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California Geography
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  • Slide 2: Tectonic plates of the earth. California has many different ~landforms~ . It has high mountains, deserts, deep forests, plains and beaches. This variety in topography (features of the land) was created by the movement of giant pieces of the earth's surface. Far beneath our feet, the earth's crust resembles an enormous jigsaw puzzle of ~continental~ or ~tectonic plates~ . California, at the western edge of the North American plate, was once under water. As millions of years passed, that changed. The denser and thinner Pacific plate began to slip underneath the North American. Geologists call this process subduction.
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  • Slide 23: California poppies. In 1903, the state ~legislature~ made the poppy the state flower because its golden color was a symbol of both the ~mineral~ wealth and the sunshine of California. Many writers and artists have tried to capture the beauty of these poppies. In \iEast of Eden,\i0 John Steinbeck wrote: '[Poppies] are of a burning color-not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies.'
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  • Slide 21: There are two major desert regions. The Mojave Desert and the Colorado desert. The Mojave Desert area of California is located primarily in San Bernadino County. This desert lies east of Los Angeles. It extends to the Nevada and Arizona borders and includes 15,000 square miles of valleys and mountains. The area was the home of the Mojave and Chemehuevi Indians into the 19th century. It was first mapped by the Spanish priest and explorer Father Francisco Garcés in 1776. Jedediah Smith explored the region in the 1820s. Artifacts left by early men have been dug up at the Calico Early Man Archeological Site near Calico, California. Some of them may be as much as 50,000 years old. In the desert, one area, Antelope Valley, remains one of the few naturally habitable regions. It has a pleasant enough climate and enough rainfall to make living there fairly comfortable.
    The Colorado Desert is located near the Peninsular Mountains, east of San Diego. This desert is below sea level. It is separated from the Gulf of California by sand and gravel which have been deposited over millions of years by the Colorado River. This area, also known as the Salton Sink, has been flooded by salt and fresh water at various times over the centuries. Eroded layers of sand, clay and silt make beautiful painted badlands. Biologists consider the region a part of the Sonoran Desert that surrounds the Gulf of Mexico. A variety of cacti and trees from the legume family lives in the region.
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  • Slide 20: Yosemite Valley and Falls. As a main glacier carves through a valley, other rivers of ice can flow down smaller, or tributary, canyons. These ice rivers can move out onto the top of the glacier. Over time, as the glaciers melt, so-called 'hanging valleys' are exposed in those tributary canyons. Water flowing through them can suddenly spill out over the face of a cliff and plunge to the level of the main valley below. Yosemite Valley has a number of those kinds of waterfalls, including Yosemite and Bridal Veil Falls. Yosemite Falls. Water pouring over Yosemite Falls plunges 2,565 feet to the valley floor. This is one of the highest waterfalls in the world. The Miwok Indian people originally lived in the Yosemite Valley. They called this fall 'Chooklook' or 'Schoolook,' meaning 'the fall.' The present name of Yosemite Falls was given to it by Lafayette Bunnell, a member of the Mariposa Battalion. That was the first group of white men to discover Yosemite Valley and tell others about it. For more than a century it has been a popular attraction for tourists.
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  • Slide 19: Rae Lakes in the Sierra Nevada. In the high Sierra, many alpine lakes have been formed by glaciers. Alpine lakes are lakes which are found in the mountains. Glaciers at a higher elevation sometimes carve out basins known to geologists as cirques. If the ice melts, these cirques can form alpine lakes. Often the lakes come in a small series, or group, such as here at Rae Lakes, not far from Mt. Whitney. These series are called 'paternosters,' a word that means 'the Lord's prayer.' That is because the lakes are like beads on a ~rosary~. The Rae Lakes were named in 1906 after Rachel ('Rae') Colby.
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