California, The Golden State

California, The Golden State

by Sandra Merville Hart

California’s nickname is The Golden State, partly because of the discovery of gold there in 1848. Golden poppies grow throughout the state every spring. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is another reason for California’s nickname.

California’s early history

Juan Cabrillo led a Spanish expedition from Mexico to the area now known as California in 1542. England’s Sir Francis Drake sailed along the coast of northern California in 1579. Neither settled there.

Spanish settlements in the area began in 1769. California became a Mexican territory in 1825. Mexico ruled huge areas of the Southwest, including Texas, twenty years later.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War, the United States owned California.

Gold Rush of 1848

James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848. The sawmill beside the South Fork of the American River suddenly drew folks all across America. Many men traveled west to “strike it rich” by mining for gold.

California’s population at the time of the discovery was 14,000. That number grew to 250,000 in four years.

badwater-4545_960_720California becomes a state

California became the thirty-first state on September 9, 1850. The capital is Sacramento.

Highest and lowest points

The continental United States’ highest and lowest points are in California.

The tallest mountain is Mount Whitney. Less than 100 miles away, Badwater Basin in Death Valley is the lowest point at 282 feet below sea level.

General Sherman

The General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia, is the world’s largest living tree. At 275 feet tall and 103 feet around, the tree is estimated to be around 2,200 years old – and still growing! Visit this tree in Sequoia National Park.

yosemite-falls-821701_960_720Other fun facts about California

Yosemite Falls  in Yosemite National Park is the continent’s highest waterfall at 2,425 feet.

The bristlecone pine trees in Inyo National Forest are estimated to be over 4,700 years old – the oldest living things in the world.

Disneyland opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California.

Joshua Tree National Forest is located in two deserts.




“California,”, 2016/06/24

“California,” State Symbols USA, 2016/06/24

Gutman, Bill. The Look-It-Up Book of the 50 States, Random House, 2002.

“The General Sherman Tree,” California: Dream Big, 2016/06/24

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