California is located on the west coast of North America. It is the largest US state by population, and the third largest by area. California offers something for everyone: Southern California is home to such popular attractions as Disneyland, Hollywood and the beaches in Malibu that inspired the television show Baywatch, while the northern part of California offers the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the hills of San Francisco, the vineyards of Napa Valley, Silicon Valley, and the capital, Sacramento. Outside California's major cities one finds some of North America's most rugged national parks, incredible skiing/snowboarding opportunities, and quiet and ancient northern forests including the highest mountain peak in the contiguous USA, Mt. Whitney. Human occupation in California goes back 50000 years; California was home to thirty different tribal groups prior to the arrival of European explorers in the 1500s and now over 120 tribes are left. The first Europeans were the Spanish and Portuguese, who built a settlement in California, establishing twenty-one missions in California by the late 1700s. Many of these missions survive today, including that in Santa Barbara. After the Mexican War for Independence in 1821, California became a part of Mexico for 25 years until 1846 where it briefly became a sovereign nation, California Republic, before it was annexed by the United States in 1846. In 1848 the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada mountains kicked off the California Gold Rush, and California's non-native population surged from 15,000 to over 300,000 within two years. California was recognized as a state in 1850, and its population increased steadily since then. Today California is the most populous state in the US with over 38 million residents.

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H 70 • L 69
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