the map

Expert in human echolocation

4. Daniel Kish, born 1966 in Montebello, California, the president of the World Access for the Blind, is an American expert in human echolocation. He has the ability to detect objects the size of a softball. He can also differentiate the size, texture, density and the position of the object. He does this by producing a sound with his tongue against the roof of his mouth which creates a kind of clicking sound. This click helps him with echolocation.

Flying transcontinental at a young age 

5. Kimberly Anyadike is a pilot from Compton, California. In 2009, at the age of 15, she became the youngest African American woman to complete a transcontinental flight across the United States, from Los Angeles, California to Newport News, Virginia. 

World’s oldest active sailing ship

6. San Diego, California, is the house of the world’s oldest active sailing ship. The beautiful Star of India is an ancient sailing ship with naval architecture that meets U.S Coast Guard requirements. It’s seaworthy, and it has been operating since 1863. That means its 157 years old as of today. Thanks to the routine maintenance practices given to the sailing ship.

Steve jobs and his cars

7. Did you know that the legendary co-founder of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs, hated license plates and never used one on his cars? He would lease a new Mercedes-Benz SL 55 AMG every six months. The law in California allowed owners a grace period of six months before they had to get a license plate.

Snake bites and costly antivenom

8. In 2016, Dominic Devine, 10, was bitten by a venomous snake in Lake Mathews, California. And the treatment cost him $350,000, thanks to the expensive antivenom. Todd Fassler, one year earlier, was billed $153,000 for the treatment of a snake bite by a rattlesnake while attempting to take a selfie with it.  

World’s oldest male bodybuilder

9. The world’s oldest male bodybuilder Jim Arrington is from Venice, California. He was born in 1932 and has been bodybuilding for the past 70 years.[34]

Alex Honnold, do you know this guy?

10. Alex Honnold, born in Sacramento, California is an American rock climber. He is best known for his free-solo ascents of big walls. On June 3, 2017, he became the first climber to free solo Yosemite’s 3,000-foot El Capitan wall.[37]

El Capitan in Yellowstone National Park in California U.S.A.
El Capitan in Yellowstone National Park in California U.S.A. Photo via Shutterstock.

Jeans in America!

11. The jeans originated from Southern Europe and landed first in the United States through San Francisco, California. Jacob Davis partnered with Levi Strauss in 1873 to bring on board Denim Jeans for California miners and cowboys.

The most racial and ethnically diverse

12. According to a survey by the U.S. News, California tops the list of the most racial and ethnic diversity. Fresno being among the top ten makes it to the list due to over 100 different nationalities that reside in the city.

Billion dollars of cash crops!

13. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. In 2018, California’s farms and ranches received almost $50 billion in cash receipts for their output. It is also the leading US state for cash farm receipts. The state’s agricultural produce includes more than 400 commodities. 

Flag of California (Click to read facts about the flag)

Flag of California. California fact file

Gold, and lots of it.

14. Gold was discovered in California in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill by James W. Marshall.[13] After the discovery of the gold, people visited the region from as far as China and Australia.[3]

15. Between 1st April 1940 and 1st July 1947, California gained 3,000,000 new residents through migration. This number is the largest of any kind of migration that ever took place in any of the U.S. states.[2]

Tourist hot spot.

16. Almost 5 million tourists were visiting California every year by the late 1990s and the travel and tourism industry generated approximately $75 billion annually.[2] California is the number one travel destination in the U.S.

The digital revolution

17. California is also the birthplace of semiconductors and the Internet, which brought the digital revolution in the world. The first of the three astronomical observatories were also constructed in California.[2]

18. Did you know that an activist named Julia Butterfly Hill ascended a thousand-year-old redwood tree in California in December 1997 and remained there for a period of next two years until her demands were met? If you are guessing what she was demanding, learn that she was against the harvesting of the old redwood trees in the Headwaters Forest of Humboldt County.[3]

The world’s heaviest woman alive live here

19. Pauline Potter from Sacramento, California is the world’s heaviest woman alive. She weighed 643 lbs at the time of setting this world record.[35]

20. Arnold Schwarzenegger became the governor of California on October 07, 2003.[19]

Arnold Schwarzenegger statue
Interior of Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum on May 3, 2014 in Thal, Austria. The Museum opened near Graz in 2011 on the birthplace of the actor. Photo via Shutterstock.

21. California has the largest economy of any US state. 

Golden Gate Bridge, California.
Famous Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California. Image via Shutterstock.

22. The northern part of California is home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the hills of San Francisco, and the state’s capital Sacramento.[4]

23. In 1579, Sir Francis Drake visited California and took possession of the country in the name of Queen Elizabeth. He called the land New Albion.[4]

Boole tree, Sequoia National Forest, 2007.
Boole tree, Sequoia National Forest, 2007. Image source – Wikipedia.org

One of the longest-lived of all organisms on earth.

24. California is also home to the “giant sequoia” – arguably the largest living organism on earth and the world’s most massive tree. It is also one of the longest-lived of all organisms on earth. The estimated life-span of the tree is between 1800-2700 years. A tree as old as 5,067 years was also found in California (it the longest living non-clonal organism on Earth).[15,16,17]

25. The Mojave Desert, at more than 25,000 square miles (65,000 square km), occupies one-sixth of the land area of California.[9]

Faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1)

26. The first ever supersonic flight was achieved over lake Muroc, California in a Bell-XS 1 rocket aircraft. The captain of the flight, Charles Elwood Yeager, reached Mach 1.06 at an altitude of 42,000 ft. The flight happened on 14 October 1947.[36]

The Bell X-1 rocket powered aircraft
The Bell X-1 rocket-powered experimental aircraft (known for becoming the first piloted aircraft to fly faster than Mach 1, or the speed of sound, on October 14, 1947) photographed during a test flight. Image via Wikipedia.org

27. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew on September 28, 1542, were the first Europeans to enter California.[13]

Plenty of almonds!

28. The state produces a whopping 80% of the world’s almonds. The state is also the nation’s top producer of lemons, apricots, avocados, dates, figs, grapes, kiwi, etc.[4] 

29. Another interesting fact about California is that that after the gold rush, California was nicknamed the “Golden State.”[4]

30. More than 6500 types of plants thrive in California.[4]

The State Quarter

California State Quarter

31. California has 41 mountains exceeding 10,000 m in height. It is the only state in the U.S. with an extensive seacoast, high mountains, and deserts.[14]

32. Central Valley in California is its single most productive region and one of the most productive in the world.[11]

Death Valley’s very rare ‘super bloom’ of 2016.
Death Valley’s very rare ‘super bloom’ of 2016. This was the biggest bloom in a decade, triggered by several heavy fall storms. Photo via Shutterstock.

North America’s hottest desert and driest place

33. California’s Death Valley is North America’s hottest desert and driest place. Badwater, an unincorporated community in Inyo County, is the lowest point in the western hemisphere.[6,9]

34. The largest surfboard measuring 12.83 m in length, 3.37 m in width and 0.41 m in thickness, was ridden by 66 people on Huntington Beach, California on 20 June 2015.[37]

35. Mount Whitney in California is the highest point in the U.S., outside of Alaska.[11]

Hollywood

36. California is also the powerhouse of one of the biggest film industries in the world – Hollywood. It is estimated that more films are shot in California than in any other state.[4]

The Grizzly Bear. From facts about California
The Grizzly Bear. Image via ShutterStock.

The grizzly bear (the North American brown bear)

37. The Grizzly bear is one of the state’s most notable symbols. It is found on both the state flag and seal. It was designated as the official state animal in 1953.[12]

Pollution

38. California (in terms of year-long particle pollution) has 6 of the top 10 most polluted U.S. cities. Majority of the pollution caused in the state is because of the high number of cars and trucks in the region.[10]

A car graveyard

39. There is a Volkswagen car graveyard in California. The automotive giant had to buy back its vehicles worth billions of dollars after the emission scandal it faced.[5]

40. In March 2018, a California Judge ruled that coffee companies must provide a cancer warning because of the presence of a cancer-causing chemical produced in the roasting process.[6]

41. On April 18, 1906, an earthquake hit California which resulted in the death of nearly 3000 people and a loss of over $500 million in property damages.[7]

The world’s tallest tree

42. The state is also home to the world’s tallest tree – Redwood. These trees can reach a height of over 300 feet. Particularly, a tree in the group named “Hyperion” is the tallest known living tree of all at 379.7 feet.[8]

43. About one-half of the state’s land is federally owned.[9]

44. The California state water project is the largest water-transfer system ever undertaken. It was launched in 1960. The system aims at delivering water to the communities in north-central California and those living as far south as the Mexican border.[9]

45. Clear Lake is the largest natural lake wholly within the state. It has a surface area of 68 square miles.[9]

Biologically diverse

46. California is the most biologically diverse state in the U.S. It has more than 40,000 plant and animal species.[9]

47. The California grizzly bear (state animal) is now extinct.[9]

48. The California Indians were the original inhabitants of the state and are now in a limited number left in the region.[9]

49. Midwestern farmers of European descent were the state’s earlier settlers. However, due to the discovery of gold, the equation changed and thousands of fortune seekers from the United States and across the world entered the region.[3]

The largest county in the U.S

50. With an area of nearly 20,105 sq mi (52,070 km2), San Bernardino County is the largest county in the U.S. It is actually larger than the nine U.S. states (Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.)[20,21]

51. California is referred to as the “Land of Milk and Honey”. It is also known as the “El Dorado State”, the “Grape State” and the “Golden State”.[23]

52. Napa’s popularity comes from wine growing. It has extensive vineyards that stretch far across the region. What you don’t know is that it is very aesthetically pleasing and tourists favorite.

53. With over 80 parks in Oakland city and beyond that gives refreshing mood and the iconic photographic joints, there is a guarantee of exploring the city to a greater extent. Again, the Oakland Museum will help you learn a lot about the city.

54. Santa Barbara is arguably one of the cities in California with the best climate. With its conducive nature, you can only compare it with few regions in California. We are talking of approximately 283 sunny days in a year, 36 rainy days, and limited winter lows that go up to 40 when worst. The perfections explain the reasons for expensive homes.

55. California has three of the top ten most populous cities – Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose.[24]

56. Death Valley (at 3.4 million acres) in California is the largest U.S. National Park outside of Alaska.[25]

57. The highest and the lowest point in the continental U.S. are within 100 miles of each other. They are in fact 84.6 miles apart. They are Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet and the Badwater Basin in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.[26,27]

Turkeys!

58. Interestingly, more Turkeys are raised in California than in any other state in the U.S.[28]

Grey Whale
A Gray Whale. Image via Shutterstock.

The California Gray Whale

59. The California Gray Whale was designated as the State Marine Mammal in 1975. It measures 40 to 50 feet in length and weighs between 30 to 40 tons. The whale travels along to coast towards south during December and February and returns back through the same coastline during March and April. The whale travels in small groups called pods. Some of these whales swim more than 12,000 miles round-trip. Due to their good memory and vision, they are able to cover such a vast amount of distance successfully.[29]

60. California is the only state in the U.S. to host summer (1932, 1984) and winter (1960) Olympics.[30]

First McDonald’s fast-food restaurant

61. The first McDonald’s fast-food restaurant was opened in San Bernardino, California in 1940.[31]

The first McDonald's restaurant, San Bernardino, California.
The site of the first McDonald’s restaurant, San Bernardino, California. Only part of the sign remains from the original structure.

62. San Francisco Bay is one of the world’s largest landlocked harbors and the Port of Oakland is one of the largest cargo ports in the United States.[32]

The hottest temperature on Earth

63. Furnace Creek in Death Valley is where the hottest temperature on Earth was recorded – 134.1 degrees Fahrenheit (on July 10, 1913).[33]

64. According to research conducted by Wallethub, California emerged as the most fun state to visit in America followed by Florida, New York, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Texas. Check out the full list here.

65. In 1949, the income from agriculture in the state was around $2.3 million. However, after some forty-five years in 1995, the same income grew to a whopping sum of $2.6 billion. It also produces walnuts, pistachios, and almonds in the largest quantity in the U.S.[1,4]

Facts about Sacramento (Capital of California)

66. By population, Sacramento is the ninth largest capital city in the United States and the sixth largest city in California.

67. Time magazine once named Sacramento “America’s Most Diverse City.”

68. The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 which sparked the California Gold Rush, lead to the extraction of gold worth nearly $2 billion. With the spread of the news, prospective gold miners started travelling towards the land. Before the gold rush, the non-native population of California was less than 1,000 and by the end of 1849, the number changed to 100,000 and more. More than 75,000 pounds of gold was extracted by the miners during the California Gold Rush.[38]

69. The race known as “The World’s Oldest Triathlon”, “The Eppie’s Great Race”, is held every year in Sacramento. The race features a 5.82-mile run, a 12.5-mile bike and a 6.10-mile paddle. The race is also the largest paddling event in the United States.[39]

70. Sacramento is known as the nation’s “Farm To Fork Capital” and has the largest certified farmers market in California. Since 2013, the city also celebrates “Farm To Fork Festival” every year. The aim of the festival is to connect people with the farmers, ranchers, vintners, brewers and chefs.[40]

71. The Sacramento Bee, founded in 1857, is the largest newspaper in Sacramento and the fifth largest newspaper in California.[41]

The Sacramento River in California.
The Sacramento River, seen in Redding, California. Photo via ShutterStock.

72. Sacramento is named after the Sacramento River, which is the largest river in California. The river itself was named the river Rio de los Sacramentos in 1808, by the Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga.[42]

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