Prospectors cried, "Eureka!" during the most famous gold rush of modern times in 1849. It is now the state motto. California is known as the "Golden State" because of the gold found there, its golden poppy flowers, and brilliant sunshine. Spanish explorers named the state in the 1500's after a treasure island in a famous Spanish story. The abbreviation for California is CA.
"Eureka!" hasn't been the only thing shouted by surprised Californians. Cries of "Earthquake!" and "Fire!" were heard in San Francisco on April 18, 1906. An earthquake in the city was one of the worst disasters in United States history. The quake resulted in fires that burned for three days. At least 3,000 people died, most of the city was destroyed, and there was over $500 million in damage. Some scientists fear that another catastrophic earthquake will occur along California's San Andreas Fault in the future.
California is the most populous state and still growing. It is also the third largest; only Alaska and Texas surpass it. A Pacific state, California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, Mexico to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
In California, tourists can see a varied and beautiful landscapes that includes mountains, valleys, and waterfalls. The state shares the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range named after the highest mountain range in Spain, with the state of Nevada. One can also see Mount Whitney, the highest mountain peak in the United States outside of Alaska. And in Redwood National Park, one can see the world's tallest tree, at about 370 feet.
In addition to its places of great heights, California also shares Death Valley, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, with Nevada. Be careful if you visit; temperatures can reach a deadly 134 degrees F. Besides Death Valley, California also contains Salinas Valley, John Steinbeck's childhood home, and the inspiration for much in his novels, especially the plight of poor farm workers. And one can also experience see spectacular waterfalls, fantastic rock formations, and huge sequoias at Yosemite National Park.
There are many other tourist attractions in California. Visitors can see the world famous San Diego Zoo in California's oldest city. They can also ride a cable car, visit Fisherman's Warf, sway in the wind on the Golden Gate Bridge, or just enjoy the view from one of San Francisco's 43 hills. If tourists are looking for excitement they can surf in the Pacific Ocean or go on the rides at Disneyland. Criminal historians can see where the country's worst criminals were imprisoned at Alcatraz. And for all the star watchers, there is always Los Angeles, home of Hollywood. Thrill seekers can also go for a wild ride on one of the world's largest freeway systems in Los Angeles.