European exploration of this part of the west coast of North America began in 1542 when Portuguese Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed up the coast as far as Russian River. Sir Francis Drake followed in 1579 and he claimed the coast for England, but this claim was never defined or followed up. Spaniard Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast in 1602 and eventually California became part of a large area of North America claimed by Spain. The name California orginally applied to the coast from the tip of Baja California in Mexico to the north of modern day California and inland to include Nevada, Utah and parts of Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico. California became part of Mexico following the 1821 Mexican War of Independence. In 1846 settlers rebelled against Mexican rule and claimed independence, but at much the same time the Mexican-American War broke out and California was soon occupied by US forces. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war left California firmly on the US side of the border just in time for the discovery of gold which triggered the 1849 Gold Rush. This caused an explosion in the population of California and fast track statehood followed in 1850. We have visited California more than any other US state and on each trip we have found plenty of new things to see. It is a land of contrasts; it has big cities and empty deserts, hot, dry weather some places but deep snow in others.
Golden Gate Bridge from Telegraph Hill, San Francisco
San Francisco has a great location and lots of character so to open our section on California here is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge taken from Telegraph Hill. The trees on the waterfront to the left of the picture mark the boundary of former military base The Presidio. On the right the masts of historic ships at Hyde Street Pier are visible. You can find out more about the city by clicking the San Francisco link at the bottom of the page.
'New York Street', Universal Studios back lot
We’re not great fans of theme parks, but when in Los Angeles you have to visit one dedicated to the film industry. So, here we have the Tinseltown view of New York - a New York that is nowadays getting more difficult to find but was still part of the Studio’s Back Lot in 1981. Considering that they are not real the buildings look surprisingly solid. As regular visitors to New York our only criticism would be that they look a little too well maintained and tidy.
Click on Minimap to navigate
Mount Shasta from Mount Shasta town
The San Andreas fault and its many companions are not the only geological hazard in California. In Northern California northwards the Cascade Range includes some very high volcanoes. The most famous of these volcanoes are Lassen Peak, which erupted in the early 20th century and Mount St Helens up in Washington which erupted in 1980. The other volcanoes appear dormant, but as Mount St Helens proved, this could change. Mount Shasta is typical of the dormant volcanoes, rising to a height of 4,322 metres (14,179 feet). It looms over the town named after it so having seen the devastation at Mount St Helens and Lassen it takes little imagination to see what could happen to the town if Mount Shasta woke up.
Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park
Allen Allensworth was born into slavery in 1842. He fought for the Union Army in the Civil War and later became a commissioned Army Chaplain. By the time he retired in 1906, he had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel, the highest ranking black officer of that time. In 1908 Allensworth and others established a self-governed town for black people, free from the discrimination that was rife elsewhere. The town grew rapidly until in 1914 Colonel Allensworth was killed in an accident. Without his leadership and with water supplies dwindling, the town of Allensworth went into decline. Part of the downtown area has been rebuilt as Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. Click Tab 2 to see the only remaining original building, the school.
We have more pages on California. Click below or on the Minimap:
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
At an elevation of 1,900 metres (6,230 feet) Lake Tahoe is an alpine lake in the High Sierras with about two thirds of its shoreline in California and the rest in Nevada. Even though many summer homes have been built around the shore, the forest cover ensures the area retains a rural feel. On the Nevada side some large casinos have rather spoilt the image. Emerald Bay is a small inlet to the south west of the main lake. At the head of the bay can be found Vikingsholm, a summer house built in the style of a nordic castle.
Salton Sea from Johnson's Landing, Salton City
Salton Sea used to be a dry lake bed, but in 1905 by accident it once again became a real lake. A temporary diversion to the Colorado River was breached by flood waters, and for 18 months water flowed into this basin creating the largest lake in California. At around 69 metres (227 feet) below sea level, the lake has no outlet and has become more saline than the Pacific. Stocked with fish in the 1950s, it has become a major recreation area.