The Great State of California

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California, my adopted home state, is full of superlatives.

The lowest point in the Western Hemisphere is at Badwater in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level. This is also the hottest and driest place on Earth. A scant fifty miles away is the highest point in the contiguous US, Mt. Whitney, at 14,876.

The Owens Valley on the east side of the Sierra is the deepest valley in North America. It is bounded by mountains that rise two miles above it. The oldest lake in North America? Well, that would be Mono Lake. It may be 3 million years old.

The largest volcanic eruption in geologic history occurred outside Mammoth Lakes in the Long Valley Caldera. Debris equal to the size of Mt. Shasta was blown into the atmosphere in a cataclysmic explosion.

Tallest living thing on the planet? A coastal redwood growing in Humboldt measured at 376 feet high. The largest living tree is a giant Sequoia named the General Sherman tree in the Sequoia National Park. The first branch on this tree is bigger than any tree in the eastern U.S. Oldest living tree is a bristle cone pine nearly 5,000 years old, the Methuselah Tree, located high in the White Mountains just east of Bishop. But scientists have also identified a clonal group of creosote bushes in the western Mojave that has been continuously growing since the end of the last ice age.


Yosemite Falls is easily the highest waterfall in North America. The deepest submarine canyon is in Monterey Bay, which dwarfs the Grand Canyon. The largest seabird colony south of Alaska is on the Farallon Islands, just off the San Francisco coast. Greatest number of Bald Eagles in the lower-48 states? Tule Lake, north of Shasta. Greatest concentration of ducks, geese and swans in all of North America is along the Sacramento River near Yuba City.

I feel truly blessed to live here. California is great.

This is Michael Ellis, with a Perspective.

Michael Ellis is a naturalist who leads trips throughout the world. He lives in Santa Rosa.