What is now California was first settled by various Native American tribes before being explored by a number of European expeditions during the 16th and 17th centuries.It was then claimed by the Spanish Empire as part of Alta California in the larger territory of New Spain.
), is the most populous state in the United States. Los Angeles, in southern California, is the state's most populous city and the country's second largest after New York City.
California also includes the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and the largest county by area, San Bernardino County.
The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, a major agricultural area.
California contains both the highest point (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point (Death Valley) in the contiguous United States.
Alta California became a part of Mexico in 1821 following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War.
The western portion of Alta California was organized as the State of California, which was admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850.
Earthquakes are common because of the state's location along the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The California Gold Rush starting in 1848 led to dramatic social and demographic changes, with large-scale emigration from the east and abroad with an accompanying economic boom.
California's diverse geography ranges from the Sierra Nevada in the east to the Pacific Coast in the west, from the redwood–Douglas fir forests of the northwest, to the Mojave Desert areas in the southeast.